Fantasy Golf

2017 U.S. Open DFS Golf Outlook

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Do you believe in love at first sight? This slightly pessimistic author has never been a fan of this old adage. It is my belief that it is necessary to use multiple senses to fully appreciate the beauty of something, no matter what it is.

Well, that belief was shattered by the beautiful venue for the 2017 U.S. Open championship.

This was my first experience in analyzing the track at Erin Hills Golf Course in Wisconsin and I was just overwhelmed by how amazing the course is in every way. It’s a new course with an old-time feel, like something designed by Bagger Vance if he weren’t fictional. The lush golden fields and naturally hilly contours shape a magnificent path for each hole. I really believe this course will host such a great event that it will become a fixture as a separate PGA tournament. If they keep that purse at a healthy level, there will certainly be players that will want to return in the future.

(Even the back story surrounding the creation of the course sounds like something bound to be made into a movie or a ’30 for 30′ in the near future.)

To quickly crush my optimism, playing DFS here will be incredibly tough. There’s a very limited professional history here; in fact, there’s never been a PGA event here. You could look at it from the ‘glass half full’ side and say that everyone will have this same problem.

Actually, yeah, let’s go with that – it’s a clean slate, folks! The DFS playing field gap of expertise will shrink ever so slightly, so time to make some money!

2017 U.S. Open DFS Golf Outlook

Course Preview

Erin Hills Golf CourseErin, WI
Par72
Rating77.9
Slope145
Length7,812 yds
GreensBentgrass
WeatherEarly rain to cloudy weekend, 77°F, 10-18 MPH wind
Purse$12MM

Key Statistics

  1. Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
  2. Strokes Gained: Putting
  3. Driving Distance
  4. Scrambling Percentage
  5. Ball Striking

The Strokes Gained statistics are going to be common in these rundowns. The importance of those two is obvious, so I won’t spend any time on that.

According to multiple sources, the fairway widths at Erin Hills are even broader than those at Augusta National. It’s commonly theorized that big hitters have an advantage at the Masters, so I will continue that knowledge here. As long as these guys aren’t complete duds in driving accuracy, I’m interested in stacking my lineups with bombers. Erin Hills is one of, if not the, longest course in U.S. Open history. There are Par 4’s that some of these golfers will struggle to reach in two on their best days.

With the whole ‘extremely long course’ thing being said, let’s add ball striking to the mix. I want players who can hit hybrids and long irons very well. Those who can get on or around the green as quickly as possible will be successful. Couple this with an elite scrambling ability and we’ve got ourselves some tournament contenders. I had to prorate my ball striking statistic to include the European Tour players, but it will work for our purposes.

As mentioned in the Players Championship DFS article, launch angle off the tee intrigues me greatly as a baseball enthusiast. When asked in an interview how the wind would factor in at this course, USGA executive director Mike Davis didn’t sugarcoat it:

“This is a very windy site. It would be very unusual to have even a day go where we don’t get some wind. I think the ability to control the trajectory of your ball and the distance is going to be hugely important.”

I will be reusing that cool article I stumbled across at Future of Fantasy in regards to players who perform well under windy conditions.

Recent History

As mentioned previously, there is no history of professional events at this track other than LPGA and Amateur tournaments. Some are comparing it to Pebble Beach or Chambers Bay, but I’m not buying it. This is a very unique course and every player starts from scratch here. Hidden bunkers from sight, where to lay up, etc. will all be learned in the weeks leading up to the tournament.

Golfers to Own

Dustin Johnson, $11200

Look, I won’t take too much of your time here. DJ is the best player in the world right now and should absolutely be owned in 50% or more of your lineups, tournament or cash. He has conquered a long U.S. Open track before (2016) and this one will be no different. Erin Hills will allow him to let his driver rip, which should strike fear in the souls of the field.

Hell, he’s even due for another baby before the tournament starts with his beautiful, ehh, partner (?) Paulina Gretzky. If that’s not good mojo going into a major, I don’t know what is!

Rickie Fowler, $9200

Did you really think I was gonna leave Fowler out of one of my golf articles? Shame on you.

Yes, it was a poor performance at the Players. Yes, he played poorly at the St. Jude Classic just last week. Today is a new day though! And that course in Memphis is extremely different than the one we will see for the U.S. Open. Look for Fowler to bounce back in a big way this week. A top 10 finish will support his salary.

Daniel Berger, $6800

The winner of that St. Jude Classic, Berger isn’t getting a lot of attention heading into the weekend among other fantasy sites. This is really surprising to me given how well he played and has played for the 2016-2017 season.

Sure, he has a tendency to put out some duds, but his upside matches that of the big name stars. He’s got four top 10 finishes in 16 events and you can add a couple more top 15 results to that list as well. To encourage you further, Future of Fantasy tabs him as a top 20 wind specialist since 2014.

I don’t see any reason to ignore Berger this week, especially in tournament entries.

Paul Casey, $8800

The safest golfer not in the elite class this week has to be Casey. He’s finished T16 or better in six of his last eight events. He hasn’t missed a cut since early January. The only issue with his game this season has been the putter, but he can find his stroke on greens that are easier to navigate like the ones at Erin Hills.

I would rather play Casey in a cash game format, but I don’t mind him in tournament entries either if people are overlooking him. I haven’t noticed him mentioned in many other DFS articles I’ve skimmed through, so he could potentially go under the radar in a weird price range.

Lucas Glover, $5600

If you are looking for stability for a cash or tournament lineup at an unappreciated salary, look no further than Glover. He’s a cut-maker whose affordability makes for a nice plug-and-play option. Usually when you dip lower in the player pool, you are making the conscience to sacrifice safety for risk to employ a more expensive player. However, I don’t get that vibe with Glover and I am happy to use his services in the $5000 range.

Admittedly, the upside isn’t great. He’s only had two top 10 finishes in 2017. What I like about him though is his ball striking ability, which he ranks first in the field. As shocking as that may be, his Par 5 scoring average supports this statistic. Glover is the perfect player to gamble on at a course like this one.

Golfers to Avoid

Henrik Stenson, $9100

This price point is way too steep for a guy who has missed the cut in six of his last eight tournaments. Sure, Stenson finished a cute T16 in the PLAYERS about a month ago. The long layoff should hurt his chances here though, especially when you are having to work to figure out a course.

To go along with the back story, his game just doesn’t fit the mold of the venue. He’s not a particularly great wind player. He tends to struggle in scrambling / sand save opportunities. The driver doesn’t swing as hard as it once did. I believe Stenson will find himself struggling to make another cut this week in Wisconsin.

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Brandt Snedeker, $8200

Sneds typically has more success at the technical courses. Around and on the green, he is a solid player and can gain strokes back with his shorter clubs.

Getting to that point will be a major setback for Snedeker as each 500+ yard hole looms. I think this will tire him out and cause him to try to play out of character. I can’t get behind that price point.

J.B. Holmes, $7800

Holmes has been a popular mid-range salary player among fantasy experts this week. I’m not completely buying it. Yes, the driving distance is where you want it to be. Where is the rest of his game though? You cannot rely on his ability approaching or around the greens to support that price. If he had like 14 different types of driver or hybrid, then we’d be talking!

Sleeper of the Week

Satoshi Kodaira, $4500

Everyone’s always looking for a super cheap, low owned ace-in-the-hole. Ever since Si Woo Kim came seemingly out of nowhere to win the PLAYERS, this has become even more important. DFS players will be searching the player pool for that next golfer who can turn heads.

Meet Kodaira, a 27 year old from the Japan Golf Tour. He doesn’t have a long history with U.S. events, but don’t let that deter you. He destroyed the first of 12 sectional qualifiers with the next best score four strokes behind his in a 36 hole contest. He’s played extremely well overseas and his momentum could carry over to a course like Erin Hills.

With two top 3 finishes in his last three events in Japan, I’m hoping for a locked-in Kodaira to blind himself from the magnitude of the event and just go out and golf. He’s worth a flier in tournament entries when you are looking to spend up on the heavy favorites.

Bonus Sleeper – Andres Romero, $4900

Romero rated well on my statistical value chart. This is mostly because of his incredibly cheap price, but still I think there is some use for him in tournament entries. The veteran from Argentina will be playing his fifth U.S. event this season, but his 15th major in 11 years as a professional.

He finished T14 in the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Why bring this up? Because Chambers Bay was a largely unknown course that most golfers in the field were complaining about too much to play well. This gives me optimism about the mental fortitude of which Romero plays. I’m willing to throw a dart on Romero despite his shortcomings to save some major spending money for the top salaried players.

My Friend JSK’s Lock of the Week

You know how this goes – I want to get the avid golf fan’s perspective rather than just the fantasy side. This guy follows golf so closely, the PGA is getting creeped out and considering a restraining order on him. The one and only JSK…

“Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating 2017 U.S. Open champion, Sergio Garcia! Just kidding. I’m still trying to make up for the fact that I didn’t pick my favorite golfer to win my favorite tournament. I hope he forgives me!

Anyway, here’s the real deal – Jon Rahm is going to win the U.S. Open.

I’m sick and tired of being proven wrong by this guy. He continues to put up solid start after solid start with total disregard for any learning curves. This guy has already proven himself on the PGA Tour as he boasts top-3 positions in strokes-gained: off-the-tee, tee-to-green, and total.

It’s the U.S. Open, so there will definitely be big numbers looming for everyone. You need to be able to bounce back with lots of birdies. Last year, Rahm was an amateur playing in his first Open. Not surprisingly, he opened with a stressful 76, but followed that up with rounds of 69-72-70. Those last three rounds were among the best of the tournament, and allowed Rahm to rack up a T-23 and the low-amateur medal. That bodes well for this year’s tournament. 

This guy already has a win and two runner-up finishes this season (one of which was two weeks ago). He’s already an established player on tour, and he has everything it takes to win a major. Publicly, Rahm has said that he learned a lot from playing last year, and we already know how quickly this man learns. Rahm is going to take this thing home.”

I wanted to include Jon Rahm in my ‘Golfers to Own’ section, but JSK made it clear that he wanted to choose the rapidly rising star. I can totally see him winning his first major at a course like this and will own him in a good chunk of lineups.

Proposed DFS Lineups

Alert: FanDuel has now changed their formatting to look more like DraftKings as we approach the merger of the two. No longer will FanDuel have four golfers for the first two rounds and four golfers for the weekend rounds. Every golfer will get points for the whole tournament.

I actually enjoyed the strategy behind playing four pre-cut and four post-cut, but I am nothing if not adaptable. No more laziness with the sleeper picks – you’ve gotta be able to foresee your low-priced golfers making the third and final rounds.

Tournament

PlayerSalaryTyler's Statistical Rank
Total$60,000
Dustin Johnson$11,2001
Jon Rahm$10,4003
Rory McIlroy$10,3002
Daniel Berger$680011
Martin Laird$630030
Lucas Glover$560020
Andres Romero$490022
Satoshi Kodaira$450023

Boom or bust! I feel like this could be a lineup that involves life-changing money. Good thing I’m sharing it with the worldwide web. See how much I care for my readers?

There’s three guys in DJ, Rahm, and Rory McIlroy who could run train through this course while everyone else struggles. I have a strong feeling that each of these guys will finish in the top eight-ish. Not a ton of lineups will feature three golfers with this sort of potential.

The real boom or bust comes in the form of my lower owned options that round out the roster. I talked about the stability that Berger and Glover can give a lineup. Kodaira and Romero will be my high risk/reward golfers under $5000.

Lastly, Martin Laird actually gives me a solid floor – someone who can make the cut and post relatively clean rounds. You could pivot to Bryson DeChambeau here if you believe that his previous experience at Erin Hills (2011 Amateur Open) could give him an edge.

Cash

PlayerSalaryTyler's Statistical Rank
Total$59,900
Rickie Fowler$92004
Paul Casey$88007
Louis Oosthuizen$84008
Francesco Molinari$780016
Daniel Berger$680011
Pat Perez$670026
Russell Henley$660013
Lucas Glover$560020

This lineup makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It won’t win you any money in tournament play, but it’s a roster of equalizers that is sure to finish in the top half of any cash game contests.

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Fowler and Casey were obvious plays here if you read my earlier blurbs regarding them. I am a big Louis Oosthuizen fan this week as he’s having a fantastic season. He’s a great player out of the sand and there are plenty of those to play from for the field. Francesco Molinari is someone that I believe has a game that translates to any course. I have no doubt in him throwing up useful fantasy points for me over the weekend.

Once again, I’m going to trust Berger and Glover to have a successful week in Wisconsin. Pat Perez and Russell Henley might be different players, but they should both post decent scores. I like Henley quite a bit more than Perez if you are choosing between the two. A Bernd Wiesberger and Gary Woodland combination was in consideration here instead of Henley-Perez, but I felt that Henley put that one over the edge.

About Tyler Thompson

Follow me on Twitter at @therealwody. For all the latest news and best advice out there, like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

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