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DraftKings DFS Fantasy Golf Cheat Sheet: 2021 PGA TOUR U.S. Open Picks

Geoff Ulrich gets you set for the U.S. Open with winning trends and his picks for your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups.

The Cheat Sheet provides DraftKings fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.

Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: $2.5M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry]



The Field

The field for the U.S. Open is 156 players and includes several players (pros and non-pros alike) who have gained entry through local and international qualifying. Last year the field was shortened a bit as the qualification process was hindered by COVID-19. This year though, there will be tons of great stories in the field, including many pros and amateurs who qualified for their first U.S. Open via the long and grueling Q-process. The top 60 players in the world also all get invites, as do recent major winners, which means Phil Mickelson (2021 PGA Championship) is in the field after missing out last year.

Matthew Wolff is back in the field after being a late WD from the PGA Championship, but his status is worth monitoring as he’s had injury and personal issues afflict his performance this year. Jason Day will miss his first major since 2012 due to a back issue and the fact his ranking has fallen out of the top 60. Brooks Koepka (knee) and Dustin Johnson (knee) have both seemingly recovered from some mid-season issues and have made strong preparation starts leading up to this week. The big news is that Jon Rahm has now tested negative for COVID-19 after being forced out of The Memorial due to a positive test and been cleared to return to action.

The cut for the U.S. Open is also unique as it only allows the top 60 players (including ties) to make the cut. While there used to be a 10-shot rule here, which would allow any player within 10 shots of the lead to make the weekend, that rule was abolished in 2012.



The Course

Torrey Pines—San Diego, CA

Torrey Pines (South Course) 7,765 yards, par 71; Greens and Fairways: Poa Annua and Kikuyu

Torrey Pines South is consistently ranked as one of the hardest courses on Tour and yields one of the lowest birdie or better percentages every season. This season at the Farmers Insurance Open — a regular Tour stop it co-hosts every year in January — the event saw a 72.533 scoring average while playing as a Par 72. The course will be set up much the same for the U.S. Open with the only major change being that the par 5 sixth hole will be converted to a par 4 and will play around 515 yards.

Torrey South was last used to host the U.S. Open back in 2008 and presents as a classic U.S. Open layout. It still played well over 7,600 yards that year and saw just two players finish the event under par for the week (Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate). Torrey features thick Kikuyu rough which is often grown out longer for the Tour pros, even in the winter. Riviera (home of the Genesis Open), another West Coast stop, is one of the only other courses on Tour that features this kind of grass. With the U.S. Open, we should expect again that missing the fairway will mean brutal punch outs and lost shots because the rough will be grown out to thicker than normal standards. The fairway accuracy stats at Torrey Pines are already some of the worst on Tour as the field typically averages around 10% lower Driving Accuracy stats for the week of the Farmers. As with many U.S. Opens, length and accuracy off the tee will be crucial.

The greens aren’t a cakewalk either and will certainly play a huge role in determining a champion. Torrey is one of the few spots on Tour which features pure Poa Annua on the putting surfaces — one of the others being Pebble Beach, site of the 2019 U.S. Open — and always features some of the highest three-putt rates on Tour. Good Poa and West Coast putters here can be favored here as just being comfortable with the surface should provide a decent advantage this week.

On the South course, playing the par 5s well is important as they are generally the only birdie holes on the course, and possibly the only holes that will play under par for the week. Seven of the 11 par 4s on the course do measure in at over 450 yards in length, while only one measures in at under 400. With several long holes and some dog-leg tee shots, which will force players to take less aggressive lines than they’d like here, the busiest grouping of approach shots at Torrey has typically been >200 yards and greater. Good approach play is essential every week, but good long iron play especially is vital here.

At its core, Torrey Pines is a long, classic West Coast golf course that has typically correlated well with other West Coast venues built in a similar style, with Pebble Beach perhaps giving us the biggest correlation. Strong tee-to-green play is going to be essential to any winner here, but we’ve also seen players like Patrick Reed (2021 Farmers Open winner) and Marc Leishman (2020 Farmers Open winner) figure out these greens and put in monster weeks while being below average off the tee. Expect a player with great ball-striking and enough power to overcome the U.S. Open conditions to prevail, but don’t be shocked if multiple short-game/putting specialists made a mark on this event as well.

2021 Weather Outlook: The weather this week looks like it is going to be mostly uneventful. Despite this being a seaside course, which has produced some insane weather swings at past events, the summer forecast this week looks very tame. Temperatures won’t be overly hot, although morning highs in the low 60s could hamper players' distance in the AM. The sun is forecast to come out this week, though, with highs in the mid-70s currently expected for all four rounds. While the warm weather could help off the tee it should also bake out the course and make the typically fast U.S. Open greens a nightmare. Look for the lower scores on the first couple of days to come from the early starters as they try and take advantage of the slightly more receptive early day conditions.



Last 5 winners

2020—Bryson DeChambeau -6 (over Matthew Wolff even)

2019—Gary Woodland -13 (over Brooks Koepka -11)

2018—Brooks Koepka +1 (over Tommy Fleetwood +2)

2017—Brooks Koepka -16 (over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama -12)

2016 – Dustin Johnson -4 (over Shane Lowry, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy -1)


Winning Trends

- Six of the past 15 U.S. Open winners had a win on the season before claiming their U.S. Open victory.

- Nine of the past 11 winners of the U.S. Open had recorded at least four top 10s on the season before their U.S. Open victory.

- Each of the past 10 winners of the U.S. Open ranked inside the top 20 in Greens in Regulation percentage for the week of their victory.


Winners Stats and Course Overview

Bryson DeChambeau—2020 U.S. Open (6-under; **Winged Foot)

SG: OTT—+5.3

SG: APP—+7.5

SG: TTG—+17.9

SG: ATG—+5.0

SG: PUTT—+4.5

- Bryson won in dominant fashion last year, besting Matthew Wolff by six shots and gaining +3.0 strokes more than anyone in the field in tee-to-green stats. With weather not really seeming like an issue and the venue playing fairly straightforward, the chance Bryson or another young player simply dominates this year’s course in similar fashion does seem quite high

Torrey Pines Course notes

- Despite Torrey being one of the longest venues on Tour, the last two winners here have ranked just 52nd and 87th in Driving Distance for the week of their win. Both Marc Leishman (2020) and Patrick Reed (2021) lit things up on the greens at Torrey and they’re a good example of why we likely shouldn’t discount players for being slightly shorter off the tee IF they’re trending well with short games and long irons

- Reed also gained +3.7 strokes around the green while Leishman gained +4.7 strokes on approach. The winner's stats here from the Farmers are skewed by playing the North Course in the first or second round, so with an extra round on Torrey South for the U.S. Open, the longer hitters should have more of an advantage. Still, Reed and Leishman both emphasize how important it will be for players to figure out these Poa greens early


Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.

Webb Simpson +4000 and $8,700

Comparables:

Tommy Fleetwood +5000 and $7,800

Comparables:

All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.


HORSES FOR COURSES

With Torrey Pines being an every year host on Tour (Farmers Insurance Open) we’ll take a look at how players have performed at the Farmers every season and factor in any 2008 U.S. Open results to find our best course records

1. Patrick Reed ($9,000; best finishes: win-2021, T6-2020): Reed has played this course in each of the past four seasons at the Farmers and has shown great progressive results. He’s finished T13 or better here in each of the past three seasons and broke through with a win at Torrey South in early 2021. The setups will be tougher but that could play into the hands of a grinder like Reed, who finished T5 in his warmup start at the Memorial.

2. Jon Rahm ($11,200; best finishes: win-2017, 2nd-2020): Rahm has marked Torrey as one of his more preferred venues, and he’s typically enjoyed these brutally tough setups over some of the Tour’s easier ones. Rahm won here on his debut (which is a feat in and of itself) and has only finished outside the top 10 at Torrey South once in five career starts.

3. Marc Leishman ($7,400; best finishes: win-2020, T2-2014, 2010): The longer classic layout of Torrey Pines has suited Leishman well over his career. The Aussie has found himself in contention on Sunday here more than once and closed out a huge win in 2020 off the back of a monster final-round 65. He’s tamed Torrey South before and should feel good about his chances this week.

4. Tony Finau ($8,900; best finishes: T2-2021, T4-2017): Finau has played the Farmers Insurance Open seven times in his career and has never missed the cut. He boasts the fourth-best scoring average for that event in this field as well. The bomber has also excelled in the U.S. Open, with two top 10s in his career over the past three seasons, and should feel good about his chances given the venue in play.

5. Ryan Palmer ($7,100; best finishes: T2-2018, 2021): Palmer is only $7,100 this week, but he’ll be a popular course history play. The veteran has the seventh-best scoring average at the Farmers in this field and has finished in T2 at Torrey in two of the past four seasons — a record which includes a playoff loss in 2018.


Recent Form

1. Patrick Cantlay ($9,100, Recent finishes: win-T23): Cantlay’s four missed cuts from April-May do stick out, but he was in contention on Sunday at the PGA Championship and led the field in SG: Tee to Green stats at The Memorial (which he won). Of the top players, he may be peaking better than any of them.

2. Collin Morikawa ($9,500, Recent finishes: 2nd-T14-T8): Morikawa finished runner-up to Cantlay at The Memorial and certainly isn’t far behind him in form. The 2020 PGA Champion hasn’t missed a cut in 13 starts and has gained +6.8 strokes or more with his irons in four straight events.

3. Abraham Ancer ($7,900, Recent finishes: MC-T14-T8): We’ll forgive Ancer for a missed cut overseas a couple of weeks ago as his PGA TOUR record has been sterling of late. He has finished T18 or better in five straight PGA TOUR starts now, was runner-up at the Wells Fargo and finished T8 at the second major in May.

4. Jason Kokrak ($7,600, Recent finishes: win-T49): Kokrak continues to be underrated for his consistency and improved putting. The now two-time PGA TOUR winner has now made nine cuts in a row, and has racked up four top 10s over his past seven starts, which includes a win at Colonial three weeks ago.

5. Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100, Recent finishes: T18-T2-T8): Oosthuizen racked up yet another runner-up finish in a major event at the PGA Championship in May. The South African has picked up his game in early summer and now has finished T11 or better in four of his past seven PGA TOUR starts. He’s trending well for the year’s third major.


DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY

Cash Games: Morikawa’s a great anchor at a great price

Collin Morikawa ($9,500) comes into this event striking the ball better than anyone in the world. He’s gained over +6.8 strokes on approach in his past four starts and ranks first in SG: TTG and APP stats over the last 50 rounds. He’s underpriced here. There’s plenty of great players in the $8.7K to $9.3K range, but Patrick Cantlay ($9,100-see below) should likely be a target for core lineups as well. Since the restart last summer, he’s picked up two wins against tough fields. You can certainly target mid-range veterans here like Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100) and Shane Lowry ($7,600) as well. Both were great at the PGA Championship and both have top-5 finishes at this event. Lowry has gained over +1.0 strokes on approach now in seven straight starts. Further down, the likes of Harris English ($7,300) and Max Homa ($7,300) also rate out well here. Both have good course history to fall back on, have games that travel well at tough courses and have shown well in recent starts.

Tournaments: Don’t overlook McIlroy’s course history

Rory McIlroy ($9,900) comes in off a couple of quiet weeks but is still playing well after breaking his winless drought at the Wells Fargo a month or so ago. The Northern Irishman has popped with the putter of late, gaining over +3.3 strokes putting in two of his last three starts. He’s also shown much better consistency on his approaches and has finished T16-T3-T5 at Torrey in three career starts. Below him, I also wouldn’t rule out Daniel Berger ($8,400) this week, despite having missed the cut at Torrey three times in four career appearances. The American finished T24 here on debut and won on pure Poa greens at Pebble Beach this January. Cameron Smith ($8,000) is another potential low sentiment play here as he’s coming in off a missed cut, but has played well at longer U.S. Open venues before, finishing T4 at the mammoth Chambers Bay in 2015 which also features Poa greens. Smith also has two top-20 finishes at Torrey since 2018. Other potential targets this week include the likes of Si Woo Kim ($7,300), Patrick Rodgers ($6,500) and Jimmy Walker ($6,500-see below).


MY PICK: Patrick Cantlay ($9,100)

There’s plenty of names we could target here at the top of the board but if we’re being honest, Cantlay just destroyed most of them on one of the toughest golf courses of the season, so why not target him again? The 29-year-old American gained a stroke of luck at Muirfield when Jon Rahm ($11,200) was forced to withdraw with a six-shot lead, and Rahm will certainly be one of the toughest men to vanquish this week. However, Cantlay was no slouch at Muirfield, gaining +14.3 strokes tee to green there and he comes in ranked seventh in that stat over the past 50 rounds. He seems to have shaken the mid-season doldrums that saw him miss four cuts in a row and has now gained over +9.8 strokes just in the ball-striking department alone in his last two starts, one of which was the PGA Championship.

Cantlay’s game is in such fine shape right now that the only thing that may hold him back is the putter. He was solid with that club on the bentgrass/Poa greens at Memorial though and has gained +13.6 strokes putting in his last 50 rounds on Poa. A West Coast native, he’s played well at Pebble Beach in the past, landing his best U.S. Open finish on the tricky Poa greens there in 2019, when he finished T21 and gained +4.2 strokes putting. Now playing some of the best golf of his career, Cantlay enters this U.S. Open off a win in much the same way that Martin Kaymer ($6,900) did in 2014 after he took down a strong field at The PLAYERS. With momentum on his side here and a very attractive DFS price and outright odds (+2500 on DraftKings Sportsbook), I like him to grab his first major this week and complete a storybook comeback that started in 2017.


MY SLEEPER: Jimmy Walker ($6,500)

If you’re an experienced DFS player, Walker isn’t a player you’ve likely considered for fantasy or betting purposes for a long time. The five-time Tour winner had a run of play in the mid-2010s which put him inside the top-10 players in the OWGR at one point, but currently, he sits at just world No. 332. He did, however, show up to The Memorial two weeks ago where he crushed it with a T6 finish against one of the strongest non-major fields of the season. Walker shot an event-best 65 on Sunday and gained +11.8 strokes TTG for the week, the same amount as runner-up Collin Morikawa.

There are obviously two ways you can look at Walker’s performance from The Memorial with the first being it was a complete anomaly. I prefer the second though, which is that this is a player who has a great history of success on Tour (and in majors) and may have finally turned a corner in a massive way in his previous start. Walker’s Torrey Pines history and his record on the West Coast also should have us very intrigued for DFS purposes as he’s won at Pebble Beach and has four top-10 finishes to his credit at Torrey Pines. Walker’s cheap, has under-the-radar great course history and is coming off his best tournament on the PGA TOUR in three years. I think we’ll see some continuation from him this week and love targeting him in big field GPPs like the Milly Maker.

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