DFS: Di Bari | U.S. Open Picks

It’s Major week again for the PGA Tour! The Tour stops at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York for the 2018 U.S. Open. The course is a long 7,445-yard par 70, links-style course. The USGA likes to keep the scores low here, so don’t look for anyone to blow this course out of the water and run away with it this week. Looking at the weather, during the tourney, it looks to be near perfect with temperatures in the low-to-mid-70s and with minimal wind between 8-11 miles-per-hour featuring possible gusts of up to 21 miles-per-hour according to windfinder.com. There is some rain in the forecast for Wednesday too, so the course could be soft for the players teeing off during the morning wave on Thursday. As always, the weather is difficult to predict, so be sure to check back before you set your lineups, but keep in mind as of now, it looks like the Thursday morning groups will see the most favorable conditions.

Key stats that I’ll be focusing on this week are Driving Distance, Shots Gained: Off-The-Tee (SG:OTT), Shots Gained: Approach (SG:APP), Birdies or Better (BoB), and to a lesser extent Shots Gained: Tee to Green (T2G), Greens in Regulation (GIR), accuracy off the tee, putting performance on Poa Annua greens and performance on links-style courses. Data on links-style courses and Poa greens are courtesy Josh Culp’s site, futureoffantasy.com.

High-End Plays:

Coming off a win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and two years removed from his U.S. Open win at Oakmont, Dustin Johnson ($11,700) is a popular pick this week and is priced accordingly. He checks all the boxes in the key stats I’ve identified. First in SG:OTT, SG:T2G, and BoB, plus top-20 in SG:APP, GIR, and driving distance. Oh, he’s also a strong putter on Poa greens- it’s hard to pick against him even at this price.

The recently unseated world #1, Justin Thomas ($11,000) looks to win this week and regain his #1 status. It certainly is in the realm of possibilities as outside of accuracy off the tee, JT is ranked in the top-24 in each of my key stats for this week and top-10 in four of them: SG:APP (7th), SG:T2G (2nd), BoB (5th) and driving distance (8th). Thomas is another costly option who is worth every penny.

Jordan Spieth ($10,800) is arguably playing his worse golf as a pro- and he is still within the top-10 of three of the Strokes Gained stats and top-20 in the other two. He’s also within the top-100 in both driving distance and accuracy. His putter has betrayed him, and if Spieth can straighten out the troubles with his flat-stick, he can contend on Sunday. At his price, with his recent struggles, he should see a dip in his ownership. Spieth tees off Thursday morning, so if it rains Wednesday and is windy in the afternoon, conditions might instill a little confidence in him, which could be dangerous.

I feel like he’s being overlooked this week in a strong field, but Justin Rose ($9,900) can easily get his second U.S. Open title this week. The former champ is in the early groups on Thursday, which may be advantageous. He’s already secured two wins this year and given his form, he is poised to add a third victory sooner rather than later. Rose is within the top-27 in all of my Strokes Gained categories and is a top-50 driver in terms of accuracy and distance. He’s on his way to his best season as a pro, already amassing the second most prize money in a season of his career. Looking at his results from this season below, you can see there has barely been a blemish on his card this year.

Upper Mid-Range Plays

If distance is important, John Rahm ($9,500) is in play. 19th in driving distance on tour, but 129th in accuracy, Rahm has found success in his young career that seems to have been unaffected by his accuracy problems. He is second in SG:OTT and BoB, and is top-20 in SG:T2G and GIR. The Spaniard is outside the top-100 in SG:APP, but it hasn’t hurt him thus far with four top-5 finishes in 11 starts in singles competitions with no missed cuts.

Defending champ Brooks Koepka ($9,000) missed time earlier this year due to injury but has come back nicely and is rounding into form just in time to defend his title. He’s long off the tee and obviously can play on a track where the difficulty is tuned up by the USGA. He also gains strokes on the field on links courses too. Koepka is also among the morning the times on Thursday, and if that it’s favorable like I mentioned above, he can go low and have everyone chasing him through the weekend.

Although not originally someone I was targeting here, Henrik Stenson ($8,800) jumped off the page when I started looking at the stats I was focusing on this week. Length is important here, and Stenson is only 179th in driving distance, but he makes up for it everywhere else. He’s first in accuracy off the tee, SG:APP and GIR and is third in SG:T2G. The lack of length is offset by his ability to place the ball, as he is 13th in SG:OTT as well. On a course where scores might be high, Stenson is 32nd in BoB, and that ability to score will be useful this week.

Sergio Garcia ($8,700) has been awful lately with three missed cuts in his last four singles events. He hasn’t looked good since March when he had a seventh and fourth and a T9 at the match play event. He should go low owned and is a risky play, but we’ve seen his upside, and in a GPP, he’s a helluva flier. Despite a poor showing lately, Garcia is still between 14th and 68th in all of my key stats for this week.

Have you ever seen Tommy Fleetwood ($8,100) without his beard and long hair? It’s weird. Google it. This will have no effect on his performance this week, but I wanted to bring it to your attention. More importantly, he is 31st in driving distance 27th in accuracy, arguably the best combo ranking-wise in the field. Fleetwood finished 4th in the U.S. Open last year and is in much better form heading into it this year as you can see below. Looking at the key stats, Fleetwood is top-12 in SG:OTT, SG:T2G and BoB too.

Lower Mid-Range Plays

I’m not original, and you’ll hear this everywhere else this week, but Paul Casey ($8,000) is criminally underpriced and is going to be heavily owned this week because of it. Much like Fleetwood, Casey is one of the few golfers that finds himself in the tops among drivers in both accuracy(82nd) and distance(34th). Casey is also top-15 in SG:APP, SG:T2G and BoB and in the top-55 in SG:OTT and GIR. In the event you were looking for another reason to like him- he’s in the morning wave of tee times too.

I’ve got an Alexander Noren ($7,900) problem. I try to squeeze him in every chance I get, but at this price, it’s hard not to like him. 60th in driving distance, 55th in accuracy and 37th in both SG:OTT and BoB, he has all the tools to finally win a PGA Major. Noren is 16th in SG:APP and that might end up being very important this week if the greens are difficult to stick as the tournament rolls on.

In his two previous attempts back in 2011 (as an amateur) and 2012, Patrick Cantalay ($7,700) has yet to miss a cut in a U.S. Open. He’s got a morning tee time Thursday, which is worth monitoring is the weather forecasts hold. As you can see below, Cantalay is having an exceptional year and is in solid recent form coming off of a fourth-place finish at the Memorial. He’s in the top-25 in SG:OTT, SG:T2G, GIR, and BoB and is 43rd in driving distance while sitting 31st in SG:APP. There isn’t much to dislike out of Cantalay this week.

If he can get his putting game in order Luke List ($7,200) would be crushing it on tour. He’s played in the U.S. Open three times and has missed the cut each time, but hasn’t played in this tournament since 2007. Now, List is playing the best golf of his career including an earlier second place following a playoff loss to Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic back in February. He’s fourth in both driving distance and SG:OTT and sits in 5th in SG:T2G. List is just a hair outside of the top-50 in SG:APP and SG:GIR, but is 25th in BoB. If he can only get that putting going for two or three days this week, he can contend on Sunday.

1.5-million-dollars of Peter Uihlein’s ($7,100) 2.1-million-dollar has been earned this year, so he’s clearly never played better. He’s also recorded two fifth-place finishes in his last four starts, so if you’re looking for some salary relief, Uihlein is worth a look. His accuracy off the tee is a terrible 192nd on tour, but his driving distance is sitting at 37th. He’s ranked between the top-40 and top-90 in all of the other key stats except SG:APP, where he is ranked 105th. He’s not an exciting option, but may end up being lower owned and has a lot of upside in GPPs.

Low-End Plays

Another player with a Thursday morning tee time, Brendan Steele ($6,800) jumped off the page when I started looking into the numbers and looking at player price points. Steele is eighth in SG:OTT, 10th in GIR, 13th in driving distance, 19th in BoB and within the top-30 in both SG:APP and SG:T2G. His only shortcoming is his driving accuracy where he ranks 138th. His recent form leaves a little to be desired, but statistically, he lines up with many of the players in the $9,000 price range and is coming off of back-to-back T15s in the last two U.S. Opens.

If long hitters are worth a look this week, Trey Mullinax ($6,800) is a must play in this lower salary range. The longest driver on tour, averaging just under 319 yards off the tee, he does sacrifice some accuracy sitting in 187th place in that category. Many of the key stats don’t favor Mullinax, but he is 19th in SG:OTT and 41st in BoB. That, combined with the distance, might be enough to make him a playable GPP option in this price range, affording you the flexibility to squeeze in some top guys this week.

Why not Shubhankar Sharma ($6,800)? Coming off a missed cut at the Memorial, many might have cooled on the 21-year-old product from Jhansi, India. After a PGA Tour debut that saw him finish in ninth place at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, he has missed four cuts in five stroke play events with a T20 at the Fort Worth Invitational mixed in there three weeks ago. Sharma is averaging 303-yards off the tee, which if he had enough qualifying rounds would place him 31st on tour. Keeping in mind that he hasn’t accumulated enough qualifying rounds, he’d also be among the leaders on tour in SG:OTT, SG:APP and SG:T2G as well. He has two wins internationally in the last six months and is worth a dart throw at this price point.


Chicagoan living in Las Vegas. Fantasy Football writer & Director of In-Season Analysis for Dynasty Football Factory, blogger for USFantasy and contributor to TheFakeHockey. Member FSWA.

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