Daily and weekly fantasy sports have become all the rage. Battling it out over an entire season is fun, but sites like DraftKings offer a quicker payoff and big payouts for winners! Not only do they offer daily action in the four major professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) as well as college basketball and football but also the PGA Tour.
Your DraftKings lineup is made up of six golfers you select from within the $50,000 salary cap.
Each week DraftKings offers a wide selection of games to enter at a variety of price points. You can even get a feel for the game in a freeroll contest. Before you put your cash on the line, I'll offer my Top Values and Steals in this space every week, specifically geared to help build a winning DraftKings squad. I'll also give you my Overpriced golfers to avoid, and a couple of “Vegas Says…” tips to help you find those players for GPPs.
Erin Hills is a new course that was designed specifically to host these kinds of events. Its trial run was the 2011 U.S. Amateur, and it produced carnage. The cut was +17, although the level of competition was much lower than what we’ll see this week. The interesting part of this course is how the USGA will set up the track. It’s listed at 7,700 yards for this week, but it can play anywhere from 7,300 – 8,200 yards. That’s right, 8,200 yards.
This links-style course plays best when conditions are firm and fast, and the fairways are wide, and the fescue will grab any errant tee-shots. The problem this week is that rain is expected on Wednesday, Thursday, and potentially Friday, which will throw a wrench in the USGA’s plans. Ultimately, we should see ideal conditions for the final two rounds. The fescue is going to be a huge problem this week, as we’ve already seen viral videos from Wesley Bryan and Kevin Na showing how quickly players will lose golf balls this week. Because of this, shorter hitters are still in play, if they’re good drivers of the golf ball. I think strokes gained off-the-tee is my number one stat this week, but I’m not just limiting myself to bombers.
In terms of predicting this leaderboard, I’m going to pass on previous U.S. Opens and look more towards similar major venues. The obvious comparisons are Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits, both of which hosted majors in 2015. Whistling Straits is a slightly better comp, in my opinion, so we can look towards that leaderboard for pointers.
Recent Tournament History
This is the first time the U.S. Open has been held at Erin Hills, so we don’t have any course history to draw upon. Instead of looking back at previous U.S. Open venues (which played vastly different to the links-style course we’ll see in Wisconsin), I’ve chosen to target two previous majors: the 2015 U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Both events were played on relatively new and unknown courses that had similar elements to Erin Hills. This is all still conjecture at this point, but I think our leaderboard this week will have a ton of the following names:
Current Form Review
Each week, we’ll look backward at the last three tournaments on the PGA and European Tours. I have included the top-20 from the past three full-field events: the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, The Memorial, and last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT): Erin Hills is an absolute beast, and I think strokes gained off-the-tee is the key to success this week. Mostly, we’ll see bombers leading this category, but there are some shorter hitters who stripe it. Avoiding the deep fescue and scoring on certain shorter holes will propel players to success this week. I predict that the week’s leader in SG:OTT will be holding the trophy on Sunday evening. The field leaders in this category are Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Lucas Glover, and Hideki Matsuyama.
Strokes Gained Around-the-Green (SG:ARG): Because of the trouble off-the-tee and the small, guarded greens, scrambling will be important this week. Whether it’s chipping, pitching, or bunker play, a tight short game is critical this week at Erin Hills. Putting is a bit unpredictable from week-to-week, but solid wedge play and chipping tend to carry over. I think this list of SG:ARG specialists will give us some names from our leaderboard this week: Jason Day, Pat Perez, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, and Phil Mickelson.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%): There are not many weeks where we aren’t going to target birdie or better percentage because that’s what fantasy golf scoring is all about. There’s going to be plenty of bogeys this week, so we need birdies to offset the damages. The top-10 on Tour in birdie or better percentage are Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Anirban Lahiri. It’s possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Bogey Avoidance (BA): This is a U.S. Open, so bogeys and double bogeys will be prevalent. However, certain players tend to limit the damage, and that’s what I’m targeting this week. I guess that this week’s winner will have 6-8 bogeys and 1-2 double bogeys, so it’s not like they’re going to be earning any bogey-free bonuses. This list brings some interesting names to the top: Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Jordan Spieth, Brendan Steele, Lucas Glover, Hideki Matsuyama, and Jon Rahm.
*In order of my rankings
Dustin Johnson ($11,200)
DJ is still the favorite this week, even after a MC at The Memorial. He’s had a lot on his mind, as his wife is due with their second child this week. He’s planning to arrive in Wisconsin on Tuesday, so he’ll have plenty of time to acclimate himself. DJ is playing the best golf of his life and is one of the best drivers in PGA Tour history. His wedge game has improved, his putting has improved, and he’s the man to beat here. At Whistling Straits, DJ has finished 5th and 7th in majors. And we all know he should have won (or at least made the playoff) at the PGA Championship there if not for a bogus ruling in a bunker on the final hole.
Rory McIlroy ($10,300)
Is Rory healthy? This course fits his game to a tee, as he’s a bomber and elite ball-striker who can play links-style courses very well. Rory posted a video recently showing his recovery from a rib injury, and it looks all systems go. If he’s healthy, Rory is neck-and-neck with DJ for the field favorite. He’s a four-time major champion who is itching for a win this season. He played decently at Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits in 2015.
Jordan Spieth ($10,100)
Spieth is an interesting case study this week, but I’m on board. He tends to excel at these new, unknown courses because he’s able to scramble and putt his way to success. His off-the-tee (and mental) game is a little shaky, but he gets fired up for these majors. Spieth won at Chambers Bay and nearly won at Whistling Straits, so he checks the boxes on both comp courses. He’s been improving his strokes gained tee-to-green stats each of the past three events, which is a great sign of a breakthrough.
Sergio Garcia ($9,600)
Part of me thinks Sergio is due for a letdown after winning the Masters, but he’s backed it up with 30th, 20th, and 12th place finishes. Amazingly, he’s trending towards a win this week (how cool would that be?). Garcia has been a ball-striking monster his entire career, but he’s finally gained some confidence in his short game. Furthermore, Garcia ranks second on Tour in SG:OTT, behind only Dustin Johnson. If he has his best game this week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergio near the lead on Sunday.
Justin Rose ($9,300)
I was on record with Rose as my pick to win The Masters, so it was disappointing to see him lose to Sergio in a playoff. But I’m riding Rose this season, as I think he’s going to win one of the four majors. He’s an elite ball-striker who has won a U.S. Open previously, and we’ve seen him excel on links-style courses in the past. Rose played decently well at Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits, and now he’s playing even better golf. If Rose can wipe out a few errant tee shots, he’ll be in the mix this weekend.
Matt Kuchar ($7,600)
Kuchar just seems to churn out top-10 finishes every week. He’s posted 4th, 12th, and 9th place finishes in his past three starts and is long overdue for a win this season. He also has a great record in majors, including top-10 finishes at Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits. Kuch ranks 5th in my model, thanks to his all-around game. He’s gaining strokes in all areas of his game.
Francesco Molinari ($7,000)
This is a crazy low price for Molinari, who has been on a tear recently. He ranks 1st in my statistical model, mostly thanks to his incredible ball-striking the past few months. Molinari is still looking for his first PGA Tour win, and what better place to get one than a major championship. His lack of distance worries me a bit, but I can’t overlook the fantastic form he’s in.
Marc Leishman ($6,700)
Leishman is one of my favorite plays on the board this week, but he’ll be popular. He’s about $800 too cheap on DraftKings, so expect 20% ownership in most GPPs. He’s an excellent player in major championships because he scrambles well, avoids bogeys, and can handle any conditions. Leishman gains most of his strokes off-the-tee, which is exactly what I’m targeting. He comes to Erin Hills in solid form, after winning earlier this Spring and recently posting a top-15 finish at The Memorial.
Bubba Watson ($8,200)
What to do with Bubba Watson at this high price? He’s been awful this season but flashed with an impressive performance at The Memorial. The issue with Bubba has been his putter and his mind, so I don’t think Erin Hills is going to suit his game. Not to mention, his inaccuracy off-the-tee could lead to lost balls and lost sanity. In any event, we’ve seen him win majors, we’ve seen him play well on links-style courses, and we’ve seen him make it to a playoff at Whistling Straits. If something clicks for Bubba, he’ll be there on Sunday.
Louis Oosthuizen ($7,400)
Surprisingly, Oosthuizen is near the top of my model this week. He’s in solid form, posting a runner-up finish at The Players and then a top-20 at the Byron Nelson. Louis always seems to pop up at major championships, and he’s been close to adding to his lone major win. He’s a fantastic ball-striker, gains strokes off-the-tee, and can get as hot with the putter as anyone on Tour. He nearly won at Chambers Bay after shooting 80 in the first round and posted another top-25 at Whistling Straits. Louis is going to win another major in his career, and it could happen this week.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest on their DraftKings salaries. Keep in mind, this doesn’t make these players “good plays” or “bad plays,” but it simply measures the value based on their price. I’ve done this not just with the actual rankings, but as a percentage. So, if two players have a difference of 10 spots in pricing versus odds rankings, the player ranked higher overall will have a higher percentage. It’s a quick way to find value. I use an aggregate of odds from various oddsmakers to come up with my valuation.
The value differential column shows the number of spots lower in salary than their odds to win imply. The differential % column shows that as a percentage of the players DraftKings salary ranking. Here is a list of the top-20 “values” based on my aggregations:
On the flipside, we have the list of players Vegas believes are overpriced based on their odds to win. Using the same model and calculations as above, here are the top-20 worst “values” based on my aggregations:
DraftKings lineups for the U.S. Open
Stars and Scrubs