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.
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.