Fantasy Insider: U.S. Open
June 13, 2017
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Steve Stricker will be a favorite of the home fans this week in Wisconsin. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
As usual, there's no shortage of storylines, narratives, rhetoric and drama leading into this week's U.S. Open – quite frankly, the alternative would be disappointing and boring – but all of that noise is inversely proportional to the impact of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO.
With only actual scoring and bonus points measured, if you endure a bad week, you're not going to feel the sting as compared to when ShotLink is turned on. It also makes it tougher to advance if you perform well, but those who have the winner rostered will be getting a dose of fantasy adrenaline that could be the difference both in Segment 3 and the full season.
Speaking of which, next week's Travelers Championship concludes Segment 3. Before you burn anyone you'd like at the U.S. Open, consider that the following golfers have committed verbally to the Travelers: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Reed. Of course, Bubba Watson is scheduled to be there as well, but, like Reed, he's been a constant for years. Apples to apples, all of them are poised to present considerably more value at TPC River Highlands than at Erin Hills due to the nature of the fantasy scoring.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO
My roster for the U.S. Open (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Jason Dufner; Brooks Koepka; Hideki Matsuyama; Francesco Molinari; Justin Rose; Charl Schwartzel; Adam Scott; Jordan Spieth
Power Rankings Wild Card
Bubba Watson … I've been critical of his switch to a new golf ball this year, but he finally fired on most cylinders en route to a T6 at the Memorial two weeks ago. In fact, he was essentially vintage. The lefty has shown his talent in the U.S. Open, but those moments have been too far and few between. Like Muirfield Village, Erin Hills can cater to long hitters. There's more than enough room in the landing areas to consider even the least accurate among the bombers, but with no trees to force shot shapes, there's an argument that his strength is neutralized. Indeed, there will be opportunities to be creative, but they will exist more with varieties of lies, not necessarily how to execute with what he does best in the air. So, at best, he's worth stowing on a bench, but we're unlikely to miss him. Besides, he should be a go-to at next week's Travelers Championship.
Steve Stricker … He didn't come this far in the process of competing in the only U.S. Open ever in his home state just to be a non-factor. The 50-year-old makes the most sense in DFS. If you're even the least bit concerned about his record in this tournament, that's wasted emotion. He's 17-for-19 with 11 top 25s, including in each of his last four appearances (2011-2014).
Brooks Koepka … While he drifted into a T37 at TPC Southwind on the weekend, no one was better off the tee. He led the field in total driving. With a T4, T18 and T13 in the last three U.S. Opens, respectively, he sets up like the classic "I picked him for No. 1 in the Power Rankings a week early" lament. My confidence remains just as strong despite his omission in that column this week.
Billy Horschel … Picked up where he left off after a one-year hiatus at TPC Southwind. His T4 is the best of four consecutive top 10s in the FedEx St. Jude Classic. It portends a continuation of form given his propensity to connect solid weeks. Yes, even at the U.S. Open where he's 4-for-4 since 2013 with three top 25s.
Henrik Stenson … Any other year and he'd have been in the Power Rankings, but the 41-year-old has been slowed by illness and, well, doubt. The latter can't be quantified, but we certainly have it in the context of his right knee, which remains short of 100 percent. However, with a T16 at THE PLAYERS, a T3 at the BMW PGA Championship and a T26 at the Nordea Masters, he's trended back into focus. The only concern is how the topography of Erin Hills affects his leg, but it doesn't bother me.
Stewart Cink … Inspired by his wife's successful battle with breast cancer, he's been a mainstay on leaderboards and in fantasy lineups for months. That alone is worth the plunge in this tournament. Ignore his recent sketchy record in it. The 44-year-old currently ranks 19th on TOUR in greens hit and 12th in adjusted scoring.
Brandt Snedeker … Far enough off the radar but nowhere near the edge of the page, he connected top 20s in the U.S. Open from 2010-2015. Even without that glowing record, his confidence around and on greens is worthy of a relative flier in every format (except One & Done).
Paul Casey … We know that he experienced physical and personal challenges over the years, but it's still shocking to digest that it's been 10 years since his last top-35 finish in this tournament. So, while that will concern some, if we're going to remain true to what got him to Erin Hills, there's no denying his fit across the board. Sits 18th on the PGA TOUR in total driving, T7 in greens in regulation, 28th in proximity to the hole, fifth in scrambling and fourth in bogey avoidance. Also arrives having punched out three top 10s and another four top 25s in his last eight starts.
Marc Leishman … The Aussie can be so valuable in the biggest events because he's not an A-lister per se, but he's recorded three top fives in majors and four top 10s in World Golf Championships. Even if the wind doesn't blow, he's worthy of our attention. Currently eighth on the PGA TOUR in adjusted scoring and inside the top 25 in par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring. I pinged PGATOUR.COM's Ben Everill for some intel on his fellow Aussie this week. Everill, who is on site helping cover the tournament, wrote the following in a private message: "With coach Denis McDade by [Leishman's] side at the Memorial Tournament, he corrected a small issue and hit 75 percent of fairways at Muirfield Village." Both Leishman's percentage and field ranking (T5) were season highs en route to a T15 finish.
Lee Westwood … Automatic endorsement in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO and in DFS. Still has the length and ball-striking profile to pad the stat sheets and his current form is more than steady enough to eliminate all doubt that he'll play his way into the weekend. He's missed only two cuts worldwide in the last 14 months and he's 11-for-12 in the U.S. Open since 2004.
Shane Lowry … It doesn't hurt that the Irishman has finished a respective T9 and T2 in the last two U.S. Opens, but it's more intriguing that he's gone T6-T15 in the run-up to this week's edition. His strength is tee-to-green, but he's also third on the PGA TOUR in conversion percentage inside 10 feet. Shrewd DFSers will find a way.
Ross Fisher … First appearance in seven years, but didn't need a sectional qualifier to gain entry. Instead, he's at Erin Hills based on his Official World Golf Ranking (currently 44th) and without a victory anywhere since 2014. That tells you just about everything you need to know about the kind of consistently strong form that makes him attractive in every format. In eight starts since a T3 at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, he's registered five top 10s. Placed T22 in his last at Muirfield Village.
Stephan Jaeger … Things are going as well as they could right now for the 28-year-old from Germany, so the timing of this tournament is serendipitous. He's won twice in his last three starts on the Web.com Tour where he's No. 1 in earnings. In between, he co-medaled at the sectional qualifier in Georgia to secure his second appearance in the U.S. Open (MC, 2015). And it can't hurt that he's one of 18 in the field who competed in the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills. (He was one of nine who advanced to match play.) Total flier for fantasy purposes, but a good one as he's taking the proper approach that it's just golf again this week.
Phil Mickelson … If I maintained a category labeled, "Most Likely To Withdraw," he'd be its only member. You know the story, so just make sure not to roster him.
Daniel Berger … He's performed well on various strains of grass, but it can't be overstated that he remains a horse on Bermuda greens. He acknowledges it and validated by successfully defending his title at TPC Southwind last week. With bentgrass at Erin Hills, he's worth a no-pick this week. (His longer-range profile demands a stronger feel on surfaces other than Bermuda since so many U.S. Open sites are in the northern half of the country, but at 24 years of age and in just his third appearance, it's hardly a deep-rooted worry.)
Rafa Cabrera Bello … Relies too much on his putting to warrant an endorsement until he proves otherwise in this tournament. Hey, not all world-class talents in form will thrive this week.
Patrick Reed … While he continues to grind, gamers need to be cautious and mindful that his short game remains too inconsistent to trust. In the meantime, full-season salary gamers will continue to hold their breath that he doesn't turn the corner given he's still a few bucks shy of seven figures on the season. Sale pending.
Bill Haas … He projects to reward full-season investors based on fit and form, but it's still relevant to cite that he has only one top 10 in 30 starts in the majors. And if you were to rank the majors, the U.S. Open would slot last on his board. It's the only major in which he's failed to record a top 20. He's also missed four (of eight) cuts. That matches the total cuts missed in the other three combined. If you roll the dice, you're playing against those odds.
Lucas Glover … It's time for the rubber to meet the road. His only top 40 among just three cuts made in 11 starts in this tournament is his win in the quagmire at Bethpage in 2009. He's missed the cut in the last five. But the 37-year-old is a different golfer this season, or you could say he's returned to his roots as a phenomenal ball-striker. He lands in this section based on a conservative approach and deep field. Yet, I wouldn't talk you out of injecting him into DFS or similar format as a wild card to oppose those intent on relying on tournament history. He's earned the devotion.
Kevin Na … Only a contrarian will find value in the likely exodus of gamers who have watched his video of the fescue on social media. We know he's not accurate off the tee in the first place, but that demonstration showed little confidence to avoid that grass, which shouldn't be in his landing area, anyway. (Yes, it's been cut down, but the damage has been done. It's a shame since his record in the U.S. Open isn't bad.)
Webb Simpson … As we continue to learn who he is in the anchoring ban era, there's an argument that the 2012 champ could be classified as a horse for shorter and tighter tracks. This is a developing analysis, but Erin Hills is neither.
Branden Grace … If Erin Hills scores like TPC San Antonio (where 12-under won and he finished T10 at 6-under), we should see him peep on the leaderboard. However, as gamers have been advised in this space time and again, the South African has done his best work on par 70s and par 71s. He tends to get lost in the shuffle on par 72s. Making the cut is a fair expectation, but leave it at that.
Danny Willett … While you may be thinking that this is an easy call, it's relevant to remind the most faithful that he was forced off TPC Sawgrass a month ago with a back injury. In his only start since, he placed T58 at the BMW PGA Championship.
Bernd Wiesberger … On paper, he's as good a fit as any, but the Austrian's game hasn't translated on U.S. soil as strongly as gamers would want. At 31 years of age, the time for it to happen is now, but his next top 10 in a PGA TOUR event will be his first. This week's U.S. Open is his 37th career start.
Tommy Fleetwood … Seriously cooled since his runner-up performance at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and T10 at Bay Hill. Terrific tee to green, but struggles with the putter. If he locks in with the wand in the U.S. Open, go ahead and toss all conventional wisdom out the window.
Returning to Competition
Si Woo Kim … Walked off Muirfield Village during his third round with an ankle injury. He's withdrawn during five of his 21 starts this season and has made only nine cuts. Because of that record and his win at THE PLAYERS, he's virtually unownable in every format except for draft leagues, and even those owners get antsy.
Ryan Moore … Nursing a strained shoulder. Expected to be sidelined for three or four weeks.
Tiger Woods … Out indefinitely after his most recent back surgery and may not compete this season.
Power Rankings Recap: FedEx St. Jude Classic
Power Ranking Golfer Result 1 Brooks Koepka T37 2 Phil Mickelson 9th 3 Rickie Fowler MC 4 Francesco Molinari T24 5 Steve Stricker WD 6 Russell Henley MC 7 Billy Horschel T4 8 Kyle Stanley T27 9 Adam Scott T10 10 Stewart Cink T10 11 Brian Gay MC 12 Ian Poulter T31 13 Daniel Berger Win 14 Rafa Cabrera Bello T4 15 D.A. Points MC
Sleepers Recap: FedEx St. Jude Classic
Golfers Results Roberto Castro T65 Chad Campbell T10 Bob Estes MC J.J. Henry MC Peter Uihlein T78/MDF
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
June 13 … Peter Malnati (30)
June 14 … none
June 15 … Justin Leonard (45); Spencer Levin (33); Ollie Schniederjans (24)
June 16 … Phil Mickelson (47)
June 17 … David Hearn (38)
June 18 … none
June 19 … none