The U.S. Open breaks the seal on Segment 4 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. As it should be in its role to determine the full-season champion, it's the toughest of the four segments because so many of the best players will be competing often in it. This still doesn't mean that it has to be challenging to navigate.
Regardless of the iteration of the scoring system and how many tournaments have been included (11 in Segment 4 this season), I've always advised playing it backward, just like how some golf courses are best attacked from green to tee. Understanding where you want to be when you arrive at your hopeful destination will clarify where you want to be a step or two ahead of it.
There are only three FedExCup Playoffs events this season, but the last two still don't include a cut, so all gamers are guaranteed four scores in every round (ignoring the unlikely possibility that at least three golfers in any one roster will withdraw or get disqualified after the roster deadline). Of the pair (that includes the BMW Championship), only the season-ending TOUR Championship deserve a moment of your attention because not everyone for whom you'll be saving a third and final start will qualify for the 30-man field. The simple approach is that gamers in pursuit shouldn't feel compelled to remain patient. Managing starts for certain golfers still has merit, but you could overthink your way into a stymie at East Lake. Be aggressive in the interim to avoid that outcome.
The World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational also is conducted without a 36-hole cut, so you can survive without exhausting a start on numerous notables in that tournament. However, Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel rush to mind as a pair of stalwarts at TPC Southwind (the tournament's new site) for whom you're going to reserve roster spots.
Breaking Segment 4 down further, ShotLink isn't used at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, and because bogey-free rounds and scores or 65 and lower won't be expected at either, they present as better opportunities for league leaders to lean on chalk as chasers get creative. These factors contribute to my reasoning not to play Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy at Pebble Beach. (I'm in pursuit.)
Juggling this advice with long-range planning while remaining fluid should yield an easier and more fun experience to wrap up the season.
Now, as promised in this space last week, this edition of the Fantasy Insider includes golfers who didn't qualify for the U.S. Open. They have our attention because they've been sidelined long enough to warrant curiosity. This translates directly into full-season fantasy value, especially for salary gamers who are now within three months of constructing a roster for 2019-20.
Scroll below for insight, analysis and opinion on 16 guys for whom value is high enough to warrant snapshots.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
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 Day; Rickie Fowler; Si Woo Kim; Brooks Koepka; Rory McIlroy; Justin Rose; Adam Scott; Jordan Spieth; Justin Thomas; Gary Woodland
Returning to Competition
Paul Casey … This is his first start since the flu forced him to withdraw before the second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge on May 24. While investors were stung in real time, the good news – as is always the case with an illness – is that the malady didn't influence his swing. He appears in Challengers in my full-field Power Rankings.
Ernie Els … He's returning to action after a sore back led him to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide after an opening 78. After several months of improved play, The Big Easy is now 0-for-5 since the RBC Heritage. He's in the field at the U.S. Open on a special invitation by the USGA. This marks the 25th anniversary of his first title in the major.
Eddie Pepperell … The 28-year-old Brit is the only qualifier who has elected not to play. He's resting a sore back ahead of a busy summer that includes starts in The Open Championship and the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, which might be his only remaining appearances in PGA TOUR competition this season. Currently, he's totaled the equivalent of 248.904 FedExCup points in seven starts. That would slot him 129th among members. If his season total is greater than the golfer who finishes 125th in the FedExCup, then he'll be eligible for TOUR membership in 2019-20. But even if he lands inside the bubble, there's no guarantee that he'd accept what with the Ryder Cup on deck next year. (For the record, he's only 17.232 FedExCup points shy of qualifying for Special Temporary Membership, but at this stage of the season and with his schedule mapped out, there wouldn't be any benefit in achieving that status. His only focus is on the top 125, and that's only if he's targeting fully exempt status.)
Sidelined (listed alphabetically)
Wesley Bryan … Hasn't played since going 0-for-5 in the fall. Underwent surgery in January for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Hasn't set a timetable for a return, but he's poised for a Major Medical Extension in 2019-20.
Sam Burns … The most recent to hit the injured list, he withdrew after one round of the Memorial with a sore lower back. He called it quits after one round of the Wells Fargo with similar discomfort, so that's two mid-tournament WDs over a five-start span (in between which he went 3-for-3). Because he's 85th in the FedExCup standings and essentially safe for fully exempt status next season, there's no urgency for him to force the issue. So, if you own him in a trade league and you're contending, considering giving up on his long-term value for something that will push you over the top this season.
Kevin Chappell … Arguably the most valuable of this group, he's been out since having a microdiscectomy in late November. As the old adage goes, you can never return too late, but this applies especially to golfers who have undergone the procedure. He hasn't publicized when he's going to make a decision about returning to competition, but gamers shouldn't plan to see him this season. He wastes nothing by waiting until he's completely ready to play regularly as every start will cost him against a Major Medical Extension whenever he's back. At this point, only keeper leaguers should contemplate the risk.
Stewart Cink … Hasn't played since missing the cut at the RBC Heritage due to back injury. It was his career-long fifth consecutive MC. He's 175th in the FedExCup standings and not yet exempt for next season. He likely would receive a medical extension and he still has one career earnings exemption to burn when he's ready. So, the 46-year-old could be a cheap investment in 2019-20.
Graham DeLaet … Ongoing issues related to his back has prevented him from teeing it up for 20 months now. He's already armed with a Major Medical Extension with 24 starts, so when he hopes to return to the PGA TOUR this fall, it will carry over.
James Hahn … He just passed the four-month window to qualify for a Major Medical Extension next season, assuming he needs one. At 196th in the FedExCup standings and with only seven weeks to go before the Playoffs, it's the likely fate. The 37-year-old has not played since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am due to a partially torn tendon in a tricep muscle. He hopes to resume practicing soon.
John Huh … Last played THE PLAYERS and missed the cut. Just 4-for-13 on the season and 211th in the FedExCup. An explanation for his time away isn't available and he is not fully exempt for 2019-20.
Jamie Lovemark … Injured his left shoulder during the first round of the Desert Classic and hasn't competed since. He had hoped to return as soon as the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard but he hasn't updated the prognosis. He's 198th in the FedExCup. Just 31 years of age, yet this wouldn't be the first time he's needed a medical extension to retain status.
Hunter Mahan … Out of action since a T71/MDF at the Valero Texas Open. No news has surfaced to explain the time off. At 166th in the FedExCup standings, he'll qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals, but he still has a career earnings exemption in his pocket if he wants to use it. At 37 years of age, he might consider forgoing it again (as he did in 2017-18), which is reasonable if he's eligible for a medical extension.
William McGirt … As expected, he's been out all season after having surgery for a torn labrum and a femoroacetabular impingement in his left hip nine months ago. In early May, he talked about a potential rehab stint on the Web.com Tour in July, but that plan is very much up in the air. Whatever the case, he's headed toward a Major Medical Extension next season. The one-time PGA TOUR winner will turn 40 on June 21.
Seung-Yul Noh … The 28-year-old is expected to conclude his military conscription in time to return to the PGA TOUR this fall. When he does, he'll have 26 starts on a Major Medical Extension.
Sean O'Hair … Suffered a torn oblique during his first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and hasn't played since. He's now eligible for a Major Medical Extension in the vicinity of 15 starts if he doesn't return this season, which is a realistic possibility. At $201K, he'll be a bargain for salary gamers. If he gives it a go in the Web.com Tour Finals and emerges with fully exempt status, even better.
D.A. Points … Got fitted with an artificial disc in his neck on May 2. Just 3-for-13 on the season with 15 FedExCup points. Expect him to receive a Major Medical Extension.
Patrick Rodgers … Had hoped to get back inside the ropes at the Memorial, but he can afford to remain patient as he's 70th in the FedExCup. While he's been out since the Valspar Championship, he got married.
Charl Schwartzel … It was just a few days ago that he announced that he's sitting out the rest of the season to rest an injured wrist. Not yet fully exempt for next season, he'll be eligible for the Web.com Tour Finals and a medical extension on the PGA TOUR for 2019-20. Whatever happens, he'll look good to salary gamers with a price tag of just $232K. The two-time PGA TOUR winner will turn 35 on Aug. 31.
Camilo Villegas … Hasn't pegged it for real in over 14 months. Exempt with 13 starts on a Major Medical Extension due to an injured right shoulder, his return remains TBD.
Power Rankings Recap – RBC Canadian Open
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Dustin Johnson T20
2 Brooks Koepka T50
3 Matt Kuchar T4
4 Rory McIlroy Win
5 Scott Piercy MC
6 Brandt Snedeker T4
7 Sergio Garcia MC
8 Jason Dufner DNP
9 Mackenzie Hughes T14
10 Ryan Palmer T35
11 Webb Simpson T2
12 Shane Lowry T2
13 Corey Conners MC
14 Bubba Watson T63
15 Justin Thomas T20
Wild Card Jimmy Walker T35
Sleepers Recap – RBC Canadian Open
Tyler Duncan T60
Cameron Tringale T11
Erik van Rooyen T20
Nick Watney MC
Danny Willett T8
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
June 11 … none
June 12 … none
June 13 … Peter Malnati (32)
June 14 … none
June 15 … Ollie Schniederjans (26); Cameron Champ (24)
June 16 … Phil Mickelson (49); Chase Wright (30)
June 17 … David Hearn (40)