As we settle into Segment 1 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and review the possibilities at the U.S. Open, it’s the perfect time to lay the groundwork on what to expect until the holiday break.
Segment 1 always has played out like a soft open. Although there are a dozen tournaments contributing, you’re unlikely to need more than the three allotted starts per golfer. Selfishly, I dig it because it serves as a proper gateway for new gamers.
Now, what likely will confuse some – unless you’re reading this, of course – is that the USGA uses shot-level data for the U.S. Open. In fact, this will be the fourth consecutive edition for which it’s been utilized. What’s measured even is baked into official course-level and player-level statistics on the PGA TOUR. However, and that’s a big however, it is not used for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. The PGA TOUR’s arrangement with usage of the data for the U.S. Open is dissimilar to its partnership with the PGA of America that also uses shot-level data for the PGA Championship that is used for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf.
Until we reach Segment 4 of this season during which the U.S. Open and The Open Championship will be the only two tournaments that won’t be using shot-level data, its absence shouldn’t affect most decisions because rationing starts won’t emerge as topical until then.
Still, it’s worth it to compare what all of this means.
The fantasy leader of the 2019 U.S. Open totaled 713 points. As already explained, shot-level data did not apply, nor did bonus points. After a one-season hiatus, bonus points returned in 2019-20 during which, of course, the U.S. Open was not contested. Had bonus points applied in 2019, the fantasy leader would have totaled 836 points.
Meanwhile, last week’s Safeway Open used ShotLink and bonus points applied. The fantasy leader totaled 913 points. Using the same parameters at the last similarly sized, full-field event, the fantasy leader at last month’s Wyndham Championship totaled 938 points.
When we operated under these conditions two or three years ago, I presented the same example between events that don’t use shot-level data and those that do, with both adding bonus points. What was determined then still applies today. An event without shot-level data scores approximately 8-15 percent lower than one that does. Courses that yield more par breakers and bonus points off the tee will score higher in fantasy, naturally, but there isn’t enough of a difference for it to influence us over time and definitely not in a major.
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: Daniel Berger; Patrick Cantlay; Bryson DeChambeau; Tony Finau; Tyrrell Hatton; Patrick Reed; Justin Rose; Justin Thomas
Driving: Daniel Berger; Paul Casey; Bryson DeChambeau; Tommy Fleetwood; Tyrrell Hatton; Viktor Hovland; Matthew Wolff; Gary Woodland
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Tiger Woods … Quite simply, he’s yet to impress in the absence of the energy generated by spectators. That said, it’s merely the latest challenge in his career during which he’s overcome every other. He never can be classified as a contrarian, obviously, but in a vacuum, that’s what he is in the context of form upon arrival and without proof that he can summon the feels all on his own.
Gary Woodland … He’s still in search of stable ground at the moment, but the defending champion must be elated just to have the opportunity to live the experience this week, especially after it was delayed three months. He was playing better in advance of his title at Pebble Beach in 2019, but he misses so few cuts that another run isn’t out of the question, with his firepower and on a course that rewards length. The only problem, at least in our world, is that he’ll be over-owned as the last winner. If this is your estimation in your format, pass.
Phil Mickelson … You already know all of narratives, but what I love most about his approach at this week over time is how he hasn’t wanted to force it. He wasn’t going to accept a special exemption and he’s at peace with all of his shortfalls over time. Because that’s golf and he’s 50 and he’s wise. While no one would buy this argument, given these variables, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to label a victory this week as a coincidence, at Winged Foot, and for the career grand slam. From our perspective, he belongs only as a benchwarmer in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, just in case.
Tyrrell Hatton … Nothing not to love about the Englishman. Terrific record on challenging courses. Progressively better results en route to his first TOUR Championship two weeks ago. Statistically as strong as anyone. A no-brainer in every format.
Jason Day … While he enjoyed that torrid stretch with four consecutive top 10s during a five-week stretch earlier this summer, he probably peaked too soon. But that’s ancient history as he’s had two weeks off to decompress. Trust in the recent success. His track record in the U.S. Open ain’t too shabby, either, what with five top 10s and a T21 in nine tries.
Mackenzie Hughes … His most stressful experience was the T10 at the BMW Championship because it vaulted him into his first TOUR Championship. An additional two positive takeaways from it are that Olympia Fields tested similar to what he faces this week, and that he’s reset after a week off.
Jordan Spieth … The short version is that he can’t be expected to find his game at Winged Foot. If this wasn’t the U.S. Open, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t play given how the course’s greatest challenges are the same as what’s bothering him most.
Rickie Fowler … Suffice it to say that he’s still working towards consistent comfort with his swing. Winged Foot is the ultimate test, so to the optimist, a solid week could do wonders in the short- and long-term, but gamers don’t have to attach themselves to that hope. However, I stand by my vote that he’s the best of his generation without a win in a major. No, he’s far from the best right now, but when you accept the entirety of a career, he’s no. 1.
Alex Noren … This wouldn’t be the first time he’s been tripped up in the U.S. Open. He’s just 2-for-7 since he debuted in 2011. His strength is around and on greens, so while he enjoyed a wonderful bounce-back season that propelled him to the BMW Championship at the end of August, missing fairways and greens at Winged Foot projects to set him back. He’s a trap for recent-form devotees.
Henrik Stenson … In even more limited action than that which was caused by the pandemic, he’s failed to find a rhythm. It was in 2017-18 when he led the PGA TOUR in both fairways hit and greens in regulation, but he’s far removed from that form. While Brendon Todd would disagree, accuracy off the tee is hard to lose, and Stenson’s precision is fine enough, but he’s lost his way on approach and, therefore, his ability to get the ball in the hole faster has been suboptimal.
Danny Willett … After finishing T69 at TPC Southwind, he’s 0-for-3 worldwide. He’s at the point of what has been a roller coaster of a PGA TOUR experience that he barely warrants full-season investment. It’s tough to absorb so many lousy weeks filling an already reduced schedule.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Brooks Koepka … Sidelined indefinitely with discomfort in his left knee.
Francesco Molinari … Continuing to transition to life as a Californian. Moving never is easy, but when you relocate internationally and with a family, there’s never a good time for that kind of experience as a professional golfer. He’s in no rush to return to competition. The best news is that he’s not injured.
Scottie Scheffler … Tested positive for COVID-19. The week wasn’t all bad news, however. It was announced on Monday that he will be the recipient of the Arnold Palmer Award. Eligible members voted him as the Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season.
Sam Horsfield … Won twice on the European Tour this summer. Already possessed the pedigree to be a world-class talent (and frequent fantasy contributor, naturally), but he can’t play this week due to testing positive for COVID-19.
Jung-gon Hwang … The 28-year-old from South Korea is fulfilling his two-year military conscription.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – SAFEWAY OPEN
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Brendan Steele T29
2 Joel Dahmen T52
3 Phil Mickelson T44
4 Brandt Snedeker MC
5 Cameron Davis T36
6 Charley Hoffman T56
7 Si Woo Kim T44
8 Chez Reavie T3
9 Troy Merritt MC
10 Kevin Streelman T3
11 Mark Hubbard MC
12 Maverick McNealy MC
13 Harold Varner III T29
14 Kristoffer Ventura T7
15 Charl Schwartzel T23
Wild Card Emiliano Grillo T29
SLEEPERS RECAP – SAFEWAY OPEN
Bud Cauley T14
Joohyung (Tom) Kim T67
Carlos Ortiz T46
Doc Redman T3
Vincent Whaley T23
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
September 15 … Kevin Na (37)
September 16 … Bryson DeChambeau (27)
September 17 … Byeong Hun An (29)
September 18 … Viktor Hovland (23)
September 19 … Ryan Palmer (44); Michael Gligic (31)
September 20 … Chad Collins (42)
September 21 … none