If you've yet to take a moment to soak in what the 118th U.S. Open is giving to us, do yourself that favor.
As fantasy golf gamers, there's a high probability that you're also a fan of the sport. That's not tongue-in-cheek; that's a serious statement. With the proliferation of DFS flooding our universe for purposes not necessarily motivated by traditional interests, we have brothers and sisters out there who don't even know where Shinnecock Hills is located much less have any awareness or curiosity about what happened when the USGA was last in town in 2004. (For the record, this week's host course is in Southampton on the East End of Long Island. It's so far east on U.S. soil that the first threesome will go off split tees on Thursday at 3:45 a.m. Pacific Time. If you're in Hawaii, you could watch a few guys knock it around before hitting the sack on Wednesday night.)
Anyway, no matter the makeup of today's baseline audience, how the field of 156 in the season's second major lines up also ticks the box of something special for gamers.
Consider that every eligible qualifier is committed to compete. There are no concerning injuries, no serious illnesses (of which we are aware), no imminent births with private jets idling nearby and no personal reasons or travel concerns superseding this opportunity.
Also consider that almost all of the short-listers who capture our attention as an option every time they tee it up offer reasonable possibilities to contend. This is rarely the case and arguably the strongest such moment in time for this generation. It would require far less time reviewing who among the chalk to avoid: Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia. See? Next case.
So bursting with promise, the field presents yet another rarity – the chance to invest with your heart influencing the negotiations. Really.
Want another go at riding shotgun with Phil Mickelson as he chases the career grand slam for the fifth consecutive year? Go for it. Not only is he physically poised, no one will have more support among the New York faithful.
Love Dustin Johnson in the afterglow of a six-shot runaway in Memphis? Of course you do. No one has stated a stronger case to break the egg and become the first to prevail at the U.S. Open the week after polishing off a victory.
Keen on Brooks Koepka to defend? Well, I'll tug on that leash and remind you that it's been 29 years since Curtis Strange was the last to go back-to-back in the U.S. Open, but Koepka isn't a foolish investment by any stretch. What I love even more than his potential is that this is just his fifth start since returning to competition after sitting out almost four months to allow his left wrist to heal. No one is more fresh.
Jason Day. Justin Thomas. Jon Rahm. Justin Rose. Hideki Matsuyama. Stop it already. I'm not talking you out of any of those guys, either.
J-Wall essentially stole my thunder in his comment below about Rickie Fowler. The recently engaged 29-year-old is facing his challenge as one of the best in the world who has yet to win a major head-on. He hasn't balked at gushing over Shinnecock Hills. He knows the course as well as anyone in the field. He's benefited by relatively wide fairways. His ball flight is ideal if the wind kicks up. And on and on and on.
Tommy Fleetwood is sure to be a popular pick. His personality is infectious, but his results and profile are inspiring. He's also built for the center stage of a major.
In any other preview and you'd accuse me of burying Rory McIlroy, but not this week. That he's shoving for attention makes him look even more attractive. Expect his ownership percentage to be low.
For the purpose of drawing a hard line, holster Masters winner Patrick Reed, PLAYERS champ Webb Simpson, Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar and Marc Leishman. At least half of those guys will be on our radar at Carnoustie for The Open Championship as well as other stops down the stretch.
The only advice that two-man gamers need this week is to remember to submit your picks. You're as golden as this age of the game.
RANK PANELIST PICK COMMENT 129th
On the Mark
I just have a feeling "Grace" will be "Amazing" around the windy, almost "Linksy" Shinnecock Hills. The last time we were here a Saffa won, so why not a reprise in 2018. 229th
Peter Uihlein He’s showing good form, he’s competed around the world and I feel like he does well on class golf courses. 379th
I’ve had him penciled in for this week since the season began. No reason to deviate based on his recent form. 524th Rob Bolton
Rickie Fowler See Jonathan Wall.
Brooks Koepka The next guy slated for misery under the weight of my pick is the defending champion. 728th
Well, I was going to pick Dustin Johnson to win the at Shinnecock Hills before the start of the season … and before the start of the FedEx St. Jude Classic … so I’ll defy history by picking him to be the first player to win the week prior to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Open.
NOTE: Select golfers committed to the tournament are listed alphabetically. Future tournaments are sorted chronologically and reflect previous success on the courses on which the tournaments will be held in 2017-18. The numerical values in parentheses represent the order of relative confidence of where to use each golfer if multiple sites are listed (e.g. 1 for strongest, 2 for next-strongest and so on). To present weighted confidence in real time, numerical values will not change all season no matter how many tournament remain listed for each golfer. All are pending golfer commitment.
Daniel Berger … Travelers (2)
Paul Casey … Travelers (4); WGC-Bridgestone (5); Dell Technologies (2); TOUR Championship (3)
Kevin Chappell … WGC-Bridgestone (2); Dell Technologies (3)
Jason Day … U.S. Open (2); Canadian (11); WGC-Bridgestone (9); PGA Championship (1); THE NORTHERN TRUST (8); Dell Technologies (5)
Jason Dufner … U.S. Open (4); Wyndham (6); TOUR Championship (7)
Tony Finau … Greenbrier (2); Canadian (4)
Rickie Fowler … WGC-Bridgestone (3); THE NORTHERN TRUST (10); Dell Technologies (6)
Sergio Garcia … Open Championship (1); TOUR Championship (4)
Branden Grace … U.S. Open (4); WGC-Bridgestone (3)
Bill Haas … Wyndham (2)
Brian Harman … John Deere (3)
Russell Henley … Greenbrier (2)
Charley Hoffman … Travelers (2); Canadian (3)
Dustin Johnson … U.S. Open (13); Canadian (10); WGC-Bridgestone (14); PGA Championship (9); Dell Technologies (11); TOUR Championship (6)
Zach Johnson … John Deere (1); Open Championship (5); WGC-Bridgestone (6); TOUR Championship (8)
Kevin Kisner … Wyndham (6)
Russell Knox … Dell Technologies (7)
Brooks Koepka … U.S. Open (1; defending); Open Championship (4); WGC-Bridgestone (6); PGA Championship (2)
Matt Kuchar … Canadian (3); WGC-Bridgestone (7); THE NORTHERN TRUST (9)
Marc Leishman … Travelers (2); Open Championship (1)
Hideki Matsuyama … U.S. Open (6); WGC-Bridgestone (8; defending)
Graeme McDowell … WGC-Bridgestone (3)
Rory McIlroy … Open Championship (4); WGC-Bridgestone (7); Dell Technologies (5); TOUR Championship (3)
Phil Mickelson … Open Championship (5)
Louis Oosthuizen … U.S. Open (5); PGA Championship (4); Dell Technologies (3)
Scott Piercy … John Deere (6)
Patrick Reed … Travelers (5); PGA Championship (8); Wyndham (7); THE NORTHERN TRUST (9); Dell Technologies (2)
Justin Rose … Open Championship (8); WGC-Bridgestone (7); TOUR Championship (2)
Charl Schwartzel … U.S. Open (5); Open Championship (6); WGC-Bridgestone (2)
Adam Scott … U.S. Open (10); Open Championship (8); WGC-Bridgestone (3); Dell Technologies (9); TOUR Championship (6)
Webb Simpson … Travelers (8); Greenbrier (5); Wyndham (1)
Brandt Snedeker … U.S. Open (5); Travelers (6); Canadian (3); Wyndham (4)
Jordan Spieth … Travelers (6; defending); John Deere (7); Open Championship (9; defending); WGC-Bridgestone (10); TOUR Championship (4)
Brendan Steele … Travelers (3)
Henrik Stenson … Open Championship (6); WGC-Bridgestone (4); PGA Championship (7); Wyndham (8; defending); Dell Technologies (9); TOUR Championship (2)
Justin Thomas … Dell Technologies (6; defending); TOUR Championship (3)
Jimmy Walker … Greenbrier (8); Dell Technologies (7)
Tiger Woods … WGC-Bridgestone (3)