My Research/ Models
For a refresher on my models and how I derived them, please refer to my first article, here. As you can see, my research lead to an emphasis on performance off the tee that I don’t believe most of the DFS crowd matches. We’ve seen some promising success so far this season, so let’s hope our nation’s championship brings more of the same!
Shinnecock is going to test this field mightily. Obviously we don’t have year to year data on the course, but it’s not difficult to imagine that performance off the tee will be especially imperative here. The course has been lengthened, fairways tightened, and the graduated rough means the further you miss, the tougher the lie. Ted Scott, Bubba Watson’s caddie, all but guaranteed a bomber would win this week. Mickelson noted that short game will play a big part because balls that miss greens will often remain in the fairway, bringing more skill into play than the chance lies you find in deep rough. I like hearing what players and caddies are saying during practice rounds, but these small tidbits are little more than tiebreakers for players the models rate equally. Before we get to the picks, though…
Kevin Roth’s early forecast shows significant wind Thursday afternoon, with pretty consistent, weaker winds in the other three waves (Thursday morning, Friday morning, and Friday afternoon). Thus, we would prefer to target players who play Thursday morning in order to avoid the peak winds. I’ll be tracking his forecast closely to determine whether I use the wind simply as a tiebreaker or build my lines around the morning wave. My picks will first be presented WITHOUT the context of the wind, then reviewed with context of the wind at the end. Find me in FTA+ chat Wednesday night to see how the wind forecast affects my final decisions.
One final note: Ownership projections are from FantasyLabs and Fantasy National GC. I specialize in GPP, where ownership and game theory play a major role. Ownership, as usual, will be discussed at length in my picks.
US Open Draftkings Picks
Dustin Johnson will be the most popular pick this week, and with good reason. As has been the case all season, there is an enormous drop from DJ to anyone else in my models. I actually think enough people will be scared off by the expected ownership that he won’t be quite as high owned as he should be. Normally, I run away from the highest owned players, knowing how variant golf is, but DJ may be the exception. My model has his odds of making the cut at 95%. No other player is over 90%. Besides, we can always diversify elsewhere (and we will!).
Rory McIlroy doesn’t deserve to be this highly priced anymore. People LOVE playing him though, so I don’t even think he’s worth a flier on ownership alone.
Justin Thomas would be the second highest rated player in my models if only 2018’s stats were included. He’ll probably be the most popular pivot off of DJ. I’d rather eat the full chalk with DJ.
Here’s what I wrote about Jordan Spieth before his MC at the Memorial:
I don’t think they start getting better yet. People will take him in hopes he turns it around (and because of his outstanding track record in majors), but I won’t be one of them.
Jason Day is my favorite play in this tier. He’s gained over .6 strokes per round off the tee, and that number is trending upwards pretty quickly. When he dominated at Whistling Straights, the driver was a huge part of it. Further, his short game just might be the best in the world. As a golfer myself, I spend lots of time studying the mental side of golf, and Jason Day’s mental toughness and mental approach are second to none.
Rickie Fowler is overpriced. He’s 12th in my models, but one of just six players priced over 10k. Plus, he’s been worse in 2018 than in past years.
Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka will all be chalky. Rahm’s dominance off the tee actually makes him the second highest rated player in my models, but he falls to 7th when only using 2018 stats. Rose is 4th in the models, and jumps to 3rd when using only 2018 stats. Tiger and Koepka don’t rate nearly as well, and I don’t think they’re quite deserving of the ownership they’ll see.
The decision between Rose and Rahm is a tough one for me. Rose will likely be slightly higher owned, but I think he’s a slightly better play. This is a case where wind will play a major role in my final decision.
Here’s where it starts to get crowded.
Henrik Stenson has been outstanding this year. He’s gaining .616 strokes off the tee and an absurd 1.112 strokes approaching the green per round. Including only 2018 stats, he is the 4th rated player in my models. The only downside to Stenson is that he is going to be quite popular (and plays in the afternoon on Thursday).
Phil Mickelson is losing .079 strokes off the tee per round. Despite his age, he’s still one of the longer hitters on tour. This tells us that his distance isn’t quite making up for accuracy issues, but it’s close. At Shinnecock, however, misses will be more penalized than in most weeks. This makes Phil a fade for me.
Bryson DeChambeau is breaking out this season. He’s gaining .642 and .635 strokes per round off the tee and approaching the green, respectively. While he’ll be somewhat popular, he’s a nice pivot to the following two players:
Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood are both excellent plays who are projected to be among the chalkiest of the week. Fleetwood gains more off the tee, whereas Casey gains more with his irons. As a result, I would choose Fleetwood over Casey. I will mention, however, that Casey has the 4th highest odds of making the cut in the entire field according to my cuts model (85% to Fleetwood’s 83%).
The Contrarian Pivot
Bubba Watson could be the best play here, as he will come at discounted ownership to the players above. He gains a massive advantage off the tee (+.837 strokes per round this season). His weakness, however, is his short game. This could end up capping his upside. That being said, in a week where birdies and eagles may be rare, Bubba could easily outpace his finishing position with DK points. Ignoring game theory, there’s no way he’s the best play among Bryson, Casey, and Fleetwood. When considering game theory (as we must in DFS tournaments), I believe he is.
Adam Scott returned to his awful putting ways at the Memorial but still finished 35th. He’s gaining half a stroke per round off the tee, and nearly 3/4 of a stroke per round with his irons. He returned to the long putter several weeks ago, so I have more confidence in his ability to get the ball rolling well this week than I have for most of the season.
While Marc Leishman and Patrick Cantlay won’t be the most popular plays in this range, they’ll still be a little chalky for my taste. I can’t argue with the picks, though. Leishman has frequently been called the most underrated player in the world by tour players this year, and Cantlay has the third highest odds to make the cut according to my model.
Francesco Molinari has been one of my favorite plays all season, but coming off a win at the European Tour’s BMW and a second at the Italian Open, the field will likely catch up to his elite ball striking ways. He’s projected for higher ownership than Leishman and Cantlay, even.
The highest owned player in this tier will almost certainly be Tony Finau. Finau has rated well in my models all season, and his play at the Masters saved my week due to his 1% ownership. However, he’s struggled a bit more recently than his finishes have suggested. Thus, there are plays I like more even if you ignore his ownership. When also considering his ownership, he easily becomes a full fade for me.
The Contrarian Pivot
My favorite pivot off Finau and Molinari is Keegan Bradley. Since changing to the putter-up-the-left-forearm style (a-la Webb/Kuchar/Bryson), he has finished 7th and 23rd. His ball striking is elite, and it should only get better if he starts to gain confidence on the greens, as well.
There’s surprisingly little to discuss in this range. Fortunately, the plays I like here are projected for low ownership.
Luke List is a monster off the tee, and has been solid in all facets tee-to-green. He was a very chalky disappointment last week, but it was entirely due to awful putting. Let’s take advantage of the bad taste he left in the public’s mouth along with the high variance of putting. Luuuuuuuuuke!
Despite Kyle Stanley’s excellent performance at The Memorial, he’s still projected for very low ownership. His .461 SG:OTT advantage is dwarfed by List’s .849, but it’s still very formidable and the rest of his game complements it quite well. List > Stanley for me, but both are solid plays.
Emiliano Grillo is significantly underpriced, but his late addition into the field is likely cause for his lower-than-I-expected ownership projection. He’ll be higher owned than List and Stanley, but he’s gaining over half a stroke per round in both ball striking categories. He has US Open winning upside.
There’s quite a bit to like in the range of super-discounts.
Gary Woodland came through for us at The Memorial with a top 25. Like List, he’s a monster off the tee, gaining .862 strokes per round. He started the season hot, then went through a long stretch of MCs, which significantly lowered his price. He is dripping with upside very rarely seen under 7k. I’m a little concerned that his ownership will be higher than the projections I see, but I love him either way.
Byeong-Hun An missed the cut last week, derailing some potential-smash lineups I had, but it was just a one-round hiccup. He’s been excellent all year, especially off the tee. Like Woodland, it’s silly that he’s this cheap.
Charles Howell III has long been known as one of the most underachieving players on tour, given his talent. He’s the cheapest player I will recommend, but I certainly wouldn’t consider him the riskiest. I like the upside of Woodland and An more, but he may be the “safest” of the three.
Lucas Glover is a US Open champion (at an equally difficult golf course) who will be extremely low owned. He gains almost all of his edge off the tee. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where I don’t have him in at least one line.
WIND- Part Tw0
So, who among these recommendations has the good draw?
- To start, Day is early and DJ is late. If the wind is as strong or stronger than Roth is currently projecting, I think I’ll go with Day’s discounted ownership.
- Rose is the only other player I mentioned over 9k that’s in the early wave. My lines may start Day-Rose and go from there.
- Tiger, Stenson, and Rahm are late. Phil and Koepka are early. At this point, the wind doesn’t change my relative rankings among these players, but I’m more likely to fade the chalky Stenson.
- Bubba, Bryson, and Casey are all early. Fleetwood is late. Later, Tommy.
- Leishman and Cantlay are early. Everyone else I mentioned in the 7k ranges are in the afternoon wave. I’ll still take Keegan for the discounted ownership, but Cantlay is much more likely to find his way into my lines now.
- Howell is early, Woodland and Glover are late. Byeong An is also late, but his afternoon tee time is so late that a lot of his round could come with decreasing winds. If the wind forecast becomes even more severe, I may have to bump Howell over Woodland. For now, I still prefer Woodland’s upside.
That’s all I got! I’ll see many of you in chat, and for those who don’t have access yet, get it! FTA just might be the best in the biz when it comes to baseball!
Good luck all, and tweet me any winners!!