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US Open: Preview & DFS Picks

Golfers around the world are rejoicing as this Thursday marks the start of the 118th United States Open presented by the United States Golf Association (USGA). Golf’s 2nd major will run from June 14th to the 17th at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. The 156-person field will compete on Thursday and Friday before the cut will bring the field down to the top-60 including ties. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which began construction in 1891, will set up as a par-70 (35-35), 7,440 yard course with a USGA Course Rating™ of 76.9 and a Slope Rating® of 146.

The 2018 U.S. Open will be the 10th played on Long Island (NY) and 5th at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Shinnecock is the oldest incorporated golf club in the United States and was 1 of the 5 founding clubs of the USGA- which was established in 1894 and began hosting competitions a year later in 1895. Shinnecock also has the unique tagline of being the sole course in the country to host a US Open in three different centuries. In 1896 at the 2nd US Open, James Foulis defeated Horace Rawlins 152-155. In 1986, Raymond Floyd won the championship by 2 strokes over runner ups Lanny Wadkins and Chip Beck. In 1995 Corey Pavin defeated Greg Norman by 2 strokes after entering the day 3 strokes off the lead. A 4-wood approach shot on the 72nd hole to 5 feet sealed Pavin’s victory- as he finished at Even par (280) for the championship. In 2004, the most recent US Open at Shinnecock, Retief Goosen narrowly defeated Phil Mickelson by 2 strokes after Lefty 3-putted the par-3 17th hole resulting in a double bogey. Goosen (-4) and Mickelson (-2) were the only players to finish under par for the tournament that year.

20 golfers from the 2004 US Open will tee it up at Shinnecock this week: Eric Axley (MC), Aaron Baddeley (MC), Paul Casey (MC), Ernie Els (T-9), Jim Furyk (T-48), Sergio Garcia (T-20), Brian Gay (MC), Bill Haas (T-40), Charles Howell (T-36), Zach Johnson (T-48), Phil Mickelson (2), Pat Perez (T-40), Kenny Perry (MC), Ian Poulter (MC), Chez Reavie (T-62), Justin Rose (MC), Adam Scott (MC), Steve Stricker (MC), Bubba Watson (MC), Tiger Woods (T-17).

Additionally, only 5 players from the 1995 US Open (who all also played in 2004) are in the field this week: Ernie Els (MC), Phil Mickelson (T-4), Kenny Perry (MC), Steve Stricker (T-13), Tiger Woods (WD). To put this in perspective- world #1 Dustin Johnson was 10 years old during the ’95 US Open and Braden Thornberry (A), the NCAA Division I individual winner, wouldn’t be born for another 2 years.

First round coverage of the 118th US Open will begin Thursday morning at 9:30am on FS1 and will transition to FOX at 4:30pm and go to 7:30pm. Follow The Wrightway Network for updates throughout the week and catch TWN’s Instagram (@thewrightwaynetwork) for special Saturday coverage live from Southampton, NY with COO Austin Meo and Writer Jake Rona.

Las Vegas Odds

Dustin Johnson 8-1
Rory McIlroy 14-1
Justin Thomas 14-1
Rickie Fowler 14-1
Justin Rose 14-1
Jason Day 16-1
Jordan Spieth 18-1
Tiger Woods 20-1
Jon Rahm 20-1
Brooks Koepka 25-1
Phil Mickelson 25-1
Patrick Reed 30-1
Hideki Matsuayama 30-1
Henrik Stenson 30-1
Tommy Fleetwood 30-1
Branden Grace 30-1
Paul Casey 40-1
Bryson DeChambeau 40-1

Power Rankings

With such an elite field this week, I’ll be expanding the Power Rankings from 5 to 10 spots. Instead of the 5th spot being the usual “darkhorse” pick, spot 10 will include several of my top sleeper selections. *Note that normally this group at #10 could be favorites to win at any other tournament this year, but due to such a large field at the US Open, any player outside the top-20 in the OWGR is realistically an underdog.

10. “Darkhorses”

> Bryson DeChambeau

“The Professor” is a hot pick this week following a victory at the Memorial Tournament a few weeks ago. He is having a great 2018 making 14 of 16 cuts and moving up to #22 in the world, along with ranking 5th in the FedEx Cup points standings. Scoring wise, he ranks in the top 25 in eagle average, birdie average, and scoring average. DeChambeau has only played in 5 majors in his career, but 3 have been US Opens and he most recently finished T38 at the 2018 Masters. If his confidence from defeating a stacked field at Jack’s Place can translate to Shinnecock this week, then the 40-1 bet might be a steal.

> Louis Oosthuizen

A boom or bust pick- he missed back-to-back cuts at the Wells Fargo and The Players but recovered in his 2 latest tournament to finish T5 and T13 at the Fort Worth and the Memorial respectively. He also played well at The Masters- finishing T12 at -6. The calm South African has been solid off the tee (33rd) and around the green (10th), but has struggled with greens in regulation (174th) and putting (130th). On paper his stats don’t scream out a US Open contender, but his steadiness in majors (14 of 15 cuts made since the 2014 Masters) make him a safe pick to contend in Southampton this week.

> Tiger Woods

He’s one of just 5 players in the field this week to have played at both the ’95 and ’04 US Opens at Shinnecock, and his ball striking has been solid in recent weeks. The issue for Tiger this year has been consistency as he recovers from back surgery. Recently, his ball striking has been stellar but his putter has failed him- and back in March and April (Honda Classic through The Masters) it was his short game that was saving him after several poor driver showings. He might not be 100% just yet (and may never be), but Woods’ experience and raw talent could propel him into making it to the weekend and contending. He’s going to have to improve on his 182nd ranked driving accuracy if he wants a shot this week.

9. Henrik Stenson

Stenson is one of the safest bets to win it all this year at Shinnecock because he is arguably the best ball striker on the PGA Tour this season. While ranking well below average in driving distance (285.9 yards on average) in 2018, Stenson is 1st in driving accuracy and 1st in greens in regulation this season (78% and 75% respectively)- which translates to 13th in stroke gained off the tee and 1st in strokes gained: approaching the green. Stenson’s also have a great regular season- he’s made 8 of 9 cuts and never finished outside the top-26 (including a T5 finish at The Masters). He’s struggled at the US Open of late as he hasn’t made the cut since 2015, but prior to that rattled off a series of T30 finishes from 2009-2015. Stenson’s glaring flaw in his game is his touch around the green and his ability to scramble- which is critical in a tournament like the US Open. Stenson ranks 155th in strokes gained: around the green and is in the bottom quartile in scrambling from 20-30 yards and 30+ yards. Hopefully the 42-year-old Swede can hit enough greens to give himself a chance at a 2nd major victory,

8. Patrick Reed

Only 6 players have ever won The Masters and the US Open in the same year- Craig Wood (1941), Ben Hogan (1951, 1953), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Tiger Woods (2002) and Jordan Spieth (2015). For Reed, the 13th best player in the world and 7th in FedEx Cup points this year, it will come down to his ability to drive the ball. He ranks 190th in driving accuracy (53.40%) out of just over 200 qualifying players on Tour this year, and is 102nd in strokes gained: off the tee. Reed has been able to make up for his sometimes erratic driving ability with his short game- where he ranks 4th in strokes gained: around the green. He’s also been very efficient in going for tough par-5s in 2- ranking 23rd in such attempts this season- which is important in US Opens where there are very few opportunities to score. Reed is a big time player under the bright lights of majors and Ryder/Presidents Cups, and his stats back it up- since 2015 he has made the cut in 9 of 11 majors and finished inside the top-30 8 of those times.  He’s also been dialed in this season- he had a stretch in March and April where he went T2, T7, T9, 1st (The Masters), T7 & 8th). Expect Reed to have a big week in the Big Apple if he can drive the ball smoothly and make a few timely putts.

7. Rickie Fowler

Rickie is having a great year on AND off the course this year. This week he got engaged to track star Allison Stokke, with world #2 Justin Thomas providing the necessary photography skills. On the course he has played great in his 2 most recent events following a missed cut at The Players. He finished T14 at the Fort Worth Invitational and T8 at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village- an 8 round stretch where he went 18 under par and scored 7 of 8 rounds in the 60s. Rickie also had an excellent week at Augusta in April, finishing solo 2nd with a weekend scorecard of 65-67. Fowler is 11th in scoring average this season despite not being in the front of the pack in any specific category- he’s 58th in strokes gained: off the tee and in 54th strokes gained: approaching the green. His struggles come with the putter where Fowler is 77th in strokes gained this year. In his past 5 US Opens, he’s made the cut in 3 with a T2 and T10 and most recently a T5 finish at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. If Fowler makes the cut, he has a solid chance of winning his first major this week in New York.

6. Rory McIlroy

Since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, the Northern Irishman has made 4 of 5 cuts with 2 top-10s- most recently a T8 finish at the Memorial. He played well at The Masters despite shooting a Sunday 74, leading him to a T5 finish. He’s 21st in strokes gained: tee to green this season and is 3rd in driving distance. At 41st in strokes gained: around the green and 55th in putting, McIlroy’s only real problem has been hitting fairways and greens in regulation (153rd and 165th respectively). Rory’s major history has been boom or bust- since 2014 in his last 13 major events he has made the cut in 10 with 9 top-10 finishes, including back-to-back major victories at the 2014 Open and PGA Championships. He’s going to have improve on his 61st rank driving efficiency if he wants to contend in Southampton, but if he does expect the 4-time major champ to add to his trophy case.

5. Phil Mickelson

Lefty is the veteran favorite this week as he’s finished 2nd and T4 in his 2 previous US Open trips to Shinnecock Hills. Likely motivated from last year’s captain selection to the USA’s Presidents Cup team, Phil looks dialed in this season with 13 of 15 cuts made and 11 top-25 finishes. Most recently he put up back-to-back top-15 finishes at the Memorial and the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He’s 2nd in strokes gained: putting and 10th in strokes gained: approaching the green despite ranking outside the top-200 in driving accuracy and 140th in greens in regulation. At 35th in scrambling, I like Phil’s chances to make a move this week if he can hit enough fairways and make up strokes on the field with his wedge and putter play. Phil said Monday that Shinnecock can be the place he completes the career grand slam- “This is certainly my favorite – one of my favorite courses. It’s the best setup, in my opinion, that we’ve seen, and the reason I say that is all areas of your game are being tested.” 2018 could be the 6-time runner up wins his 1st United States Open.

4. Jason Day

The #8 player in the world has been phenomenal with the flat stick this year- ranking 1st in strokes gained: putting and 4th in strokes gained: around the green. Although he hasn’t missed a cut in 11 events this season, he is coming off his worst event of the year at the Memorial where he finished T44. What’s holding him back right now is his ability to get his approach shots on the green, where he ranks 110th in greens in regulation. But Day is showing signs of his old self from 2015-16, where he rose to #1 in the world by winning 8 tournaments in a year and a half. “I feel like I’ve got a good balance right now,” Day told reporters Tuesday. “There’s no stress in my life, and all I can do is go out and play good golf.” And though he missed the cut at the 2017 US Open, in his 4 prior US Opens from ’13-’16 he finished T2, T4, T9 and T8. Day’s game is peaking at the right time- he is a favorite to win this week at Shinnecock.

3. Justin Thomas

Though he is no longer world #1 following DJ’s win in Tennessee this past Sunday, make no mistake about it- Thomas is one of the best golfers on the planet. The 2017 PGA Championship winner and FedEx Cup champion picked up right where he left off last season. In 2018 he is 2nd in strokes gained: tee to green and 4th in driving distance. Along with leading the PGA Tour in FedEx Cup points and money, he has made 13 of 14 cuts this year 2 wins and 6 top-10s. He hasn’t finished worse than T22 in an individual event this year, and played well in arguably the 3 biggest events thus far into the season: T17 at The Masters, T11 at The Players, and most recently T8 at the Memorial. Despite shooting a Sunday 75, he still finished T9 at last year’s US Open and has made the cut in the event 2 of 3 times. It’s hard to not bet on this 25-year-old who hasn’t even hit his prime yet, and with a 69.3 scoring average he’s a threat to win at any major this season- especially when he can take advantage of his length off the tee.

2. Justin Rose

Rose is so good right now that he is in the top 3 or so of power rankings any time he plays in a tournament- and that’s for good reasons. The 37-year-old has been excellent in literally every part of his game. Rosey is 17th in strokes gained: off the tee, 8th in strokes gained: tee to green, 10th in strokes gained: putting and 1st in birdie average. His scoring average of 69.34 is 2nd best this season on Tour, and he ranks 3rd in FedEx Cup points and official earnings in 2018. He also comes in to Shinnecock red hot following a 66-64-66-64 win at the Fort Worth Invitational and a T6 finish at the Memorial. If you have to pick a weakness this year, Rose is only 50th in driving accuracy and when he is able to keep the ball in fairways, he is a threat to contend at any tournament (a similar trend goes for when he has high GIR numbers compared to the field as well). He hasn’t finished worse than T22 at a major since missing the cut at this event last year, and he won the 2013 US Open at Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Rose has a chance to be player of the year this year and I would not bet against him in any major for the foreseeable future.

1. Dustin Johnson

After winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic this past week at TPC Southwind, DJ is hot coming into NY. This season his play is off the charts- he has not finished outside T17 at a single stoke-play event this season (11 for 11 cuts made). He is dominating nearly every statistical category as well- he’s first in strokes gained: total, tee to green and off the tee. He also leads the pack in scoring average and eagles. As expected with a long hitter, his driving accuracy has been lackluster (147th at 58.08%) but surprisingly he has still been able to finish in the top tier of greens in regulation (20th at 69.86%) in 2018. As been the case with several of the top players in these rankings, DJ too missed the cut at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills. However, in his previous 3 appearances from ’14-’16 at US Opens he finished T4, T2 and won in 2016 at Oakmont (Johnson was 1 of just 4 players to finish under par for the week). Back in the world #1 slot, DJ is the Vegas favorite to win in NY this week.

DFS Picks

Justin Rose -> $9,900

Henrik Stenson -> $8,800

Phil Mickelson -> $8,600

Bryson DeChambeau -> $8,300

Adam Hadwin -> $7,300

Jimmy Walker -> $7,000

Remaining Salary -> $100

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