U.S. Open – Southampton, NY
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (7,445 yards, par 70)
$2,160,000 and 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner
East of New York City, near the tip of Long Island, lies one of America’s greatest and oldest formalized golf clubs: Shinnecock Hills. Established in 1891, Shinny – as the locals call it - will host the U.S. Open for a fifth time in 2018. Last acting as host in 2004 when Retief Goosen outlasted Phil Mickelson, the venue has stood the test of time with a links-style layout that has proven as tough as it is traditional. Dustin Johnson, who reclaimed his World No.1 position last week, headlines a star-studded field that features Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Tiger Woods, among a host of others. As USGA Executive Director Mike Davis looks to rebound from the criticism of two non-traditional U.S. Opens in the past three years, the tried and true Shinnecock is a welcome venue to reintroduce the brutish challenge the U.S. Open is known for.
Recent Past Champions
2017 – Brooks Koepka (Erin Hills)
2016 – Dustin Johnson (Oakmont)
2015 – Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay)
2014 – Martin Kaymer (Pinehurst)
2013 – Justin Rose (Merion)
2012 – Webb Simpson (Olympic Club)
2011 – Rory McIlroy (Congressional)
2010 – Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach)
2009 – Lucas Glover (Bethpage Black)
2008 – Tiger Woods (Torrey Pines)
Key Stats to Winning at Erin Hills
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Scrambling percentage
U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt once remarked, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". Reading between the lines, he was suggesting to “come prepared and be decisive”. Taken literally or otherwise, the profile for this week’s U.S. Open holds many parallels to the famous quote. Keys to success at Shinnecock are rooted in both a player’s preparation and their physical talent, as both are needed to win. The wind will be the wildcard factor as every hole meanders in a different direction, so players will constantly need to be aware of how the breeze will affect their strategy. The last three champions at Shinnecock – Goosen, Pavin, and Floyd – were all fluent in course management and thinking their way around a course. However, the course added 10 new tee boxes and 500 more yards since the last time it was played here, widening the fairways to an average width of 41 yards. Yes, driving the ball around Shinny is still intimidating, but there is more of a premium on length than accuracy this time around. On approaches, players will need to control their trajectories and distances to hit the smallish greens, or they’ll face some very difficult greenside chips. Though the greens are not as sloped as say, Augusta National, the subtleties make them challenging, especially on short putts. All said, the player who drives it long and straight, strategically thinks their way around the course, and makes most of their putts under 15 feet will naturally be in the mix Sunday, so tailor your lineup around this and you’ll improve your chances of hitting it big this weekend.
FanDuel Value Picks
Dustin Johnson, $12400 – World No. 1 again after last week’s stylish hole out from 170 yards sealed a six-shot victory, Johnson is trending up and carrying a well-rounded game into Shinnecock. As one of the straightest bombers in the world, Johnson should benefit from using much shorter clubs into the smaller Shinnecock greens and will enjoy the wider fairways the USGA has added since 2004.
Justin Rose, $12200 – Rose isn’t known as a long-ball hitter, but he’s as consistent as they come from tee to green and found the winner’s circle at Colonial a few weeks ago. As a former U.S. Open champion in 2013, Rose knows exactly what it takes to handle the U.S. Open pressure and strategically manage a tough course like this.
Justin Thomas, $12100 – The calm, cool, and collected Thomas leads the FedEx Cup heading into the U.S. Open with two wins already this season. Thomas was the 54-hole leader at last year’s U.S. Open before a tough Sunday, so he will be motivated to get back in position to win and close the deal this time around, especially after breaking through at the PGA Championship last year.
Jason Day, $12000 – Day leads the PGA Tour in SG: Putting and is also among the better drivers of the golf ball, forging a lethal all-around game. As a player with five top-10s in seven career U.S. Opens, it’s easy to see why Day should be near the top of your list this week.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Branden Grace, $10000 – Grace holds two top-5s in the U.S. Open in five career starts, validating that he’s no fluke. The South African is a steady, consistent presence who should fit Shinnecock well, so don’t let his middling salary fool you. This guy is proven and capable.
Patrick Cantlay, $9700 – Cantlay is enjoying a breakout year on the PGA Tour after collecting his first win last fall and continuing to knock on the door of victory. He recently just missed out on a playoff at the Memorial, so he’s clearly in great form. The youngster made the cut in both U.S. Opens he appeared in (2011 & 2012), so he will be excited to re-enter the USGA’s flagship event in 2018 at a links-style course.
Francesco Molinari, $9200 – Among the hottest players worldwide, Molinari won the BMW PGA Championship and followed it up with a runner-up at his home event, the Italian Open. Molinari is known for his elite ball striking but will fall victim to a balky putter at times. His form and fit for Shinnecock look quite appealing at the $9200 price point, so treat him as a great depth option for your FanDuel squad.
Emiliano Grillo, $8800 – Grillo has quietly put together a strong season, ranking 26th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 13th in SG: Putting. With five top-10s and just one missed cut (at the Zurich team event, mind you), Grillo looks poised to make the cut this week and also has the upside to provide a great finish. He’s likely the best value option on FanDuel under $9000 this week.
Strategy Tips on FanDuel this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Jason Day – make sure to get at least one of them. All four are a cut above in how their games fit Shinnecock, so it would be foolish to ignore all of them. Down the list, look for trending players who tend to hit it well off the tee and putt well (I know, this is a hard combination to find in the bargain bin). This logic lends itself to a studs and duds approach, but make sure to stick with those who were exempt qualifiers – history has proven that very few local qualifying entrants make the cut.