Winner's Share: $2.16M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Southampton, N.Y.
Course: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
2017 champion: Brooks Koepka
There are a number of storied and historic golf courses in the United States, but it would be hard to find more hallowed ground than Shinnecock Hills. Built in 1891, it is the oldest incorporated golf club in the States. It is one of the five founding clubs of the U.S. Golf Association, which dates to 1894. And how about this for some serious wow factor? Shinnecock Hills is the only course to play host to the U.S. Open in three different centuries. The second Open ever took place there back in 1896 (and if you recall, we were the only ones to correctly tab Scotland's James Foulis to win!). Back then, Shinnecock played at 4,423 yards, the shortest track in Open history. It now plays just a smidge longer.
Yes, this time around Shinnecock will play only 3,000 YARDS LONGER. At 7,440 yards, it's far from the longest U.S. Open course, but it is a par-70. The scuttlebutt from the course leading up to the tournament was that its extreme length will take all but maybe 8-10-12 guys from the 156-man field out of the running for the title. Like at Erin Hills last year, the fairways are wider than usual for an Open. But swinging with wild abandon does have its limits, and the rough is said to be extremely penal, much more so than at Erin Hills. On so many courses throughout the golf season, the longest hitters are virtually fearless, opting for a wedge from the rough rather a longer iron from the fairway. That strategy will be tempered this week. On this long, links-style course laden with bunkers -- but water on only one hole -- wind could be the big wild card on the very narrow end of eastern Long Island sandwiched between Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
This is the fifth time the Open will be played at Shinnecock. Twenty golfers are back from 2004, when Retief Goosen won. It should be noticed that the USGA did not offer a special exemption to Goosen, who got one in 2016, opting instead for his South African countryman, Ernie Els, and 2003 champion Jim Furyk). Even five golfers who played there in 1995 are entered: Els, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.
If we needed any more evidence to support the historical greatness of both Woods and Mickelson, they are still in the conversation this week, almost a quarter of a century later. Dustin Johnson, fresh off a win at the St. Jude that restored him to the top of the world rankings, is the betting favorite, along with fellow big hitters Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, followed a little bit surprisingly by Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose. Surprising because they are ahead of Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion at an even-longer Chambers Bay. Spieth's woeful putting this season is surely what's at play here. While the longest hitters have a huge advantage this week, Spieth, and also Fowler -- the two shortest hitters among the world's elite -- cannot be discounted. After all, there's a reason they're in the top 10 of the OWGR. The greens are on the small side, at an average of 6,000 square feet, with run-offs and collection areas that are increasingly common in today's majors. That will put a huge emphasis on scrambling. Still, the U.S. Open clearly is a long man's game, as will be detailed in the Champion's Profile below.
Weather-wise, we're seeing conflicting forecasts about the wind. That's a really big deal, for both the golfers and for lineup construction. Some services predict minimal wind all four days, others indicate gusts approaching 20 mph or more. The forecasts calling for stronger wind make more sense, for what it’s worth. The weather people all agree on high temperatures in the 70s throughout, with no chance of rain after some thunderstorms on Wednesday. Pay close attention to the wind before locking in your lineups; there might be an advantage depending on tee times.
Key Stats to Winning at Shinnecock Hills
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Driving distance/strokes gained off the tee
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained tee-to-green
• Scrambling/strokes gained around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
2017 - Brooks Koepka
2016 - Dustin Johnson
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2014 - Martin Kaymer
2013 - Justin Rose
2012 - Webb Simpson
2011 - Rory McIlroy
2010 - Graeme McDowell
2009 - Lucas Glover
2008 - Tiger Woods
We don't really have any meaningful course history, but we do have U.S. Open history. Eight of the past 12 champions have been in the top 10 in driving distance, and Rose was close at 15th. Indications are that the rough will be far more penal at Shinnecock than at Erin Hills, so some degree of accuracy off the tee will be required. Going back over the past 16 Opens, five of the winners finished first in greens in regulation, and not one was outside the top 18. Of course, longer drives will allow for shorter approach shots, and shorter clubs will allow for more control in keeping the ball on the putting surface. But with run-offs around the greens, scrambling invariably will play a big role -- long hitters without a deft short game won't be able to contend for the title. As for putting, we've seen many winners claim victory without rolling it extremely well. Koepka was 20th in putting average last year, Johnson was 43rd the year before and Spieth was 23rd in 2015. We might exclude shorter hitters on the whole from winning the title, but some surely will be able to secure a top-25 or even a top-10, so don't completely ignore them.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
Johnson already has one U.S. Open title, should have had a second, and is the favorite to win this week. He surprisingly is only 10th in driving distance, but he's first in strokes gained: off the tee. And Johnson owns perhaps the most underrated short game in golf, ranking eighth in scrambling and 20th in strokes gained: putting. When you combine that touch with his length off the tee...watch out.
Justin Thomas - $11,000 (14-1)
It's hard to bypass Rory McIlroy, but bad things seem to happen to McIlroy in majors. So we turn to Thomas, who possesses everything necessary to succeed this week. He has a recent win at the Honda and three more top-10s since then. Thomas is ranked eighth in driving distance, 16th in strokes gained: off the tee, seventh in SG: approach and ninth in scrambling. His putting is the weakest facet of his game, but he delivers in big moments. Thomas has finished top-25 in four of the past five majors, including T9 last year at Erin Hills.
Rickie Fowler - $10,200 (14-1)
Fowler has racked up nine top-10s in majors and easily owns the title of “Best Golfer Never to Have Won a Major.” He was runner-up at the Masters in April and T5s at both last year's U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Fowler is the shortest hitter among the top-10 in the OWGR, but his major resume, in combination with his standing as one of the world's best scramblers, clearly puts him in the conversation to win the title. Fowler is also just days removed from getting engaged, which could be that little tidbit that helps put him over the top.
Justin Rose - $9,900 (14-1)
When you look at Rose's game, there isn't one component that stands out. Yet he's perhaps the most complete golfer today -- very good in every facet of the game though perhaps not elite in any. He's top-30 in stroke gained: off the tee, approach and around the green, and when you add it all up, he's eighth in SG: tee to green. Rose is also 10th in SG: putting. There simply is no weakness. Rose won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion and is a two-time winner on Tour this year, including last month’s victory at Colonial.
Tier 2 Values
Branden Grace - $8,400 (30-1)
It appears Grace will be a popular option this week, which might be the worst thing we can say about him. His game is well suited for the U.S. Open, and majors in general. He finished top-6 in five of his past 12 majors, including T4 and T5 at the U.S. Open in 2014 and '15, respectively. And last year at the Open Championship, the South African set a major record with a 62. He hasn't missed a cut since September and has a pair of top-5s in recent weeks, at the Byron Nelson and Europe's BMW PGA Championship.
Bryson DeChambeau - $8,300 (40-1)
DeChambeau has played only five majors as a professional, beginning with a tie for 15th at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. He missed the cut last year at Erin Hills, but seems like a different guy this time around. DeChambeau won the Memorial a couple of weeks back, continuing a sizzling stretch over which he has notched five top-5s since February. For that reason alone it's hard to look away. DeChambeau is ranked 11th in strokes gained: off the tee, 17th in approach and 14th in tee to green.
Tommy Fleetwood - $8,100 (30-1)
Fleetwood is among the best tee-to-green players in the world, ranking ninth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 12th in tee to green. Since winning at Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the year, Fleetwood has strung together eight top-25s in 11 starts, including T17 at the Masters. He finished fourth last year at Erin Hills, his best showing ever in a major.
Tier 3 Values
Adam Scott - $7,900 (50-1)
Scott barely got to Shinnecock Hills, needing to go through qualifying to keep his major-participant streak alive, which now sits at 68 in a row. His game in 2018 has been far from what we've come to expect from Scott, as he's tumbled from 31st in the OWGR to 67th. Scott has had a couple of good results of late, a T11 at THE PLAYERS and a T9 at the Byron Nelson. He's ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation and seventh in strokes gained: tee to green, which tells you just how bad his putting has been. Interestingly, Scott set a Shinnecock Hills course record during a casual round back in 2013 with a 63 (was later broken by Kevin Stadler). More interestingly, he will have a longtime Shinnecock caddie on his bag this week, having just cut ties with his regular looper. That makes you wonder why more guys don't do that at challenging courses. Scott missed the cut in this event last year, but had top-20s in four of the previous five Opens.
Louis Oosthuizen - $7,800 (50-1)
Oosthuizen has had four runners-up in majors since winning the 2010 Open Championship, including three years ago at Chambers Bay. He followed that up with twin T23s at the past two U.S. Opens. Oosty is sneaky long, averaging nearly 300 yards off the tee, and he leads the PGA Tour in scrambling. Oosthuizen has finished T16 or better in five of his past eight starts, including T5 at Colonial and T13 at the Memorial.
Francesco Molinari - $7,600 (50-1)
Molinari is known for his accuracy off the tee, but his drives also average almost 300 yards, good for 55th on Tour. That adds up to seventh in strokes gained: off the tee. Molinari is also 15th in SG: tee to green. His game has come around big-time of late, as he won the BMW PGA and followed that up with a runner-up at the Italian Open. Molinari has played the Open eight times, finishing top-30 four times and missing the cut four times. Right now, he's ranked near his career best in the OWGR, at No.18.
Matt Kuchar - $7,600 (60-1)
Yep, ol' reliable. Kuchar has been quite consistent at the U.S. Open, making eight straight cuts with five finishes of T16 or better. His game has not been at the usual Kuchar standards this season, though he has come around of late with a T17 at THE PLAYERS and a T13 at the Memorial. Kuchar is in negative territory in strokes gained: off the tee, but he makes up ground statistically the rest of the way to the hole.
Brandt Snedeker - $7,300 (100-1)
Snedeker tied for sixth last week at the St. Jude Classic to finally notch his first top-10 since last year's U.S. Open. Snedeker gets a lot of top-10s at the Open. He's collected five of them in his last nine trips, with two other top-20s. Snedeker has struggled off the tee this season, but his short game remains strong: he was top-5 in the Memphis field in both scrambling and strokes gained: putting.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,100 (100-1)
Grillo is ranked outside the top 100 in driving distance, yet he's highly accurate, boosting him to 24th in strokes gained: off the tee. He's also ranked 21st in strokes gained: approach, 32nd in scrambling and 10th in SG: putting. Those are numbers that should ensure weekend play and perhaps a whole lot more. Grillo missed the cut last year at Erin Hills and tied for 54th in his U.S. Open debut at Oakmont two years ago, but his game is sharp coming in, with three top-10s since April.
Byeong Hun An - $6,800 (100-1)
An just missed his first PGA Tour win a couple of weeks back, losing in a playoff at the Memorial to Bryson DeChambeau. The good news is the runner-up finish was his third top-10 since February. An is very long, ranking 21st in driving distance and 10th in strokes gained: off the tee. He has missed the cut in three of his four U.S. Opens, but the one cash was a T23 two years ago.
Graeme McDowell - $6,800 (150-1)
The 2010 champion has been able to continue competing at the U.S. Open despite the ever-increasing distances. Since his win at Pebble Beach, McDowell has three top-20s in seven U.S. Opens, including a T18 two years ago at mighty Oakmont. Granted, it will be hard for McDowell to make the cut, but the veteran Irishman is quite familiar with links golf. He's highly accurate off the tee, a savvy player in the wind and still one of the better putters around. McDowell is just back from Europe, where he tied for 12th at the BMW PGA and for fifth at the Italian Open.
Brendan Steele - $6,800 (200-1)
Steele had a very strong start to the season and it continued into the spring. He has slowed a bit since then, and curiously hasn't played in a month, since THE PLAYERS. There has no been no report of injury, so we'll chalk it up to Steele's scheduling desires. He is ranked 13th in driving distance, eighth in strokes gained: off the tee and 10th in greens in regulation. That type of play explains why Steele finished in the top 15 in the past two Opens.