DraftKings PGA: U.S. Open Picks and Strategy

DraftKings PGA: U.S. Open Picks and Strategy

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

U.S. OPEN

Purse: $12.5M
Winner's Share: $2.25
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Brookline, Mass. 
Course: The Country Club
Yardage: 7,264
Par: 70
2021 champion: Jon Rahm (Torrey Pines)

Tournament Preview

For a ranking of every golfer in the field, check out RotoWire's Majors Value Meter.

The Country Club, known familiarly as "Brookline," has been home to some of the biggest moments in the history of golf, including what is largely viewed as the seminal moment in the sport in the United States - the 1913 U.S. Open. It was then that Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old unknown amateur with a 10-year-old caddie by his side, defeated the two titans of English golf, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in an 18-hole Monday playoff and trigger the U.S. golf boom. The Open had returned to Brookline only twice more ever since, for the 1963 and 1988 national championships. Now, the best golfers in the world will converge again in New England during one of the most pivotal and uncertain times the sport has ever seen.    

Just days after the debut of the controversial LIV Golf Series, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, No. 2 and defending champion Jon Rahm and staunch PGA Tour supporters Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas headline a 156-man field that also will include more than a dozen golfers who took part in the LIV opener last week in London. Most notable is Phil Mickelson, who skipped the Masters and defense of his PGA Championship title in the aftermath of his controversial Saudi Arabia comments and has not played a Tour event in five months.

Brookline was last seen by many golf fans at another monumental moment in the sport's history, the 1999 Ryder Cup, when Justin Leonard sank the winning putt on the 17th green on Sunday, leading to his teammates charging the green, completing the Americans' remarkable comeback and landing Leonard on the cover of Sports Illustrated. We should also note that they did play the 2013 U.S. Amateur at Brookline. It was won by Matt Fitzpatrick and featured 16 others who will be in this field, among them Scheffler, Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Max Homa and soon-to-be LIV player Bryson DeChambeau. Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk will remember Brookline from the '99 Ryder Cup.

Since 2013, Gil Hanse and his design team have been renovating the course, sort of on an ongoing basis until 2019, all while trying to maintain the integrity of a golf club that dates to the late 1800s and was one of the five charter members of the USGA back in 1895. There are 27 holes on the property, the original 18-hole track and an 9-hole course added later, and this week's layout will be a composite of both.


At under 7,300 yards, The Country Club is not long by today's standards and is far shorter than last year's uber-long Torrey Pines. So shorter hitters can compete this week, as long as they are accurate. The fairways are narrow, the rough is penal. At one spot on the third hole, the fairway is only nine yards wide. In some spots, the golfers will have more than traditional U.S. Open rough to negotiate. They'll face thigh-high fescue. And unlike at the PGA Championship, there will also be thick greenside rough surrounding the tiny, super-fast surfaces. Getting tee shots in the fairway might be the only way to stop the ball on those greens, which are the smallest in all of major championship golf this side of Pebble Beach, averaging only 4,400 square feet. Many of the poa/bentgrass greens are thin and narrow, almost like an extension of the fairways, and they mostly slope from back to front with runoffs into rough or many of the seven dozen bunkers on the course, some of which are very deep. There is water on four holes, and they are largely grouped: 9, 10, 11 and 13. Oh, there are also dog legs to blunt distance. So the course has myriad defenses, even if the wind doesn't blow. If it does, and it looks like it will, look out. As in many major championships, missing in the right place will be paramount.

Brookline has some very flat holes stemming from when horses were a big part of the club in the 1800s, while others are cut into the natural topography and feature jagged rock formations along with extreme undulations and blind shots. There are only two par-5s, the reachable 557-yard eighth and the harder 619-yard 14th in which the golfers will face the prevailing wind. There are eight par-4s of 450-plus, though there's also the drivable 310-yard No. 5. The four par-3s run the gamut from short to long.

Weather-wise, there will be some temperature swings of note, from 80 on Thursday to near 90 on Friday and back to the low 70s on the weekend. The one real chance of rain could come with Friday afternoon thunderstorms in the extreme heat. Importantly, the wind is forecast to be in the mid-teens mph or higher every day.

Key Stats to Winning at The Country Club

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Accuracy
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
• Bogey Avoidance

Past Champions

2021 - Jon Rahm (Torrey Pines)
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau (Winged Foot)
2019 - Gary Woodland (Pebble Beach)
2018 - Brooks Koepka (Shinnecock)
2017 - Brooks Koepka (Erin Hills)
2016 - Dustin Johnson (Oakmont)
2015 - Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay)
2014 - Martin Kaymer (Pinehurst No. 2)
2013 - Justin Rose (Merion)
2012 - Webb Simpson (Olympic Club)

Champion's Profile

As you look at the 10 most recent champions above, we find some conservative players. No, not DeChambeau, who was able to bomb and gouge and overpower Winged Foot two years ago. He and others might try that approach again. Gil Hanse said that won't be possible because of the thigh-high fescue. So we are looking at conservative players, accurate drivers who will be patient and pick their spots. Getting the ball in the fairway is more important than hitting it far. Even with all that, the greens are tiny and will be missed, bringing scrambling into play. Really, every club in the bag and keeping your wits about you are paramount. We don't want to stay that putting won't matter that much this week, but the smaller greens tend to bring poorer putters into the mix. Interestingly, going back to 2009, 10 of the 13 U.S. Open champions won their first major. The over/under on the winning score as set by golfodds.com is 276.5 – a mere 3.5 shots under par.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Justin Thomas - $10,900 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1100)
Thomas has shown the past few times out that his game is spot-on – actually he's been on all year. Sure, it's super hard to win two majors in a row, but this course suits Thomas. We were a little surprised to see that he leads the entire PGA Tour in bogey avoidance. Thomas is perceived as a poor putter, and that's probably true in relation to the rest of his game. But he is ranked 40th. That should be everyone's worst ranking.

Rory McIlroy - $10,500 (+1000) 
Winning two weeks in a row is super hard. When one of them is a major, even harder. No one has done since ... McIlroy in 2014. He really has been playing great in 2022 but until the Canadian Open could not close the deal. McIlroy's dramatic win moved him to top of the DK Sportsbook odds. The narrative with Rory is that his big miss comes with his wedge. But he is ranked 17th on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green. That doesn't sound too bad and certainly chipped beautifully in Canada.

Xander Schauffele - $9,600 (+1600) 
Schauffele has a stupid-good track record in U.S. Opens, never finishing worse than seventh in five starts. His best was a T3 at another shorter track with tiny greens at Pebble Beach in 2019. We know Schauffele has not had his best year, at least in terms of finishes, but his stats say he should be doing better – far better. He might be the straightest of the long drivers right now. He's also ranked ninth in bogey avoidance.

Jordan Spieth - $9,500 (+2800) 
Outside of his 2015 win at Chambers Bay, Spieth does not have so much as a top-15 in nine other Opens. Stunning, really. But he's transformed his game into better ball-striking, while now putting is more of an issue. Ball-striking is paramount this week. We often think of Spieth as missing the three-footer for par, which he does do, but it's important to note he's ranked 15th on Tour in bogey avoidance. The tiny greens at Brookline should in theory minimize Spieth's putting woes.

Tier 2 Values 

Will Zalatoris - $9,300 (+3000) 
Zalatoris still hasn't won a PGA Tour event, much less a major. But he came as close as possible at the PGA Championship, losing in a playoff to Thomas. It continued a remarkable run for Zalatoris, who has finished in the top-8 in five of his eight major starts, including both of them in 2022. His success from the tee and in the fairway is absurdly good. And even with his subpar putting – which didn't look too shabby at Southern Hills – he's still ranked 27th in bogey avoidance.

Matt Fitzpatrick - $8,500 (+3000) 
By now you've likely heard that Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur at Brookline (probably from reading it above!!). His best result in seven Opens is T!2, done twice in 2018-19. Fitzpatrick already has six top-10s in 2022, including at the PGA and last week in Canada. And his T14 at the Masters was close. Fitzpatrick had been leading the Tour in SG: Total until just being overtaken by McIlroy. He's still top-25 in every strokes-gained stat and top-10 in bogey avoidance. There's just no weakness here.

Sam Burns - $8,300 (+3000)  
It seems like a bargain to get a top-10-ranked golfer at $8,300. Burns is coming off his best career major finish, a tie for 20th at the PGA. And then he was T4 last week in Canada. Burns is ranked fifth on Tour in greens in regulation and eighth in bogey avoidance.

Max Homa - $8,100 (+4500) 
Homa is another guy coming off his best career major, a tie for 13th at the PGA. His ability to succeed on hard tracks is by now well documented, so success at majors was inevitable. Homa is ranked 30th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 18th in Approach and 12th in Total. And his numbers are even better in the larger, tougher tournaments.

Tier 3 Values 

Sungjae Im - $7,600 (+4000)
What we like about Im is he's an ultra-conservative player. Quite boring, really. But that's just what we need this week. Im has not really contended for a title n 2022, but he has four top-10s – including at the Masters – and four more top-25s. He missed the PGA with COVID-19. So many stats make Im a good play, especially at $7,600, but we'll point out only that he's second on Tour in bogey avoidance.

Webb Simpson - $7,400 (+11000) 
We saw Simpson at +600 on another book, so if you like him, DK is the place to go at almost double the odds. The 2012 Open winner had a nice run going before missing the cut last year; he had gone 10-16-8 in the previous three Opens. On a shorter-than-usual course where accuracy and short game count for a lot, we like Simpson. He had a top-20 at the PGA with the round of the tournament, a 65 in those difficult Saturday conditions. This will be only his 10th start of 2022.

Tom Hoge - $7,300 (+15000) 
Hoge's very quiet tie for ninth at the PGA Championship gave him made cuts in six straight majors, including the 2019 and 2021 U.S. Opens. He is ranked 11th on Tour in SG: Approach, 20th in bogey avoidance and 22nd in par-4 450-500.

Russell Henley - $7,300 (+6500) 
Henley's problem is not the inability to play well in U.S. Opens but qualifying. He's improved from T27 to T25 to T13 in his past three Opens, but they've come in 2017, 2018 and 2021. Henley has had a decent season but he's hurt by his lack of distance off the tee. That will be mitigated this week. He's 23rd on Tour in driving accuracy, second in SG: Approach, 13th in greens in regulation and 14th in SG: Tee-to-Green. That's silly good.

Long-Shot Values

Patrick Rodgers - $7,000 (+15000) 
Rodgers made it out of the Columbus, Ohio, qualifier to reach his fourth career U.S. Open. He's made the cut in every one so far, including a tie for 31st last year. He's coming off a top-20 last week in Canada. Rodgers is ranked 20th on Tour in GIR, 45th in bogey avoidance and 60th in par-4 450-500 – all respectable rankings. One caution: He's ranked almost 200th in driving accuracy, but there are plenty of holes to leave driver in the bag.

Kevin Kisner - $6,900 (+25000) 
Under normal U.S. Open conditions, we wouldn't consider Kisner, though he did make the cut last year at nearly 7,700-yard Torrey Pines. In fact, he's surprisingly reached the weekend in five of his eight career Opens. Kinser is ranked 16th on Tour in driving accuracy, has a great short game and surprisingly is better than almost half the Tour in par-4 450-500. We should disclose that Kisner has missed his past four cuts, including at the PGA. Maybe that will depress his ownership.

Adri Arnaus - $6,800 (+20000) 
The 27-year-old Spaniard is rising on the DP World Tour, and he qualified for the Open based on his world ranking, which is currently No. 53. Arnaus has a win, a runner-up and a tie for third in 2022, and the T3 came at the Saudi International with numerous higher-ranked PGA Tour players. He also was just 30th at the PGA Championship.

Rikuya Hoshino - $6,500 (+40000) 
Hoshino is ranked 64th in the world, though it's fair to question that based on the fact that much of his success has come on the weaker tours in Asia. The 26-year-old has two runners-up and a third in Japan this year. But he also had to go through qualifying to get here. He didn't do it in Japan but at the loaded Dallas qualifier on May 23. That came right after he made the cut at the PGA Championship. Hoshino also made the cut at last year's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and just missed a top-25 with a T26.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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