The PGA TOUR heads to San Diego this week as historic Torrey Pines Golf Course hosts the 121st United States Open Championship. The course will play as a monster par 7,652 yard par 71. You can fully expect carnage this week and the winning score will likely be close to even par.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column after each round of that week’s PGA TOUR event, which highlights golfers to buy and fade, along with Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course. The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Brooks Koepka ($10,100 DraftKings)
I mean, this man needs no introduction.
Koepka is one of the biggest big-game hunters in the history of professional golf, and the four-time major champion will look to capture his third U.S Open in five years this week at Torrey Pines. Just to give an example of his sheer dominance, Koepka has a cumulative score to par of 84-under (!) in majors since 2017. The next closest guy in that span is Dustin Johnson with a cumulative score of 25-under. That’s a 59-stroke (!!) difference if you’re keeping score at home, and truly one of the most absurd stats I have ever seen. Koepka is literally dog walking the best golfers on the planet.
He does not have great history at Torrey in the times he’s played the Farmer’s Insurance Open, but we know there’s a monumental difference between Major Brooks and Regular Brooks. After finishing second at the PGA Championship to Phil Mickelson a few weeks back, you know he’s chomping at the bit to get back in the winner’s circle this week, which would especially stick it to last year’s U.S Open champ Bryson DeChambeau.
Fade this man at your own risk.
Xander Schauffele ($9,300 DraftKings)
Not much needs to be said here. Schauffele has now teed it up at four U.S Opens in his career, finishing T-5, T-6, T-3 and solo fifth in those trips. He, for whatever reason, did not have great history at the Farmer’s in his career, but he got the monkey off his back this past January, finishing runner-up to Patrick Reed. It’s long been established that Schauffele is the mini-Koepka in major championships, a moniker he should continue this week. DraftKings egregiously priced him at just $9,300 as well, which makes him close to a cash-game lock.
Patrick Reed ($9,000 DraftKings)
Nothing gets Reed’s juices flowing like all the best players in the world congregating at an extremely difficult golf course. Captain America has made the cut in six of his seven U.S Open starts, finishing T-14 or better in four of those, including a solo fourth in 2018.
Reed is also the defending champion at the Farmer’s and has a very strong history at Torrey Pines, posting two additional top-25s and a T-6 over his past four starts. He does his best work at longer tracks, as we know, and is priced extremely reasonably this week at just $9,000 on DraftKings. The fact his US Open and Torrey Pines history are both elite make him one of the best plays on the board in any format. He is certainly on the short list to contend here.
Tony Finau ($8,900 DraftKings)
Finau boasts the best Torrey Pines history in this field. In his seven career starts at the Farmer’s, he’s never missed a cut and has four top-six finishes in the past five years. He’s also finished no worse than 24th in any of those starts.
Finau was the first name I clicked this week when assembling my cash-game team. He’s also posted two top-10s in his past three U.S Opens, and all the contextual factors are in place for him this week. His price is strong at just $8,900, making him one of the best values on the board.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100 DraftKings)
Oosty is having one of the best seasons of his career, making 12 of 13 cuts with four top-10 finishes on the year. We know he does his best work at majors, but he’s especially elite at the U.S Open, posting three top-seven finishes in his past six starts at the toughest test in golf.
The South African ranks seventh in this field in total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds, which further highlights how great he’s been this year. He also ranks No. 1 in SG: Putting in that stretch as well. At just $8,100 he will be one of the chalkier plays on the slate but provides a strong amount of safety for the price.
Shane Lowry ($7,600 DraftKings)
Lowry has been playing incredible golf of late, posting four top-10s in his past seven starts dating back to THE PLAYERS. He’s coming off a T-6 at the Memorial and T-4 at the PGA Championship, two really tough tracks. His history at U.S Opens have been a mixed bag, but he does have two top-10s in 2015 and ’16. He’s also been pretty decent at Torrey Pines, making three of four cuts here with a pair of top-13s.
The Irishman ranks ninth in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green and 11th in total strokes gained over his past 16 rounds. He’s a former British Open champion that does his best work when conditions get tough. He is priced way too cheap for both how he’s been playing and his major championship pedigree.
Jason Kokrak ($7,600 DraftKings)
Kokrak is one of just three TOUR golfers with two wins on the season, joining DeChambeau and Stewart Cink. He has really come into his own this year and the big bomber should be able to get his way around Torrey Pines this week. He’s posted three top-25s at the Farmers and has never missed a cut in three career US Open starts. Kokrak sits sixth in this field in total strokes gained over his past 24 rounds and is definitely one of the best plays in the $7,000 range on DraftKings this week.
Carlos Ortiz ($7,100 DraftKings)
If taking a stab at this lower $7,000 range, it’s important to look for guys that hit it far and putt well on Poa Annua greens. Ortiz ranks 38th on TOUR in driving distance and boasts the biggest positive strokes gained difference in this field on Poa greens compared to other surfaces. He gains .61 strokes more per round on poa than he does anywhere else. We saw him outduel both Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama to win his first PGA TOUR event back in November at the Houston Open, so we know he’s impervious to pressure.
Ortiz will be making his third career U.S Open start this week and actually has a pretty decent history at Torrey Pines in his career. In addition to all of that, his little brother Alvaro also qualified for the tournament, so you know he’s gonna be motivated to play well. I like him quite a bit at this price.
Erik van Rooyen ($6,700 DraftKings)
EVR has four top-25 finishes at majors over the course of his career, and is two-for-two in making the cut at the U.S Open. He’s coming off a really solid week at the Palmetto Championship where he finished T-10, and also ranks 51st on TOUR in driving distance. The South African has shown a proclivity for playing well at tough courses and while I do not recommend playing too many guys in the $6,000 range this week, EVR is my favorite of the bunch by a decent margin.
Pictured above: Xander Schauffele
Credit: Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images