After eight long weeks of waiting for the year’s second major to be upon us, the eyes of the golf world turn to one of the oldest courses in America – Shinnecock Hills Country Club. Established in 1892 in Southampton, Long Island, NY, Shinnecock established itself as one of the premier golf courses in the United States. The track is consistently ranked in the top-10 and is a fitting venue for the 118th edition of our country’s national championship of golf.
Shinnecock Hills Analysis by Jesse Rice
As you might imagine for a course of its prestige and status, Shinnecock is no stranger to providing a home for major championship golf, hosting four previous editions of the U.S. Open in 1896, 1986, 1995 and 2004. A first glance at the grounds of Shinnecock and one will perhaps think we are playing the British Open this week rather than the U.S. version. Designed in the manner of a traditional links-style course, players this week will be treated to a robust test, one that is sure to challenge every facet of a players bag. Knee-length rough awaits errant drives, pot bunkers provide defenses against imprecise irons, and large sloping greens leave only the smallest of surfaces for approaching the pin. Largely treeless, players will be exposed to typical Long Island winds, and the fact that only two holes on the entire course face the same direction. This means players will have to deal with different wind patterns on each hole.
There are a significant number of left-to-right dogleg holes, which over the years has provided some narrative that the course naturally lines up to favor left-handed players. The Poa Annua greens will also offer a test players rarely see. In fact, the only Tour stops over the past few years that feature Poa Annua greens are Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, and Riviera. However, both the U.S. Opens at Oakmont and Chambers Bay featured these same type greens.
The layout at Shinnecock will remind some of Chambers Bay and also Royal Portrush, where the British Open was held last year. There are some interesting correlations with those two courses; Jordan Spieth won both events, while Branden Grace, Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar turned in Top-11 appearances in both.
It has been a year since Brooks Koepka won with a -16 score at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, but the word on the street is that the USGA was not overly thrilled with how easy the course played relative to par last year. In light of that, we can expect a very stiff test, as the course has been lengthened to 7,445 yards yet plays as a Par 70. Getting lost in the fescue will most likely add a stroke minimum to any hole.
Bubba Watson’s caddy mentioned after he walked Shinnecock for the first time that he believes the longer hitters will have a distinct edge, as the fast and firm greens will be more accepting of short wedges, while longer irons will have a hard time holding place. With such a loaded field teeing it up this week (all 60 of the WGR’s top-60 are in the field), a plethora of narratives abound: Will Tiger win another major? Will Phil complete the career Grand Slam? Will Rickie finally get the major monkey off of his back the week after his engagement? Will Patrick Reed go back-to-back in majors? DJ in back-to-back weeks? Or will some first-time major winner be crowned? With a field this wide open and so many players coming into Long Island in form, this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting majors we have seen in quite some time.
Key Stats Analysis by Paul Block
When we dive deep into what it takes to be successful here, we arrive at these key stats essential at Shinnecock.
Ball Striking: Ball striking is a stat that combines the players off-the-tee game with their approach game. Although distance is very important, good off-the-tee numbers means avoiding trouble. After the tee shot, it becomes just as important to give yourself a chance to score on greens. Birdies will be hard to come by this week, and the guys that are the best ball strikers will give themselves more opportunities to get that circle on the scorecard.
Driving Distance: As we said above, this is an extremely long par 70 course. For example, hole 14 will play 514 yards as a par 4. The guys that can bomb the ball off-the-tee will have an advantage this week over the shorter players. The U.S. Open historically is what they like to call a “bombers tournament”, as we saw with the last two winners in DJ and Brooks.
Bogey Avoidance: There are a ton of big numbers to be had this week at Shinnecock. The key to the winners circle is to be the golfer that avoids those and limits the damage. We are looking for guys this week that can get themselves out of the heavy stuff and scramble to save pars.
Par 4 Scoring: With the course being a Par 70 and only having two par 5s (one of which is not reachable in two), the players this week need to be able to score on par 4s. You can expect to see the top of the leaderboard all as leaders in the shots gained on Par 4s category this week.
Now, here are the two guys we came down to as DFI’s daily fantasy PGA Must-Haves for this week’s U.S. Open.
Must-Haves by Preston Rauhauser
Must-Have #1 – Justin Rose
One of our personal favorites here at DFI, Rose comes in massively underpriced on both DK and FantasyDraft. Being the 7th highest-priced golfer is a steal for the world’s #3 golfer. Ranking 2nd in our model, Rose pops in just about every facet of the game. Looking at Rose’s key stat rankings, the 2013 U.S. Open champ’s numbers do not disappoint. He especially checks out well when you look at those key stats we mentioned. Only 36th in this field in Driving Distance over the past 24 rounds (according toFantasyNational.com), Rose ranks 6th in Ball Striking, 14th in Bogey Avoidance (as well as 1st in BoB%), and 5th in the field in Par 4 Scoring. Rose has an incredible all-around golf game that puts him in definite contention to get his second career major win.
Here’s how he’s been doing it. He looked good at the Masters, finishing 12th, and followed that with a 23rd-place finish at THE PLAYERS Championship. Just two weeks after that, Rose won the Fort Worth Invitational, never shooting a round worse than 66. Not to outdo himself, he came to the Memorial the next week and racked up a T6 to round out his momentum heading in.
Rose also typically plays well at the U.S. Open but missed the cut at the last two. Rose had gone T27, T12, 1, T21 in his previous four US Open outings. With room for error, and a different course this year than years past, Rose is an incredible play this week on all sites.
Must-Have #2 – Paul Casey
Another man who is no stranger to being a Must-Have is Paul Casey. Casey is also a bargain on all sites as the world #11, being the 20th-priced golfer on DraftKings, 18th on FantasyDraft, and 16th on FanDuel. Casey finds himself among the top-10 in our stat models, despite being priced much lower and this is a sight we love to see.
What we like most about Casey is his ability to contend in nearly every tournament he plays. His current form is quite amazing, with just one flaw being a MC at the RBC Heritage. Aside from that tournament, Casey has recent form of T20th, T5th, T15th, 1st, 12th since March at the WGC-Mexico. In fact, he only has two total missed cuts in the past two years. Digging deeper, we also see that Casey has made the past four cuts at the U.S. Open. He’s about as reliable as it gets on Friday. His history in all other majors is elite and he’s one of those guys who is due a big win. Lock in both Brits into your lineups and enjoy the second major of the year!