The third DraftKings Millionaire Maker of the 2019 PGA Tour season has been set up in time for the 119th US Open. Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. hosts the year’s third Major.
It’s the first time Pebble Beach has hosted the event since 2010, but the sixth all time. The 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach was won by reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods by a monumental 15 strokes. It began the Tiger Slam — his four consecutive Major victories over two calendar years.
The 156-player US Open field is finalized. Tour pros have committed and any remaining spots were given to the best of the 75 golfers who advanced through Sectional Qualifying.
Twelve former US Open champions are in the field. Those include two-time defending winner and No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking Brooks Koepka. Koepka will be trying to tie a 100-plus year US Open record with a third consecutive title. He recently defended the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship and will be trying to tie Woods with a third career US Open win.
A victory by Woods at Pebble Beach will put him just two career Majors behind Jack Nicklaus‘ all-time record of 18. A win by Koepka would tie him with Phil Mickelson with five Majors. Mickelson, 48, seeks his elusive US Open title to make him the sixth player in the Masters era to win the career Grand Slam. RBC Canadian Open-winner Rory McIlroy moved up the No. 3 in the OWGR with his win. He’s also looking for career Major No. 5 and his first since the 2014 PGA Championship.
The course: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Jack Neville and Douglas Grant originally designed Pebble Beach GL in 1919. It underwent a renovation overseen by Arnold Palmer and Thad Layton in 2016 and now measures 7,075 yards under championship conditions. It’s a par 71 featuring Poa Annua putting surfaces.
Unlike the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am held in February — and won by Mickelson this year — the US Open will be played solely on Pebble Beach GL instead of the rotation also including Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula. The entire field plays on the main course on the Sunday of the pro-am.
Pebble Beach is short by US Open standards. But the rough was beginning to be grown out ahead of February’s tournament and should be up to USGA standards in thickness and length. The greens will be fast and firm. Set up in a links style, Pebble Beach boasts few trees on its grounds. Bunkers guard many of the greens as the predominant hazard, and the ocean and associated winds wreak havoc on any holes hugging the coastline.
Only two holes played to an average score below par during Graeme McDowell‘s victory in 2010. Those best scoring chances came on the 331-yard, par-4 fourth and 523-yard, par-5 sixth. McDowell won his lone career Major at even par after 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson fired a final-round 82.
With the US Open being played on just the one course, the AT&T Pro-Am isn’t an accurate representation of historical winning data. Pebble Beach is also considerably shorter than most US Open courses, so stats won’t be the same as they were at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, Erin Hills in 2017, or Oakmont Country Club in 2016. Instead, we’ll focus on key stats befitting of the design, and the staple US Open conditions.
My model at Fantasy National looks at Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green, Sand Saves Gained, and Proximity: 125-150 Yards. Add Strokes Gained: Putting and Fairways Gained to your consideration as staples of US Opens. We’re looking at the last 36 rounds for each player in the field played on Poa Annua greens.
DraftKings lineup building strategies
When building a daily fantasy golf lineup for a typical Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournament, DFS roster managers should spend as close to their $50,000 cap as possible. With six-player lineups on DraftKings, this comes to an average of $8,333 per golfer. Individual player salaries generally range from $6,000 to $12,000, with rare exceptions.
In tournaments such as DraftKings’ Millionaire Maker, however, managers need to get even more creative in differentiating their rosters from the 33,300 lineups against which they’re competing. If you truly believe in a lineup that leaves several thousand dollars in salary on the table, this is the time to roll those dice.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. With the volume of lineups involved in a tournament such as the Millionaire Maker, it’s likely all lineups that end up placing are going to have all six golfers make the cut. This isn’t always a necessity to cash in a tournament, but taking a risk on a golfer who isn’t in form, has poor course history, and has middling statistical ranks at a salary deemed too high by others, can be your winning ticket.
Always be aware of the expected ownership percentages of the golfers you’re rostering. The better a low-owned player in your lineup performs, the higher you’ll place and the greater your prize. A site such as FanShareSports is an essential tool when deciding between players of a similar overall caliber and price. Having the one who’s on fewer competing rosters can be more important than any other stat (assuming their total fantasy points are the same). This is taken into account with several of the picks listed below, but be sure to check-in with FanShare in the days leading up to the US Open.
Ownership percentage and risks aren’t generally factors in cash games. Roster managers should simply aim to get all six golfers through to the weekend. The final placing is less significant in double-ups, 50-50s, or any other form of a multiplier. With more people playing with more lineups during Major weeks, there is more pressure than usual to put together a higher-scoring lineup, especially in head-to-heads. Still, it can be best to play it safe and build a lineup of six mid-tier golfers. Forego the top and bottom ends of the salary pool.
It’s important to consider a Major Week different from any other due to the increased number of entries. For example, DraftKings’ largest tournament for the Valero Texas Open had a cap of 95.1K and the largest cash game maxed at 2,298. As mentioned above, there’ll be space for 33.3K entries in the Millionaire Maker, and the largest double-up for April’s Masters was capped at 11,400 entries.
US Open DFS picks
Top Tier: $11.6K – $9K
Rory McIlroy ($10,500)
Despite his recent domination of the Canadian Open field while claiming his fourth career victory by at least seven strokes over the runner-up, McIlroy’s projected by FanShareSports to be in just 13 percent of DFS lineups. Johnson tops the projection at a staggering 24.7 percent ownership.
The new world No. 3 leads my stat model for the week when looking at the most recent 24 rounds played on Poa Annua greens. He also leads the field in DraftKings points gained over everyone’s last three events played on Poa surfaces.
McIlroy gained 1.46 strokes putting in Canada, according to Data Golf. The 2019 PGA Tour season has been the best of his career with the putter. A third win would be his most in a season since 2014.
Patrick Cantlay ($10,000)
Cantlay’s peaking at the right time after picking up his second career PGA Tour win at the Memorial Tournament. The 27-year-old finished T9 at the Masters and T3 at the PGA Championship. He’s third only to Johnson and McIlroy in the field in the key proximity stat.
He’s slightly overpriced as the sixth-most expensive player at DraftKings while ranked eighth in the OWGR. This could decrease his ownership, while his recent form in both Majors and standard events is worth every penny.
Justin Thomas ($9,300)
Fear of a lingering wrist injury that forced his late withdrawal from the PGA Championship could make Thomas one of the less popular plays in this tier. The former world No. 1 has dropped to seventh but is on a discount at DraftKings as the ninth-highest priced golfer. He tied with a group including Johnson for 20th at the Canadian Open.
Thomas ranks second in the field in SG: Around-the-Green. He’s third on Tour in DraftKings Points Gained over his last three rounds played on Poa Annua greens, according to FanShareSports. Johnson leads the Tour while average 103.50 DK points per tournament on Poa. Thomas is my pick to win the tournament outright.
Jason Day ($9,100)
Day is another candidate from this tier who may have slipped a little out of the public eye. The projection includes him in under 15 percent of lineups. Another former world No. 1, Day picked up a T5 at the Masters in April. He was on a streak of four consecutive top 10s in the US Open before missing the cut in both 2017 and 2018.
The Australian leads the field in Sand Saves Gained over his last 36 rounds, and he ranks second in putting on Poa. He’s ninth on Tour this season in both SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Putting (on any surface).
Mid Tier: $8.9K – $7.5K
Tommy Fleetwood ($8,900)
Fleetwood finished no worse than T35 at all four Majors in 2018, picking up a top result of second at the US Open. He was T36 at this year’s Masters and T48 at the PGA Championship. He’s made all 11 of his cuts on the PGA Tour this season with four top 10s.
A four-time winner on the European Tour, he’s still looking for his first victory in North America. He’s good around the greens and from the sand. He’s a much better putter on Poa than Bentgrass or Bermuda greens.
Phil Mickelson ($8,200)
We don’t need Mickelson to win the US Open, we just need him to score. He’s second to Day in DK Points scored in their last three events at Pebble Beach GL. He ranks seventh in the field in strokes gained on the putting surface and 16th in proximity from the key distance.
The 48-year-old has played just 13 events this season while preparing to make another serious run at the career slam. He’d be a steal at 8.4 percent ownership.
Kevin Na ($7,700)
Na leads the stat model. He ranks in the top 10 in all three of SG: Approach, SG: Around-the-Green and Sand Saves Gained. He picked up his third career Tour victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge at the end of May. The 35-year-old snagged a career-best Major finish of seventh in the 2016 US Open.
Henrik Stenson ($7,600)
Stenson, ranked inside the world top 10 as recently as 2017, enters US Open week at 43rd. His T8 finish at the Canadian Open was his best result since the Hero World Challenge. The 2016 Open Championship winner has 13 career top 10s in Majors, including a T6 at Shinnecock last year. He’s 10th in the field in SG: Approach.
There are 29 golfers with a higher salary at DraftKings.
Value Tier: $7.4K and Lower
Cameron Smith ($7,300)
Smith’s only win to date on the PGA Tour was the Zurich Classic team event with partner Jonas Blixt in 2017. His best result in a Major; however, was the 2015 US Open where he burst onto the scene with a T4. He’s third in the field in putting on Poa and is eighth in SG: Around-the-Green.
Jim Furyk ($7,200)
The 49-year-old Furyk has collected seven top 10s in the US Open, including his win in 2003. He finished T16 the last time the tournament was played at Pebble Beach. He tied for second as recently as 2016 and is on a streak of five straight made cuts in the event. His diminishing distance won’t be an issue at the shorter venue.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat ($6,800)
The No. 46 golfer in the OWGR has a projected ownership of just 2.9 percent. “Barn Rat” ranks seventh in the stat model and is a viable contender to win. He finished inside the top 50 at each of the first two Majors of 2019 and collected top fives in two WGC events earlier this year. His world ranking isn’t represented in his DFS salary.
Brendon Todd ($6,400)
Todd ranks 14th overall in the stat model but is third in putting on Poa. His other strengths are in SG: Around-the-Green and Fairways Gained. The 33-year-old hasn’t participated in a Major since 2015, but he’s made four of seven cuts this year after going 0-for-6 in 2018. He won’t finish high, though he should do enough for roster managers by making it to the weekend at this low of a salary.