Golf’s biggest test of the year comes to us in the form of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
The third major of 2019 promises to provide a stern assignment for the world’s best players who will tee it up in search of their own slice of history.
The field is as stacked as it comes headlined by two-defending champion Brooks Koepka ($9,300) who is attempting to become to first person to win three U.S. Opens on the bounce since Willie Anderson did it between 1903-1905.
Tiger Woods ($8,600) will continue his pursuit for his 16th major, still trailing the magic number of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.
All the other big guns are in attendance so you will be spoilt for choice as you fill out your rosters this week.
The iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links in California will play host this week. It will play as a par-71 spread across 7,075 yards.
This track hosts the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour. At the pro-am event, three courses are in use so players only play Pebble Beach twice if they make the cut, bear that in mind when researching course history.
Because it’s a U.S. Open the course will play a lot tougher. Rough will be brutal and fairways are tight. The Poa annua greens at Pebble Beach are the smallest on Tour and will run fast. The small greens mean players will need their short game as they won’t hit every green in regulation.
There’s only three par fives as the second hole will play as a long par four, as opposed to an easy par five at the pro-am event. Being a coastal course, wind can be a factor.
Pebble Beach will provide a true test and the winning score could hover around even par like it did in 2010 when the course last held the U.S. Open won by Graeme McDowell ($5,800).
The U.S. Open is a grind.
Only the top 60 and ties will make the cut from the 156-man field. Due to the nature of open qualifying there’s some interesting names who will play, including a clutch of amateurs.
Getting 9/9 through the cut will be tricky given the strength of the field. That challenge will push me towards a collection of steady players to build my core around in Moneyball.
There’s a cracking $10K on offer in the $15 GPP this week and a 9/9 lineup will be nearly a must if you want to take top spot.
Who do we like?
As I touched on above, I want reliable players. I will target those who are accurate from the tee, good with their irons, and have a strong short game.
The U.S. Open requires a player to have an all-round game, nothing can be off otherwise you will be chewed up and spat out.
This week I will toss up two leans per category and one fade.
My statistics come via Fantasy National, a useful study tool. When I am referencing a player’s past 24 rounds, that is in comparison to the field and the past 24 tracked rounds each player has completed.
$8 and $9K Range
Dustin Johnson ($9,000) – Johnson might not win as many majors as he should but his record at Pebble Beach is outstanding when the PGA Tour stops by. He’s second in this field for tee-to-green in the past 24 rounds and fourth for strokes gained: approach.
Tiger Woods ($8,600) – It might have been 19 years ago about his triumph at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots in 2000 can’t be forgotten. One of the world’s premier iron players, Woods knows his way around this course. Game is rounding into form nicely after his recent showing at The Memorial where he was T9 and hit a lot of fairways.
Rory McIlroy ($8,400) – This might look rather stupid in a few days. But you can’t take everyone at the top and McIlroy is one who doesn’t fit for me. The Irishman tears up easy tracks such as his Canadian Open romp last week but when it’s a stern test he’s often found wanting. If I can pick any hole in his game it would be putting on Poa greens, so I will fade.
Jason Day ($7,300) – The Australian will probably be popular in Moneyball given the local bias but his scrambling means he will be a chance here. Day’s ninth in this field for scoring on par fours that are 400-450 yards, a key range. He’s recorded five-straight top 12 finishes at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am therefore he’s comfortable at the course.
Xander Schauffele ($7,000) – Some type of mini Brooks Koepka ($9,300). The X Man has a habit of showing up in majors because tough tracks don’t intimidate him. Schauffele’s from California meaning he won’t mind the Poa greens.
Justin Rose ($7,800) – It’s hard to get a feel for Rose at the moment. He’s inconsistent and parted ways with his long-time caddy recently due to his bagman’s health concerns. An equipment change sparked a few queries earlier this year too, as a result I won’t be rostering him.
Matt Kuchar ($6,800) – Kuchar’s formline has been exemplary year. Short courses are where the American shines hence he’s one of my favourite plays this week. He finds fairways with regularity and was an impressive T4 in Canada last week.
Webb Simpson ($6,200) – Another American in form that is hard to ignore. Furthermore, Simpson is a former U.S. Open champion so he knows how to navigate a tough set-up. Short courses suit him and he’s 12th in this field for bogey avoidance in the past 24 rounds.
Patrick Reed ($6,300) – Reed is somewhat of an enigma and has solid Pebble Beach form. But his game has been off in the past few months and it seems like he doesn’t know where his swing is at. Easy pass for me.
This is a loaded range, take your pick.
Jim Furyk ($5,800) – The American veteran is one of the most accurate players on Tour, is a great scrambler and a former U.S. Open Champion. He’s also nicely priced and has made 23 of his past 24 cuts. Did I mention he’s ninth in this field for strokes gained: approach in the past 24 rounds. In conclusion, roster Jim Furyk.
Graeme McDowell ($5,800) – McDowell is returning to form and is a faux defending champion given he won the previous U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010. The Irishman is an elite putter and accurate from the tee.
Thomas Pieters ($5,600) – I am looking for players who are comfortable under pressure and are prepared to grind out a tough round. In contrast, there’s the Belgian Bomber Pieters who is more likely to snap a club with his bare hands than go on a birdie streak.
As always, you shouldn’t be in this range. But, if you must …
Rob Oppenheim ($4,800) – An American journeyman who popped for a top-10 finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2017. He’s also made five straight cuts on the second-tier web.com Tour recently. His favourite holiday spot is Pebble Beach, so you could do a lot worse at this price.
Richard H. Lee ($4,800) – I said I’d find two players for each range so I’ve dug up Lee. The 32-year-old came through sectional qualifying to secure his tee time. He finished inside the top 15 at the pro-am event on Tour every year from 2012-2014. He’s also a good putter.
Fade – The Rest
If you don’t recognise the player’s name, it means they’re not worth diving in to.