Defending Champ: Jordan Spieth
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US Open Field
156 Players | Top 60 & Ties Make The Cut
While 59 of the world’s Top 60 players are participating in the 116th US Open (Thongchai Jaidee is sitting out for personal reasons), the year’s second Major has a steep drop-off in quality of the field the deeper you move down the list. Unlike The Masters or PGA Championship, the US Open allows a bevy of lesser known, low ranked golfers to quality for the field. It’s very noble in a fairness sense, but also sucks for viewers when you can basically eliminate around 35-percentage of the 156 player field from contention before the tournament starts. Yes, there will be a few scrubs or an amateur or two who catch the attention of the TV coverage the first few days, but they’ll wilt. Happens every time.
Normally, people always get confused with cut line rules in golf. The US Open is no exception. Most people have it in their minds that any player within 10-strokes of the leader after 36-holes will play the weekend. Problem is, that rule was abolished in 2012. Now, it’s only the Top 60 (and ties) players after the conclusion of round two. But, remember, amateurs in the field do not count towards the cut line.
US Open Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green
Par 4 Birdies or Better
US Open Course
Oakmont CC | Par 70 | 7,257 Yards
In typical USGA fashion, Oakmont has been set up to embarrass the world’s best golfers. The greens will appear like they’re made of glass, pushing the stimpmeter to its limits. The rough has been grown thick enough to expedite the process of Type-2 diabetes, just ask Branden Grace. Oakmont is going to be the most brutal test players will face all year.
Scoring will be at a premium, even if the weather softens the course up. There are going to be moments when players venture slightly off the fairway, get entrenched in the long grass, and be unable to advance the ball more than 30 yards. Driving accuracy will end up as a common stat among the top end of the leaderboard, however, with the length of certain holes and the exceptionally narrow fairways, the standard driving accuracy stat may not be the best projection for this specific course. Driving accuracy doesn’t discriminate based on course; if a player hits 90-percent of fairways at Kapalua, that lends little context to how players will perform at Oakmont. It is a fine starting place, but doesn’t take into consideration that Jason Day will likely be hitting 2-Iron or Dustin Johnson will club down on holes where missing the fairway just isn’t an option. The rough isn’t the only hazard lurking off the freshly shaven carpet, either. 210 sand traps populate the grounds, but, weirdly enough, unless players are pressed up against the edge or buried in the bunker, the sand will be a far more amenable lie to advance the ball.
There is an odd spilt in length of holes which will work to serve different style of players. Five Par 4s measuring under 380 yards are juxtaposed by five in the 480 yard range. Both Par 5s play longer than 600 yards, with the 12th hole capping out at 667 yards. Then, there’s No. 8. The hole you’ll hear the field complain about all week. It’s a 288 yard Par 3, which can push 300 yards on its longer days. It’s pretty unfair. With the players going for the green on some of the shorter holes and so many longer Par 4s, scrambling and Strokes Gained: Around the Green will keep be the biggest factors in avoiding big numbers. Angel Cabrera won the 2007 US Open at Oakmont with a score of +5. This year’s winning total should be around that number, making bogey avoidance huge as well.
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US Open Picks
Jason Day – With the multitude of challenges facing the field at Oakmont, trusting the safety of the world’s number one player has its benefits. Even as the betting favorite, Day’s value doesn’t simply rest in his ability to win, it’s his ability to come inside the Top 15. At, what’s likely to be, the most difficult layout of the season, many good players are going to have disastrous weeks. It’s doubtful Day is one of those casualties.
Bubba Watson – No, Bubba and the US Open don’t normally fuse for a successful golf reaction. It generally leads to a lot of crooked numbers followed by string of Ted Scott tongue lashings. However, Oakmont may be the catalyst Bubba needs to surge on to the final page of the leaderboard. Fifth at this site in 2007, Bubba’s length will assist in overcoming his accuracy issues; especially on the lengthy Par 3s, daunting 600+ yard Par 5s, and shorter, reachable Par 4s. There are five Par 4s playing less than 380 yards this week. On holes from that range, Bubba, despite his lack of consistency the past 12 weeks, ranks fifth in SG: T2G. The wayward drives and scrambling may be his undoing, but imagination and creativity from worrisome lies will likely end up determining the champion, and there is be no better player on TOUR at visualizing his way out of trouble.
Patrick Reed – Many forget Reed was playing in the final group Saturday at last year’s US Open. They forget because he tanked himself out of contention that day. Still, with his consistent play, elite scrambling (2nd) and SG: ATG (1st), and propensity to elevate his game in strong fields, Reed should find himself lingering around the leaderboard, in position to win come the weekend.
Brandt Snedeker – Like Reed, Snedeker generally sees his best results at tough courses. Just reference his play at this in gale force conditions at Torrey Pines; Sned played almost 10 strokes better than the field in the final round, good for a one-shot win. He has strong US Open track record (five straight cuts at the national championship, three T10s and no finish worse than 17th), dominates on Poa Anneu greens, sits Top 10 in scrambling, and Top 30 in Par 4 birdies or better and SG: ATG.
Henrik Stenson – People (well, the internet. For all I know it’s just a bunch of porn bots) constantly get on Stenson’s case about using 3-Wood off the tee. With keeping the ball on the fairway being such an important factor at Oakmont, I doubt we hear much chatter about that this week. Despite a string of poor recent finishes, most notably at THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP, Henrik pops up inside the Top 5 in overall SG: T2G and Driving Accuracy over the past three months.
Rory McIlroy – Rory has the biggest blow up potential of any of the elite players, consistency isn’t really his bag, baby. However, in challenging conditions I have the most faith in Rory to remain in attack mode and actually try to score instead of playing for par. It’s going to be risky, and could lead to an embarrassing missed cut, but the upside of the world’s No. 3 player is definitely worth it. Especially since he enters with three T4 finishes, including a win, and no result worse than 12th in his last four starts.
Branden Grace – Since winning the RBC Heritage, Grace has stabilized himself in almost every key category relevant this week. He’s first in SG: T2G over the last 12 weeks, and tops all players in scrambling in that time too. Grace is getting his game peaking at absolutely the right moment to avenge his late collapse a year ago at Chambers Bay.
Danny Willet – You win The Masters and, apparently, everyone forgets about you. Sure, it’s unlikely Willet becomes the second player in two years to claim the first two Majors of the season, but the British grinder seems tailor-made for this course. Willet is an excellent scrambler, crushes it Tee-to-Green, and clearly doesn’t crumble under the pressure of big moments. After Day and Jordan Spieth, there is no more confident 10-foot putter in the world than Willet. I’d imagine that skill is going to come in handy at Oakmont.
The Pat Mayo Hour covers the entire scope of the Fantasy sports landscape from Football to Reality TV, daily and yearly leagues and everything in between. You can watch the Pat Mayo Hour every weekday at 3:00pm EST, 8:00pm EST and Midnight on the FNTSY Sports Network Television channel or on your Apple TV, Xbox, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. If you have a Fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at PatMayoHour@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.