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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - 2019 U.S. Open

What is up RotoBallers? Rory McIlroy turned what had been a tight RBC Canadian Open through 54 holes into a blowout Sunday afternoon. The only drama available down the stretch was Rory's chance to shoot 59 (58 was even a possibility at one point).

Hamilton Golf & Country Club was a very suitable host of Canada's national championship. The short track played about as we expected and several players that were highlighted in last week's article (Webb Simpson logged a runner-up finish & Henrik Stenson nabbed a T8) did well. So hopefully we'll see Hamilton again sooner, rather than later, as I think we are all more than ready to move on from the farce that is Glen Abbey!

The layout at the Canadian Open provided a better-than-expected tune-up for players that are headed to the U.S. Open this week. Hamilton's tight fairways, thick rough, and Poa Annua greens were a decent stand-in for some things the field will face at Pebble Beach.

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2019 U.S. Open Overview

It's pretty hard to believe we are already talking about the year's third major championship, but here we are. We head to a classic venue in Pebble Beach for the 2019 version of America's national championship. This will mark the sixth time that Pebble has hosted the U.S. Open and first time since 2010.

We get glimpses of Pebble Beach on an annual basis thanks to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but we can expect a drastically different golf course this week. Like most U.S. Open setups, the USGA will attempt to test every aspect of a player's golf game...both physically and mentally. The U.S. Open is often a war of attrition and it can be very far removed from some of the birdie-fests we routinely see on the PGA Tour.

Graeme McDowell walked away victorious from the 2010 U.S. Open and we've routinely seen the cream of the crop rise to the top of U.S. Opens held at Pebble Beach, with players like Woods, Nicklaus, and Watson (Tom, not Bubba) winning championships on this course. Plenty of eyes will be focused on Tiger Woods this week, but Brooks Koepka has demanded our respect and attention by winning the last two U.S. Opens, as well as the most recent PGA Championship. They'll be joined at Pebble by the best players in the world and those that went through the grueling qualifying process in order to live out their dream of playing in this great championship.

I try to make HFTC more than just a "picks" column (though you can certainly use it that way if you are in a hurry) by digging deep into each highlighted player. Obviously, our weekly jumping off point is a player's course history, but there isn't a firm set of rules when it comes to who is featured in this article. My goal is to help you succeed as a PGA DFS player. Period. I will touch on different GPP and cash-game strategies throughout the column each week and hopefully have some useful info for both beginners and experienced DFS players. Thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller, let's tee it up!

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.


The Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links

Par 71 - 7,075 Yards, Greens: Poa Annua

The U.S. Open heads back to a classic venue this week in Pebble Beach. It's one of the most well-known golf courses in the world and it's with good reason. Pebble Beach offers a magical blend of architecture, natural features, and weather that will offer the field a stern test of their games.

This will be Pebble's sixth go-round as host for the U.S. Open and it has continually produced quality champions such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, and Tiger Woods. Pebble Beach doesn't have the length of some of the more modern golf courses that we see, but its natural defenses (penal rough and the ocean) will force players to be accurate off the tee. The tiny greens place an emphasis on sharp ball striking with brutal rough and bunkers awaiting errant approach shots. Pebble's Poa Annua greens are tricky, to put it mildly.

On top of all this, players will have to deal with unpredictable coastal winds and weather conditions that can change on a dime. Yep...this is gonna be a good tournament. I will intently focus on great ball strikers for my DFS lineups this week. I'm looking for players that can hit fairways and greens with regularity, but also have the ability to scramble. Unlike most major championships, distance will take a bit of a backseat for me at Pebble, though obviously those that are long AND accurate will put themselves in great position.


The Horse

Dustin Johnson (DK - $11,300 & FD - $12,200)

Notable Course History: Two-Time Winner (AT&T Pro-Am), T8 (2010 U.S. Open)
Recent Form: (RBC Canadian Open), 2nd (PGA Championship), T28 (RBC Heritage), T2 (Masters)

We all know that Dustin Johnson has more talent than perhaps anyone on the PGA Tour and when we throw in his strong track record at Pebble Beach, we have ourselves the perfect Horse for this week's U.S. Open!

DJ has been an absolute force in America's national championship over the last five years. He logged his lone major-championship win at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, and outside of a flukey missed cut on a funky Erin Hills layout in '17, Johnson has the win and three top-four finishes in the U.S. Opens played since 2014. DJ ranks second in the field (behind only back-to-back U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka) in Strokes Gained: Total in Opens over the last five years at 56.35 strokes.

In addition to always navigating tough USGA layouts brilliantly, Johnson heads to a Pebble Beach course on which he's always thrived. He's a two-time winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (36 of the tournament's 72 holes are contested on PB) and he headed into the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open with a three-shot lead before a disastrous final-round 82 sent a then-young-and-inexperienced Johnson tumbling into a tie for eighth. With most players we might worry about some psychological scarring at Pebble Beach from 2010, but DJ probably doesn't remember what he shot last Sunday and he's definitely not still carrying around one from a decade ago.

If you like stats, his are the stuff dreams are made of. He ranks either first or second in every major Strokes Gained category outside of SG: Approach (fifth) and SG: Around the Green (57th). He has the ability to bomb the driver when needed, but can also gear down and consistently hit fairways with irons off the tee. He has worked tirelessly to improve his wedge game and he's become one of the world's best from 150 yards and in. His putter still has its moments, but Poa is by far his best putting surface.

Johnson comes in with a DFS price just under Brooks Koepka on both DK & FD. Despite the strong price tag, I look for DJ to be a really popular option this week. The 'DJ only has one major thing' has been discussed to death, so I'm not going to get into it. Is it frustrating? Absolutely. Does he have a great chance at major win number two this week? Oh yeah!


The Ponies

Tiger Woods (DK - $10,700 & FD - $11,900)

Notable Course History: Win (2000 U.S. Open), T4 ('10 U.S. Open)
Recent Form: T9 (Memorial), M/C (PGA), Win (Masters), T30 (Players)

I don't mean to beat you guys over the head with Tiger Woods in every major championship, but it's just impossible to ignore his history at Pebble Beach. Woods painted an absolute masterpiece at Pebble in the 2000 U.S. Open when he DESTROYED the course and his competitors. He finished at 12-under par that week, with his nearest competitor at three-over par...a 15-shot victory that still stands as the most dominant performance in a major championship. In addition to his ridiculous win in 2000, Woods logged a T4 in the 2010 U.S. Open at PB.

If you have a heartbeat then you know that Tiger won the Masters earlier this year for his 15th major championship. You also know that he looked physically spent at the PGA Championship. I expect him to be closer to 'Masters Tiger' this week. He looked very sharp in his most recent outing at the Memorial where he gained over five strokes on approach and logged a T9 with an electric final-round 67.

Despite being 43-years-old, Tiger remains one of the game's best ball strikers. He ranks second in the field in GIRs Gained and third in Good Drives Gained over his last 24 measured rounds. His experience will be a huge asset on a layout that will require patience and mental toughness this week. His price is down to $10.7k on DK after they perhaps jumped the shark with his pricing at the PGA. If you want to fade Brooks & DJ, Tiger is a great place to start your roster construction.


Jason Day (DK - $9,100 & FD - $10,800)

Notable Course History: T4 ('19 AT&T), Win ('18 AT&T), T5 ('17 AT&T)
Recent Form: M/C (Memorial), T23 (PGA), T24 (Wells Fargo), T5 (Masters)

I'm honestly never too excited about tossing Jason Day's name up in this article, but I go where the course history takes me. J-Day has owned the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am over the past half-dozen years by logging FOUR top-fives in his last five AT&T starts. Sure...the entire tournament isn't played on PB, but the Aussie has tamed the beast sufficiently in his two rounds on Pebble each year, with a scoring average just over 70 for rounds on PB.

Day heads to Cali on the heels of an ugly missed cut at the Memorial. It's not ideal, but his recent form also may push his ownership down this week. For reasonable price tags on both DK & FD, we are getting the player with perhaps the best short game in the world. Day has gained strokes putting in every tournament he's played in 2019 and grades out seventh in this field in SG: Putting over his last 24 rounds. We know that Day can get loose with his irons, which is a scary thing when considering Pebble's tiny greens, but he did gain over two strokes on approach at this year's AT&T. In the back of my mind there's always the WD thing with Day, which makes it hard to pull the trigger on him in a $100 tournament like the Milly Maker, but if his AT&T record is any indication he's primed for a big week.


Paul Casey (DK - $8,300 & FD - $10,000)

Notable Course History: 2nd ('19 AT&T), T8 ('18 AT&T)
Recent Form: W/D (Charles Schwab) T29 (PGA), T4 (Wells Fargo), M/C (Masters)

Paul Casey's Pebble Beach experience isn't as extensive as some other players in this week's article, but it's pretty damn impressive. He logged a solo-second finish to Phil Mickelson (another player that has great history at Pebble BTW) in this year's AT&T and scored a T8 in the 2018 edition. The Englishman limped to a T40 in the 2010 U.S. Open, but his overall Pebble Beach scoring average is an impressive 69.25.

I've had some tough luck with Casey this year, so I'm a little reluctant to go back to the well here. He destroyed me in both the Players and the Masters with bizarrely-bad outings. He also hasn't been in action since withdrawing from the Charles Schwab mid tournament with the flu. So...there are several reasons for me to shy away from Casey this week, but I just keep getting pulled in by his numbers: third in SG: T2G, fourth in SG: Ball Striking, fourth SG: OTT, and 13th SG: Approach. We know he's a horrendous putter (101st SG: Putting), but he's decent enough around the greens (36th SG: ATG) to remain in consideration this week. He burned lots of folks at Colonial a few weeks ago with the WD and it might be an 'out of sight, out of mind' situation with Casey this week. If his ownership is projected at 10% or lower, I'll jump on.


Brandt Snedeker (DK - $7,500 & FD - $9,400)

Notable Course History: Two-time Winner (AT&T), T8 ('10 U.S. Open)
Recent Form: T4 (RBC Canadian Open), T19 (Charles Schwab), T16 (PGA), T48 (RBC Heritage)

This definitely won't be the first or last place that you hear Brandt Snedeker's name during your research process this week. The Vanderbilt Commodore is the course history king of Pebble Beach. Sneds has two AT&T wins under his belt (2013 & '15) and played well enough to log a T8 in the 2010 U.S. Open. His scoring average on rounds at Pebble sits just a shade over 69 and it's lack of length makes it one of the few layouts that the short-hitting Snedeker can truly compete with the big boys on.

It's basically the perfect storm for Sneds this week. He's been trending up recently after reuniting with his old swing coach earlier this year. He logged top-20's in both the PGA Championship and the Schwab before exploding for a second-round 60 and a T4 finish in Canada last week. The Nashville native has a magical short game, ranking first in SG: Around the Green & 18th in SG: Putting. He's also very comfortable on Poa greens and is also considered to be one of the best wind players in the world. If you think rostering Sneds will be sneaky this week, you are sorely mistaken. He will probably be the most popular value option on the board.


Jimmy Walker (DK - $7,000 & FD - $8,500)

Notable Course History: Win ('14 AT&T), T8 ('18 AT&T), T11 ('16 AT&T), T3 ('13 AT&T)
Recent Form: T35 (RBC Canadian Open), T19 (Charles Schwab), T23 (PGA), M/C (AT&T Byron Nelson)

Jimmy Walker heads to the U.S. Open under circumstances that are eerily similar to the aforementioned Brandt Snedeker. Like Snedeker, he has been fabulous throughout his career at Pebble Beach. And also like Sneds, he is playing his best golf of the season at the moment. Walker has practically lived in the AT&T Pro-Am top-10 for the better part of the past decade and he captured the title in 2014. His arrow is definitely pointing up right now, as he's reeled off three straight made cuts with two top-25s.

Walker has been consistently solid as of late and has averaged 3.2 SG: T2G over his last five tournaments. His stats are unremarkable, but he's routinely smooth around the greens and Poa Annua is by far his best putting surface (+0.44 strokes on Poa). He's a great wind player and has tamed the major-championship beast before (2016 PGA Championship). Walker will be a popular discount option this week.

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