The US Open is arguably the toughest test of Major Championship golf every year. The USGA holds no qualms about setting their selected venues up to test every facet of a players game and often times it leads to utter destruction of a golfers manhood. The 2016 version will be played on the historic Oakmont Country Club which is situated on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Oakmont has played host to nine USGA Championships since its inception in 1903 with the most recent being the 2007 US Open in which a dart chuffing Argentinian by the name of Angel Cabrera fended off the likes of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to claim the title with a final score of 5 over par.
Oakmont is known for its incredibly fast and severely undulated putting surfaces which are sure to cause a lot of head scratching among players this week. Tight fairways and graduated cuts of rough will also rustle a few feathers. Although it’s not the longest US Open test we’ve seen, Oakmont is capable of playing much longer than the 7,257 yards the scorecard suggest. Most notably, the Par 3, 8th hole has the ability to be stretched out to 300 yards which is utterly stupid in my opinion. 210 bunkers can be found littered throughout the layout which are sure to attract a lot of action. The fine folk at Fantasy Golf Metrics compiled data from the last three US Opens held here at Oakmont to show the scoring efficiency of players through all 18 holes and shockingly, not a single hole played under par over that stretch:
There’s a good chance that fantasy scores will be relatively low this week as the consensus pre-tournament thought is that of damage control will be the key to success. As such, there’s a real premium being placed on players’ finishing positions as those bonus points will be massive come Sunday. As a result, there are three main things I’m looking to key in on this week as I feel strongly about contenders performing exceptionally well in these categories. The first being Total Driving (Distance + Accuracy). Oakmont’s tight fairways and graduated rough will require players to be accurate off the tee but the need for length is also slightly underrated this week as players who leave themselves with shorter clubs into these tough greens will have a superior advantage over those who do not. Next, Bogey Avoidance will be a key as I don’t expect many guys to make a slew of birdies so grinding out pars is going to be the key to success. Lastly, and similar to Bogey Avoidance, is 3-Putt Avoidance. The difficulty of these greens cannot be stressed enough and the possibility of a 3-Putt lurks on every single surface. Guys who manage to control their rock on the greens will grab a big advantage over the field and likely find themselves playing the weekend.
High End Targets ($10,000+)
• The Entire Lot
There’s not a single $10k+ golfer that I don’t like this week and that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Every one of those guys has what it takes to win on the big stage and they’ve all proven it at one time or another. The only hesitation I would have would be Justin Rose’s lingering back issue. He pointed out in a presser this week that he just recently started hitting drivers again so his overall form could be a little lackluster but he still has what it takes to win another US Open crown. Rickie, to me, stands out as the best overall fit for the course as he ranks inside the top 32 in all three of our key stats for the week. ‘The Big 3’ of Rory, Spieth and Day hold their own and are incredible golfers who excel on the world’s most difficult tracks so there’s an obvious attraction to all of them this week. Dustin is a quasi mental midget and that’s the only real knock I have on the guy but he seems to find his way into contention in nearly every Major so his breakthrough victory is only a matter of time. Scott is my least favorite of the bunch but he’s such a pure ball striker that he can turn it on and cruise to victory any week he tees it up so I wouldn’t worry too much about playing him in your lineups. It may seem like a bit of a cop-out to take the lot but I would be doing you and myself a disservice by suggesting one of these incredibly talented players over the other. This week is such a tricky week to get right that I suggest you make multiple lineups and work several of these top tier players into them.
Mid Level Targets ($9,900 – $8,000)
• Hideki Matsuyama
Mats has the high ball flight that is common of US Open champions and I feel as though it gives him a nice boost in upside this week. He’s an absolute flusher of the ball and can really plot his way around any course. The downside to Mats has traditionally been his putter so assuming he can channel a stronger than normal week on the greens, he could be in for a lovely finish here at Oakmont. Mats ranks T47 in TD, a dodgy T153 in 3PA but bounces back with a very well round 35th in BA.
• Bubba Watson
Bubba has proven Major Championship upside as is evidenced by his two Masters victories. In the 2007 edition of the US Open at Oakmont, Bubba actually managed to reel in a 5th place finish at 9 over par for the week. His stats line up well for the course as he’s ranked 36th in Total Driving and 68th in Bogey Avoidance but he stumbles a bit when it comes to 3PA as he ranks 129th. All in all, Bubba is a really risky play this week as he tends to get extremely flustered on course when the going gets tough. This is however something that he has admittedly been working on. Assuming Bubbs is able to channel his rage and find himself on the greens, he should be a sure bet to compete over the weekend.
• Sergio Garcia
Sergio is still looking for his elusive Major Championship victory and the time may be now. He has been playing very good golf for the duration of the season and seems to have complete control of his game which isn’t something we’ve been able to say all that much about him over the last few years. Similar to that of Matsuyama, Sergio hits the ball incredibly high so that will play largely to his benefit on these increasingly firm surfaces. The Spaniard ranks 23rd in TD, 49th in BA and a spotty 165th in 3PA.
• Matt Kuchar
Kuuuuch!! My favorite geek is back and has basically been the hottest golfer on the planet over the last four weeks as he hasn’t finished higher than T6 during that span. Kuch excels on difficult course as his game suits the need for patience. Kuch is one of my top plays this week and I will have a lot of him woven throughout my lineups.
- TD: 73rd
- BA: 12th
- 3PA: 20th
• Patrick Reed
Reed is another guy who seems to be finding his stride at the perfect time in advance of the 2016 US Open. His last two PGA events have resulted in finishes of T15 and T8 at Colonial and Memorial respectively. Reed is a fierce competitor who manages all facets of his game properly so he should be able to step up on the big stage and keep himself well within the parameters of contention. 50th in Total Driving, 4th in Bogey Avoidance and 57th in 3-Putt Avoidance, Reed can make a strong case for a breakthrough Major Championship victory this week.
Lower End Targets (<$8,000)
• Paul Casey
The stocky Englishman will be making his second career start at Oakmont this week. In 2007, Casey set the course ablaze with second round four under par 66 which was one of only 8 under par rounds all week. Although he hasn’t played much competitive golf lately, there no doubting the fact that Casey’s numbers are pointing in the right direction for success this week at Oakmont. He’s 11th in TD, 50th in BA and a mediocre 146th in 3PA. Much like 100+ other golfers in this tournament, if Casey can find his stroke on the greens, he should have a good shot at becoming the 5th European champion in the last 7 years.
• Marc Leishman
Leish is my overall top play this week and I’ll tell you why. Leishman has the type of game that matches up absolutely perfectly for this course and I’ve already made my mind up that I will have him in 100% of the 50 lineups I make this week. His game is trending in the right direction and there has been very little chatter about him this week which makes me even more excited to be extremely overweight on him. He hits the ball long and straight which translates to a Total Driving rank of 16th. He rarely finds himself in trouble as a result and that allows him to plop into a Bogey Avoidance ranking of 5th. Once on the greens, the uber talented Aussie rolls the rock with supreme confidence and very, very rarely does he ever 3-putt as is evidenced by his 9th place rank in 3-Putt Avoidance. Basically, I feel as though Leish has one of the best suited games for Oakmont and from a pure talent standpoint, he’s extremely undervalued at only $7,300.
• Tony Finau
Tony snuck his way into the US Open by way of being the ‘First Alternate’. He actually lost a 2 for 1 playoff to Amateur Charlie Danielson in the Springfield, Ohio, sectional qualifier. Finau is a bomber of the ball who keeps it relatively straight as well as he ranks 78th in Total Driving. Now, Tony is a risky pick this week so I wouldn’t recommend going all in on him or anything of the sort but he has the upside and form to make a statement here at Oakmont. Although he does rank 68th in Bogey Avoidance, Finau still gives me a little worry as hes made double digit bogeys in two of his last three events. There is a silver lining to that however as the double digit totals were that of 10 in both cases. His 23rd place ranking in 3-Putt Avoidance is something to get excited over however and hopefully propels him to the weekend.
• Retief Goosen
‘Tiiiiiiief. Retief is a registered beautician and has his old South African game rolling as he’s made 12/13 cuts on the year. In this sub $6.5k price range, he’s definitely my favorite play as hes been playing such steady and mostly mistake free golf for so many consecutive weeks. There’s a very good chance that I will evenly split shares between Retief and Glover in the 50 lineups I’ll be making as such a plan allows for a lot of salary to be retained and used in a number of ways. Goose ranks 47th in Bogey Avoidance and he is the defacto number 1 ranked player in 3-Putt Avoidance. I can see Retief hanging around and making the weekend and for $6,300 that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
• Lucas Glover
Glover is a guy that has such incredible stats it’s amazing that he doesn’t compete for titles more often on TOUR. Pick any sort of ball striking related stat and it’s almost a certainty that Glover will be in the Top 10. The dude absolutely flushes the ball. His problem, much like a lot of us Amateur golfers, lies within his putter. Glover is 4th in Total Driving, 3rd in Bogey Avoidance and a very pedestrian 114th in 3PA. The thing is, there really won’t be a lot of birdies made after day 1 this week so the fact that Glover will be hanging around rolling in a bunch of pars actually bodes incredibly well for his chances of success. If, however, he manages to have a putting week like he did at the 2009 US Open at Bethpage Black, we very well could see the Clemson Tiger repeat as US Open Champion.
• John Rahm (a)
Rahm is the current World #1 Amateur golfer and has enjoyed a stellar career at Arizona State in which he has won the Ben Hogan Award in back-to-back seasons for being recognized as the top collegiate golfer in America. Rahm has two PGA Tour Top 10s to his credit as he finished T10 at the OHL Classic last November and just this year finished T5 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He’s set to turn pro next week and he looks prepared to turn in a good pro career. His position is very similar to that of Bryson DeChambeau who just recently turned professional out of the college ranks as well. Rahm has a very well rounded game and I can see him making the cut this week but obviously this pick comes with a lot of risk.
• Aaron Wise
Wise has enjoyed himself a month to remember as he won medalist honors at the NCAA Championships and then helped Oregon win the NCAA National Title later that same week. Shortly thereafter, Wise won medalist honors in his US Open sectional qualifying bid in Vancouver. He turned pro immediately after which means he’ll forgo the remainder of his college career but his talent is something to look out for. His string of incredible play has him poised to make a run at the cut this week and for $5.8k I think he’s one of the better plays available in that ‘scrub’ range.
All stats quoted in this article are a product of the PGA Tour and can be found below: