Due to the modified PGA TOUR schedule this season, we get a rare fall treat with a pair of major championships still to be contested in 2020. The U.S. Open Championship was originally scheduled for June, but now the PGA TOUR will be teeing it up for the second major of the year at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York.
Winged Foot has historically been one of the hardest tracks in U.S. Open history and resulted in winning scores of +5 for Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 and +7 for Hale Irwin back in 1974. The field will be playing the grueling course as a par-70, which will include some of the longest holes in major championship history. Due to the length of the course, proximity from 200+ yards and Par 4 performance on holes that are 450 to 500 yards in length will be a few of the key stats to monitor.
DraftKings is offering a number of ways you can get in on the action, including the DraftKings $2.25M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] event. Flex your golf knowledge and create a lineup here for the opportunity to turn $100 into $1 million for a first-place finish. You can also bet on the tournament at DraftKings Sportsbook.
As is almost always the case in major championships, avoiding the rough will also be one of the keys to success this week, so it’s best to target golfers with high driving accuracy and good bogey avoidance numbers. Staying in the fairway, grinding out pars and grabbing birdies in the rare spots they are available will be the path to victory. Looking at past U.S. Open Championship results and major championship finishes will be key to building your lineup as well, since it will take a similar skill set to finish well this week even though the course is not a repeat of a recent event.
It should be a great week of golf with all the big names in play this week including a red-hot Dustin Johnson ($11,500), who claimed the FedExCup two weeks ago, and Collin Morikawa ($10,000), who won the most recent major at difficult conditions at the PGA Championship. While there are plenty of stars to stack up in your lineup, you may also need some cheaper options to balance out your big-ticket players or help round out your roster. Below you can find my top four plays for under $7,500 on DraftKings.
Joaquin Niemann, $7,400
Almost exactly a year ago, Niemann claimed his first PGA TOUR win at The Greenbrier. He put together a pretty successful 2020 season overall with four top-10 finishes and a trip to the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP, where he ended up T27 in his first trip to East Lake Golf Club. His most encouraging recent result, though, was at the BMW Championship, where he posted a T3 in the difficult conditions which felt a lot like a U.S. Open Championship. He was in contention at Olympia Fields right to the end when Jon Rahm ($11,000) and Dustin Johnson ($11,500) passed him and ended up in a memorable playoff.
Even though he’s not a big physical presence, Niemann is excellent off the tee. He was just outside the top 25 in SG: Off-the-tee last season and ranked No. 15 in SG: Approach. On Par 4s between 450 and 500 yards, Niemann ranked No. 16 on the PGA TOUR with a 4.041 average score, which is significantly better than the PGA TOUR average of 4.132 on holes in that range. He picked up .744 shots tee-to-green throughout the season and picked things up with his putter in his two most recent events, finishing with positive strokes gained.
The 21-year-old Chilean doesn’t have a ton of major championship experience but did rally at the PGA Championship with a 69 in Round 2 after a 75 in Round 1 to miss the cut by just two shots. Niemann’s putter appears headed in the right direction, and his game off the tee is strong enough to keep him in contention. He is a bit unproven and more boom-or-bust than the other picks on this list, but if you’re looking for upside, it’s hard to find a cheap option that has a higher ceiling than this rising star.
Ian Poulter, $7,300
Even though he is known for his Ryder Cup exploits, Poulter has been a steady option for fantasy players in major championships throughout his career. He posted a T22 at the PGA Championship earlier this year and has made the cut in five of his past six trips to the U.S. Open Championship, including three top-25 finishes. His best of those finishes was a T12 in 2006 on this same course. He played the Final Round alongside eventual winner Geoff Ogilvy that year but his +4 score wasn’t nearly as loud as his all-pink outfit.
Poulter didn’t have great numbers in the 2020 season but he did finish No. 6 overall in SG: Putting, showing he still has some serious skill with the flat stick. His iron work was also above-average, but he lost shots off the tee. However, Poulter did have one of his best driving accuracy weeks in his most recent start at THE NORTHERN TRUST where he hit 73.2% of fairways. He has hit over 60% of fairways in four of his six starts since the restart. If he can continue that trend keep his drives on the short grass this week, his putting could carry him to another strong finish.
Alex Noren, $7,100
Another veteran international player who profiles well this weekend is Alex Noren, who posted four straight top-25 finishes before fading to a T40 at the BMW Championship in his most recent tournament. He had a solid T22 at the PGA Championship in San Francisco, where he had three excellent rounds with just an ugly 73 in Round 3 holding him back from an even better finish. He bounced back from that round with a 67 on Sunday and then surged to a T8 at THE NORTHERN TRUST in his next event.
In major championships, Noren has made the cut in six of his past eight events including four top-25 finishes. He usually relies on his excellent short game to make up for some struggles off the tee and ranked in the top-10 on the PGA TOUR in SG: Around-the-Green. He gained over nine strokes around-the-green and putting combined in that top-10 at THE NORTHERN TRUST. His accuracy off the tee can be what derails him, but as long as he gets it near the green, he can usually compensate for that shortcoming in these difficult events. If he gets a good week driving, like he did at TPC Boston, he should be lined up for another good result.
Kevin Streelman, $6,700
Streelman had an uneven 2020 season, but he definitely finished playing well, making the cut in each of his final seven events on the season. He finished T51 at the BMW Championship in difficult U.S. Open-like conditions and was especially strong on the weekend with a 66-69 finish. The 41-year-old veteran has played the U.S. Open Championship six times in his career with a career-best T13 finish in his most recent trip to the event, which happened back in 2016.
Streelman finished ranked No. 23 on the PGA TOUR in the 2020 season with a 85.46% good drive percentage, which is well above the PGA TOUR average of 82.01%. His 4.130 average on par 4s in the target range for this event matches the PGA TOUR average of 4.132. He also made the cut at the PGA Championship earlier this season, so he’s a good pickup if you’re looking for someone who has shown he can make the cut at difficult events from below $7K.
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