Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: U.S. Open

After our neighbors to the north's national championship last week, the PGA Tour heads to Pebble Beach, California for the third major of the year, the always challenging U.S. Open.

Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the U.S. Open on five prior occasions dating back to 1972, most recently in 2010 and 2000. The course will be set up to championship conditions, firm and fast and measuring 7,075 yards to a par 71.

It is the site of the annual Pro-Am in February, so golfers have had plenty of opportunities to play the course. At that event, however, Pebble Beach GL serves as just one of three courses the groups rotate through during the week, with those that make the 54-hole cut getting another crack at Pebble on Sunday. Golfers will not be so lucky this week, as they'll have to contend with four days of grueling conditions and unpredictable winds.

Bordered by Carmel Bay of the Pacific Ocean, water is not the only obstacle off the California coast. Bunkers guard almost every fairway and green, though the sand may be preferable over the rough, which gets the typical USGA treatment and should be as nasty as ever this week. Changes in elevation are common throughout the course, making distance and spin control even more important than usual. Most greens slope back to front, but the firmness of the greens will make it difficult to keep the ball below the hole even before considering the pin placements.

Wind is always a test at Pebble Beach, but otherwise the conditions look perfect, with cool temps in the 60s and no rain in the early forecast.

Let's dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.

Course and Tournament Info

Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Par: 71
Distance: 7,075 yards
Tees/Fairways/Rough: Poa annua/ryegrass fairways, and ryegrass rough
Greens: Poa annua

Season Par Yardage Average O/U Par Avg Rank
2010 71 7040 74.983 3.983 1
2000 71 6846 75.359 4.359 1

It is practically useless to compare the annual Pro-Am conditions from the February event to the teeth that the USGA adds when preparing this course for its major championship. As shown above, it ranked as the hardest course on Tour each of the two most recent years it has hosted the U.S. Open.

In 2000, the average score of the second hardest course was 1.9 strokes better than at Pebble, and the Pro-Am average was almost 2.9 strokes easier. It was even more stark in 2010, when Pebble played more than 2.3 strokes harder than the second-ranked course, and more than 4.5 strokes harder than it played in the Pro-Am.

At this year's Pro-Am event, the field's average round at Pebble Beach was 0.13 strokes over par, and thus far the hardest course this season was Bethpage Black just a few weeks ago at the PGA Championship, where the field averaged 2.543 strokes over par. So if the trend conditions and history holds, expect Pebble to play an average of at least four strokes over par per round.

Regardless of venue, the U.S. Open presents a singular challenge to the world's best golfers. The cream rises to the top, as just 1 of the last 10 winners - 2010's Lucas Glover - has never reached top five in the Official World Golf Ranking, dating back 11 years because Brooks Koepka is the two-time defending champion.

The U.S. Open has served as the first (or only) major for some of the biggest names currently on Tour. Despite tremendous long-term form, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose each have just one major to their name, the 2016 and 2013 U.S. Opens, respectively. Glover, Webb Simpson, and Graeme McDowell have rebuilt their games in the last couple years, but for a while their U.S. Open titles were blips on otherwise unspectacular careers. Rory McIlroy and Koepka have each won four major championships, but the U.S. Open was each of their firsts.

Key Stats

These stats will be key to success in the U.S Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Key Stats for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach GL
Strokes Gained: Total
Strokes Gained: Approach
Bogeys Avoided
Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa)

Total strokes gained, ladies and gentlemen. What a novel concept -- pick the best golfers! In the last 20 years, only three golfers have claimed the title and never reached a top-five ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking at some point in their career. Glover is the "worst" of the bunch from a career standpoint, having peaked at No. 15 the year after his win. Total strokes gained will point toward golfers who routinely appear at the top of the leaderboard, regardless of how they do it. The winner of the U.S. Open is not going to be some lightning-in-a-bottle surprise.

Of the individual strokes gained metrics, approach is the most predictive of future performance and the most important at Pebble Beach. The course is not a behemoth like last year at Shinnecock Hills, and windy conditions combined with especially penal rough will mitigate the advantage of bombers off the tee. Approach play will be key this week, and while there is some overlap with the best drivers of the ball and the best iron players, prioritize the approach play (again) this week.

With the stated goal of keeping the winning score as close to even-par for the tournament, birdies will be few and far between but bogeys can come in bunches. A blend of birdie-making and par-saving skills is of course ideal, but bogey avoidance gets the edge this week and should be given additional weight.

Since the West Coast swing, golfers have faced primarily bermudagrass and bentgrass surfaces, with some poa overseeding but no true poa except at the PGA Championship. New York and California are quite different, in case you didn't know. Some golfers prefer these bumpy, resilient greens, whereas others can't seem to figure them out at all. Putting is extremely volatile and difficult to predict, but if you're going to look at it make sure to throw out the recent data from Texas and Florida.

Course History Studs

Koepka obviously leads the way with back-to-back wins, but he was solid before then at the U.S. Open, with finishes of T13, T18, and T4 the three years prior. Johnson missed the cut in 2017 but has been top 5 in the four times he made it over the past five years.

In addition to the recent winners covered above, strong performers at recent U.S. Opens include Louis Oosthuizen (four straight top 25s including a T2 in 2015) and Brandt Snedeker (three top 10s in the last five years), along with Branden Grace and Rickie Fowler (each have two top 5s in that span).

Xander Schauffele has finished T6 and T5 in the last two years, while Tommy Fleetwood one-ups him with finishes of solo 2nd and solo 4th.

Tiger Woods won at Pebble Beach in 2000 and finished tied for fourth in 2010.

Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.