GOLF

Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: U.S. Open

The young new season brings us a major championship right out of the gate, with the U.S. Open just the second start of the jam-packed 2020-21 PGA Tour season. Winged Foot Golf Club is the host this year, and we dive deep into the course to see what stats we can use to build our lineups and betting cards this week.

The first major of the young 2020-21 season kicks off this week with the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. Last seen on Tour in 2006, Winged Foot is the site of one of golf's most infamous holes when Phil Mickelson's errant drive hit the roof of a hospitality tent and ruined his best chance to claim a U.S. Open title.

Winged Foot will play 7,429 yards to its par 70, one of the longest U.S. Open setups ever. The greens were restored in 2016 and are now massive surfaces that look like the ones Bobby Jones putted on when he won the U.S. Open here in 1929. Nearly all slope back to front, and they will be firm and fast, making spin and distance control essential. We can expect the USGA to tuck pins into the back corners to challenge golfers to either take their chances going for it and risk a dicey chip from thick rough or play it safe and leave a 30-foot undulating putt.

While the length will certainly play to the strengths of the longer hitters, finding the fairway will be absolutely essential. The first cut of rough is not expected to be too filthy, but the primary rough around 8 to 10 feet off the fairway will be downright diabolical. No doubt some will still challenge to leave a wedge out of the rough rather than a mid-iron from the fairway, but as mentioned above, spin and distance control are the key skills on approach and chunking it out of the rough eliminates both for even the best golfers.

With hot and humid June conditions no longer in play, golfers will see nice mild temperatures topping out in the 70s. A possible shower on Friday is the only blip, but the real key here is that the ball will not carry like it does in summer weather. Golfers going off in the morning where lows are expected to dip below 50 degrees could see even more flight resistance off the tee.

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: Winged Foot Golf Club
Par: 70
Distance: 7,469 yards
Fairways/Rough: Bentgrass
Greens: Poa (80%)/Bentgrass (20%)

Geoff Ogilvy was the beneficiary of Mickelson's blunder, sitting in the clubhouse at 5-over par and surely not expecting to hoist the trophy. Phil was tied with two others at plus-6, and ultimately only 15 golfers in the field finished within 10 strokes of even par. The field -- and, let's be honest, equipment -- is so far superior in the current era that it would be surprising to see that type of carnage. But as Olympia Fields showed just a few weeks ago, thick rough can still keep the scoring within a few strokes of par even for this current crop of PGA Tour pros.

Winged Foot calls to mind recent major championships in New York at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (2018 U.S. Open) and the Black Course at Bethpage Black (2019 PGA Championship). No golfer managed to break par at Shinnecock, and the Black Course saw only two golfers do better than 2-under after 72 holes. Of the golf courses on the schedule every year, we can look to long, challenging tracks like Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open) and Quail Hollow Golf Club (Wells Fargo Championship), though neither share grass characteristics with Winged Foot. Sheshan International Golf Club (WGC-HSBC Champions) is about as far as it gets from New York, but we see overlap with strong fields and tough conditions, as well as all-around class at the top of the leaderboard every year.

Key Stats

These stats will be key to success in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.

Key Stats for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club
Total Strokes Gained
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee / Total Driving
Strokes Gained: Approach
Bogey Avoidance
Scrambling Gained

Total strokes gained is a way to tilt our model toward the top overall golfers. A peak at leaderboards of years pasts shows that the cream generally rises to the top at major championships in general but especially the U.S. Open.

Driving is key this week, and either strokes gained: off the tee or total driving will do the trick. Golfers who are either both long and straight or dominant in one fashion will be the targets this week.

While we pound the drum for off the tee performance, let's not forget about the approach game. Finding the fairway is wasted if you can't set up an opportunity on the second shot, and with massive, undulating greens at Winged Foot, golfers will need precision and control with the irons.

And finally, this is the U.S. Open, so we have to weigh bogey avoidance and scrambling. The scoring stats, by their nature, factor in putting performance, and there would be a lot of noise and small sample alarms in any data measuring putting on a particular surface from, say, 20 feet or further. What we want here is to either create an opportunity or get up and down when you don't.

Course History Studs

For Winged Foot history, Mickelson obviously has the runner up. Ian Poulter finished T12 with Paul Casey right behind him in 15th. Adam Scott (T21), Henrik Stenson (T26), Charles Howell (T37), and Graeme McDowell (T48) made the cut in 2006, while Tiger Woods was among a few others that played back then and missed the cut. Woods' MC is notable in that he had just two such finishes in majors the entire decade and just three others outside the top 25.

As for U.S. Open history, our king Koepka is out with an injury, so the most recent FedEx Cup Winner Dustin Johnson boasts the best recent record at USGA setups, with a win in 2016 among four top-5 finishes in the past six years. Xander Schauffele has finished T3, T6, and T5 in the last three, his only U.S. Open starts. Others with solid recent results are Louis Oosthuizen (five straight top 25s including two top 10s), Justin Rose, and Henrik Stenson (each with consecutive top 10s the past two years).



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.