We’re in full swing for another Major week, and you know what that means. We’ve got some Blood. We’ve got some Sweat. And most importantly, we’ve got some Tiers! In this article, I’ve dissected my favorite Bet to Win, DFS value, Dark Horse, and Fade within each pricing Tier based on Draft Kings pricing. There’s a whole lot to get to, so let’s jump straight into it!
Tier 1: $10K+
Players: Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepke
Best Bet to Win: Jon Rahm (+1000)
What’s not to like about Jon Rahm? He only needed 3 rounds to win* the Memorial by 4 strokes over Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay at -16 last we saw him. He’s been his elite self all year in 2021 T2G, where he ranks 11th, he just hasn’t gotten any putts to drop as he’s continued to cycle through new Callaway brand putters. Something clicked at Muirfield however, as he gained 5 strokes putting over just 3 measured rounds.
The history at Torrey Pines is undoubtedly there. He picked up his first career PGA Tour victory in his debut at the Farmers in 2017 and later came back to these grounds to propose to his girlfriend. He loves it here. He also loves any long, difficult course with thick rough you throw his way, as evidenced by his 2* wins at Muirfield Village in as many years to go along with another win at the BMW Championship in similar conditions last season. With his health no longer in question, the stars have all aligned for a motivated Rahm to pursue his first career Major, with top odds well justified.
Best DFS Value: Brooks Koepka ($10,100)
Gotta be Brooks, right? The last 3 US Opens he’s played in, he’s finished 2, 1, 1. He has 15 finishes at Majors inside the Top 11 in his 9 year career. Since 2014, he has only missed the cut in one Major, and that was at the Masters this year where he clearly rushed himself out to play before being fully recovered. When it comes to Brooks in Majors, we should have learned by now that you don’t question the form or the fit, you just set him and forget him in your lineups. But of all the Majors, the US Open especially will always favor Brooks, as regardless of the venue, they are going to set it up to reward longer hitters who can grind it out in difficult scoring conditions. We watched Brooks do that most recently at the longest course we’ve seen all year, Kiawah Island where he finished Runner Up, and as we turn the page to the next Major at the second longest track of the year, Torrey Pines South, it’s no stretch to imagine another repeat performance from Brooks. Koepka has finished inside the Top 20 in every US Open start since 2014, and as more time passes to recover since his knee surgery, we should expect Brooks to continue to improve.
Dark Horse: Jordan Spieth (8% Proj Ownership)
I have begun writing this without seeing the ownership projections, but based on everything I’ve seen in the week leading up to this event, nobody is giddy to play Jordan Spieth. It’s not that they shouldn’t be, but he’s not the quintessential bomber most people are looking to pay up for here for a US Open at Torrey Pines, so I expect most DFS players will gravitate to Rahm, DJ, Bryson, Brooks, and Rory all around him at higher ownership.
[Note: I have checked ownership projections since writing this first paragraph, and can confirm, no one is playing Spieth]
While his choke job at Colonial was borderline unforgiveable to me on a personal level due to my stake in that particular event, I’m eying him very closely as a leverage play if he does continue to fly under the radar. I’ve made it clear at this point I’m all aboard with Patrick Reed this week who won at Torrey earlier this year, and if you compare the skill sets of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, they’re almost exact copies of each other in terms of middling OTT stats to go along with elite short games. Spieth just has the added Approach marksmanship to go with it. He’s #1 SG: TOT L36 rounds thanks to ranks of 9th SG: SG and 6th SG: APP in the same span. His distance is just fine ranking 45th in the field, his form is white hot with 7 T10s in his last 11 starts, and he’s already proven he can win a US Open. Maybe this price tag isn’t as crazy as it seems?
Fade: Dustin Johnson
Rare that the world #1 should present the most question marks in the upper tier of the board, but looking at our options between Rahm, Spieth, DJ, Bryson, and Brooks in this $10K+ range, DJ gets me the least excited. Aside from winning, there’s really nothing DJ could have done at the Palmetto Championship to change my opinion on the current state of his game. He is still searching for answers with the putter and the driver has not been as cooperative as we’ve come to expect. He’ll always pop as a fit for US Opens, but the lukewarm history at Torrey Pines is a bit of a flag to go along with the recent up and down form; in the last 10 years, he’s only come to Torrey Pines 5 times, with 2 MCs, a T51, T43, and T18 in that span.
Tier 2: $9K
Players: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed
Best Bet to Win: Collin Morikawa (+2500)
His last 3 wins have come in some of the toughest fields the Tour has to offer, coming at the WGC Workday, PGA Championship, and Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village. His wins at Muirfield Village and TPC Harding Park came in challenging scoring conditions with thick rough, and his win at the Concession came on a long course that rewarded avoiding trouble off the tee and hitting approaches into into smaller pockets of greatly undulated greens. Well mold that all together and you’ve got yourself the set up for the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines. As the week goes on, I expect the public will ultimately gravitate towards bombers with great US Open and/or Torrey Pines history. Collin is 0/3 in those categories, but you can make up for that when you’re elite on Approach (#1, obviously), avoid trouble off the tee, and have the familiarity with Poa greens that comes with being a California kid and Cal graduate. It will always come down to the putter with Collin, but having two weeks off to prep for a Major after a great showing at the Memorial last we saw him, we should expect him to be at his best this week.
Best DFS Value: Patrick Reed ($9,000)
We are back to TorReed Pines 5 months removed from his dominant 5 stroke blitz of the Field at the Farmers Insurance Open. He won with a score of -14, but after the USGA comes in to do their worst and whip this course into US Open shape, you can expect the winning score to be slashed in half this time around. That should actually play even more into Reed’s strengths the second time around, as a player like him who makes a living on Tour scrambling around the greens and holing longer putts should thrive in a setting that rewards Par as a good score on a majority of the holes. He’s never won a US Open, but has been knocking on the door with 3 finishes inside the Top 13 over his last 4 appearances. The more I’ve looked into comp courses this week, the more and more I’m drawn to Club de Golf Chapultepec, host of the WGC Mexico, where Reed won the last time it was contested in 2020. Chapultepec is another long, Par 71 course where hitting fairways is difficult. It also features the same mix of Kikuyu rough and Poa greens. That WGC was a real “Who’s who” at the time, as we may not have seen a more loaded top of the leaderboard than this since: Reed, DeChambeau, Rahm, McIlroy, Hatton, Matsuyama, Thomas all in the Top 8. The last time Reed was tested in similar conditions by all of the game’s best, he didn’t balk, and that’s the kind of emotional fortitude I want to get behind at a Major. If you’re still on the fence about playing Patrick Reed, you can read more about him in my Spotlight Feature of the week.
Dark Horse: Justin Thomas (9% Proj Ownership)
How did we let this happen? Justin Thomas is #2 in the field SG: T2G L36, and won THE PLAYERS within that span, and yet despite slipping to a lower price and odds now than the week he last won, I look around Twitter and nobody wants anything to do with him?
Those fading JT have only one reason not to be bullish at his price this week, and that’s the putter, so I’ll concentrate the rest of this write up on why you should reconsider that apprehension.
Justin Thomas is not a bad putter, he’s a volatile putter. He ranks 98th in the field SG: P over the last 36 rounds, and for demonstration purposes we’ll compare him to Hideki Matsuyama, who ranks two places behind him at 100th SG: P. In the 9 measured events over his last 36 rounds played, Thomas has gained strokes in 5 of them, so more often than not recently, Justin Thomas has been better than the field putting. In 3 of the instances where he’s not gained strokes putting, however, it’s been a disaster. He lost 5.8 strokes at the Genesis, 6.5 strokes at the Valspar, and 8.4 strokes at the Memorial, so three drastically poor putting outings can quickly overshadow the positive results. Hideki Matsuyama on the other hand has lost strokes putting in 9 of his last 12 events. The poor results are not as severe, but the upside to have a good showing with the putter is hardly there. When paying up for Thomas’ price, you are banking on the upside, and the percentages show he is more likely than not to gain on the field this week.
To go a step further into Thomas’s putting trends, the ceiling is plenty high on Poa greens going off of historical results. He has only played Torrey Pines twice, but in one of those appearances, he gained 7.6 strokes putting on these greens. At the aforementioned comp course of Chapultepec, Thomas has gained 3.6+ strokes putting in 3 of his 4 career appearances. And even at Riviera, the other most notable West Coast Poa track, Thomas has gained 4.3+ strokes putting in 2 of his last 4 starts. The putter is the only thing that will stand in Thomas’ way of winning at Torrey Pines given how sharp he’s been T2G with the distance to match, and history shows there is reason for optimism that he can turn things around on the greens this week.
Fade: Xander Schauffele
You are not allowed to be neutral to Xander Schauffele this week, you are either in or you’re out. I am in what appears to be the minority when I say I am out on the projected highest owned player on Draft Kings this week, as I will have no exposure to him this week at all.
It’s a rock and hard place for Xander Schauffele this week, who’s never finished worse than T6 at a US Open in 4 career appearance, but has missed the cut more at Torrey Pines (4) than any other course on Tour. I think it’s fair to credit the lack of success here to the nerves of playing in front of his friends and family in his hometown of San Diego, especially from a player who we’ve seen crumble to nerves down the stretch most recently when sniffing contention at the Masters, WMPO, and the Sentry TOC. To Xander’s credit, he has attributed the historical poor Torrey Pines results to “always feeling sick in January” and not any sort of nerves. I’m not buying that at all considering the last time he won an event was the 2019 Sentry TOC…in January. I’m also not willing to call it pure coincidence that Xander’s only T20 finish at Torrey Pines came in front of no fans at the Farmers Insurance Open this year, by way of backdooring into a T2 finish 5 strokes behind Patrick Reed.
Every statistical angle points towards playing Xander, but my heart says this event is too much pressure, so I’m fading the price and ownership for a player who will need another T5 finish to pay it off.
Tier 3: $8K
Players: Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler, Daniel Berger, Tyrrell Hatton, Corey Conners, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Cameron Smith
Best Bet to Win: Daniel Berger (+5000)
I’ll preface by saying that I’m going heavy on the top of the board for my betting card and then sprinkling in some bombs at the bottom, so I may actually not have any exposure to this range on my outright card from a betting perspective. But the guy I’ll have the most FOMO over going into Thursday is Daniel Berger.
I talked at length in my Tournament Preview about how nobody on the PGA Tour is more disrespected by sportsbooks than Patrick Reed. I may need to amend that statement because lately Daniel Berger has been equally as undervalued without any reason. Berger has twelve finishes of T15 or better since the COVID restart, including wins at the Charles Schwab Challenge and AT&T Pro-Am in that span. The short game has been a bit suspect over the last couple months, but looking long term, Berger is a player who profiles to gain strokes across all major categories, which is what you want to see from a US Open contender. He’s one of just 10 players in the field this week to rank Top 50 in both Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy, good for 14th SG: OTT. Since the BMW Championship in 2020, Berger has lost strokes on Approach on just one occasion, and that’s good enough to rank 10th in this field SG: APP. That ball striking should set him up to make a run as long as the wedges cooperate when they need to.
Best DFS Value: Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100)
Is there a better free square value on the Draft Kings DFS slate this week than Louis Oosthuizen at $8,100? He truly is Brooks Koepka light at this price tag, as Louis has not missed a cut at any Major since 2017 and has fired 6 consecutive T25 finishes at US Opens. In his last four Majors, he’s finished 2nd at the PGA Championship, 26th & 23rd at The Masters, and 3rd at the last US Open at Winged Foot. Despite the decorated pedigree, the former Open Champion is likely to still go overlooked because he’s not a sexy play, he lacks the distance most players are going for, he’s never won an event inside the United States (he does have 8 Runner Ups though), and he’s still a flight risk to WD at a moment’s notice. But aside from a random WD, none of this should matter in DFS. He has no MCs in 2021 and you’d have to go back to TPC Harding Park last August to find the last time Louis lost strokes on the greens, and even then he still managed to pull off a T33 finish. Louis had no business hanging around the top of the leaderboard at Winged Foot at last year’s US Open with bombers like Bryson, Wolff, DJ, and Xander, but having a consistently hot putter is a great way to make up for the lack of distance. And while he’s going to putt well no matter where he goes, it’s especially encouraging that Poa is far and away his preferred putting surface. His last appearance on Poa? Right here at the Farmers earlier this year where he went on to gain 7 strokes putting.
Dark Horse: Justin Rose (7% Proj Ownership)
Speaking of South African former Major Champions with consistent Major success who are WD risks and not the sexiest of plays, it’s Justin Rose! The 2013 US Open champ is currently on a stretch of 3 T10 finishes over his last 5 Majors, including back to back T10 finishes in 2021 at the Masters and PGA Championship. Rose is currently riding a scorching putter, having gained 18 strokes putting over his last two events at the Charles Schwab and PGA Championship. His Masters stats aren’t measured, but I would estimate to say his strokes gained on the greens there were also “a lot”. Rose has the lethal combination of Course History (a win and two other T10s at Torrey Pines over his last 4 starts) and Event History (2 T10s in his last 3 US Opens). His form stats may not jump off the page, but it hasn’t seemed to matter in the past for Rose who has consistently shown up in the biggest events year over year.
Fade: Webb Simpson
I’m still not convinced Webb is fully healthy, and coming into the most trying event of the year in the US Open, I worry that Webb just hasn’t gotten enough reps in lately to round out the form leading into this week. Despite his lack of distance, the 2012 US Open champ actually has a nice track record in this event, coming off of 3 straight T20 finishes, but he’s needed an elite short game to bail himself out from his positions off the tee to do so, and having played in just 4 events since February coming in, I worry his game won’t be as sharp as we’ve usually come to expect.
Webb is a player I’m looking to target against in Matchups or missed cut props this week. I just don’t see this being the course fit for him and the recent form hasn’t shown me that he’s ready to put it all together in a Major just yet.
Tier 4: $7K
Players: Paul Casey, Abraham Ancer, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Sam Burns, Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry, Sungjae Im, Jason Kokrak, Gary Woodland, Joaquin Niemann, Sergio Garcia, Brian Harman, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, Harris English, Billy Horschel, Max Homa, Si Woo Kim, Christian Bezhuidenhout, Brendan Grace, Garrick Higgo, Stewart Cink, Matthew Wolff, Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Matt Wallace, Kevin Streelman, Francesco Molinari, Carlos Ortiz, Ryan Palmer, Kevin Na, Charl Schwartzel, Cameron Champ, Robert MacIntyre, Ian Poulter, Matt Jones, Russell Henley
Best Bet to Win: Charley Hoffman (110/1)
Charley Hoffman has got to be the most underpriced guy on the board this week, and he’ll likely be the only bet I place north of 40/1. Why all the disrespect for the Hoff? In this homecoming for the San Diego native, Charley comes in ranking 5th SG: TOT, 8th SG: T2G, 3rd SG: BS, and 2nd SG: APP over the last 36 rounds. I don’t care who else is in this field, you can’t slap 110/1 odds on any player with those numbers. Going further, he’s 4th Birdies Gained, 11th Driving Distance, 14th GIRs, 43rd Scrambling, and Top 20 in Par 3, 4, and 5 Scoring.
His Course History is perfectly fine with two career T10s including a T9 in his latest appearance here in 2020, and his US Open history is just as solid with a T20 and T8 in his last two appearances. I wrote more about my love affair for Hoffman this week in the Tournament Preview and just don’t see any discernable reason not to back him this week at this price.
Best DFS Value: Garrick Higgo ($7,200)
We haven’t seen much from Higgo, but how much more do we really need to see from this kid who’s strung together 3 wins between the Euro Tour and PGA Tour over the last month or so. Perhaps there’s a degree of a hangover to tee it up in your first US Open just 4 days removed from your first PGA Tour win, securing guaranteed Tour status for the next couple years, or perhaps he’s numb to the celebrations at this point after winning so often, and he’ll just waltz into San Diego and win another one of these American trophies or whatever. He’s a chalk play, as anyone who’s locked into pricing before winning a tournament would be, but with so little data available on him, I still think the masses will be less bullish to roster him than conventional wisdom would suggest.
Dark Horse: Sam Burns (9% Proj Ownership)
It didn’t take long before everyone turned their backs on Sam Burns again, even despite taking down his first career win at the Valspar and immediately following it up with a Runner Up at the Byron Nelson where he looked almost equally as dominant. Since then though, he was forced to WD from the PGA Championship with a back injury and looked up and down at the Memorial.
With Burns, we know at least two constants to be true: He’s going to hit the ball far, and he’s going to stripe his irons. Burns ranks 35th in Driving Distance and 15th SG: APP, which sets up perfectly to make a run at a US Open, assuming he is back to full health. He’s known as a Bermuda putting specialist, but last time he played on Poa greens, he gained 6.4 strokes at the Genesis en route to a T3 finish. The floor can be very low for Burns, but just 2 starts ago for him we were questioning if he’d ever lose again during the Byron Nelson, so we know how high the ceiling can get too.
Fade: Sergio Garcia
Let’s consult the flowchart. Is it a Major? Are we in a year before or after 2017? If after, we fade Sergio Garcia. There, this one was simple!
Tier 5: $6K
Players: Everyone else
Best Bet to Win: Wilco Nienaber (+25000)
Cameron Young is a coin flip honorable mention here, and I give both a <1% chance to actually win, but I just wanted to talk more about Wilco after his display last week.
The South African Bryson DeChambeau is licking his chops to get to a long US Open track that puts a premium on distance at the expense of driving accuracy. He may hit 0 fairways this week and that may not matter because he’s not going to be pulling out anything longer than a mid iron here with his built in distance. Sure there was plenty of run out on the firm, wide open fairways at Palmetto last week, but he still lapped the field in distance off the tee all week, averaging nearly 350 yards per drive. Doing some digging into the rest of his game, it’s not quite all the way there yet, as he has routinely lost strokes on Approach and ARG. This will be a tough test for Wilco, but he has the ability to get a hot putter, so if he can manage to play level to the field on Approach and Around The Green, he will position himself to make a Bryson-esque run at Torrey Pines, USGA be damned.
Best DFS Value: Brendan Steele ($6,500)
I don’t intend to play many players in the $6K range in DFS this week, but for lineups that need a salary saver, the man of Steele is about as low as I’m willing to “comfortably” go. He is the only player in the $6K range who carries above average ranks in SG: TOT L36 (61), SG: TOT – Torrey Pines (22), and SG: TOT – US Opens (53). If I’m dipping into the $6K range for my lineups this week, I am only asking to get through the cut and take whatever I can on the weekend from them. Nailing the trifecta of Recent Form, Course History, and Event History is a simple enough formula for me to get onboard Steele at this discounted price.
Dark Horse: Akshay Bhatia (0.0% Proj Ownership)
If you thought you weren’t going to hear about Akshay Bhatia’s Major debut in this article, you have come to the wrong website.
Since we last saw Akshay tee it up in a PGA Tour event, he’s been grinding out wins on mini tours and blitzing the field in every qualifier event he’s participated in. The dude is a stud and a prodigy, and I don’t care what the stats say, I’m rooting for him this week in some capacity. The last we saw Akshay at a US Open venue, he broke the Pebble Beach course record hitting all 18 greens in regulation on Thursday. Had it not been for Patrick Cantlay breaking the actual course record with a R1 62, Akshay would have been the first round leader, and by his early standards, he still went on to finish a respectable T30 that week.
One stat I actually do love for Akshay though is his putting. He’s a California kid through and through, which means familiarity with Poa greens. He’s played 3 California events on Poa greens in his young career, and gained 2+ strokes putting every single time. I didn’t really need any stats to get me onboard with Akshay here, but now that I know he’s a lock to gain 2 strokes on the greens, I’m locked in on Akshay.
Fade: Brendon Todd
I’m fading 99% of the $6K range but I do want to make an example out of Brendon Todd: Don’t play him. I played him at the 2020 US Open because the media narrative was that players who found their way into the rough would need to be carted out on a stretcher breaking their wrists attempting to hack through it. Was not the case! Todd actually led the field in driving accuracy that week, and it did not matter one bit. That’s because accuracy specialists are still going to miss the fairway, and if you don’t have distance in your arsenal, some of these Par 4s are going to be 3 shot holes to get onto the green. If you’re going to play a specialist this week, find one in Distance, Approach, or Short Game, not purely Driving Accuracy and/or Putting.