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PGA DFS Primer: U.S. Open (2021)

by Matthew MacKay | @Matt_MacKay_ | Featured Writer
Jun 15, 2021

The sands at Congaree proved challenging, as expected, during the Palmetto Championship last weekend in South Carolina. The course’s unique layout, which traded in grass roughs for massive sand washes, allowed 22-year old South African Garrick Higgo to ascend the leaderboards and win (-11) the entire tournament in just his second start on the PGA Tour. Dustin Johnson surged into contention on Sunday until a triple bogey on the 16th hole derailed his chances, while English golfer Matt Fitzpatrick converted five birdies to finish T10 (-8) on the weekend. Some of my other recommended plays at Congaree couldn’t string together enough consistency with their performances, as Sungjae Im (-4), Ian Poulter (-5), and Tommy Fleetwood (-3) all finished within the top-40 but had a round or two where they finished a few strokes over par to lower their total fantasy output.

This week, nearly all of the golfers on Tour will be competing in the 121st U.S. Open at Torrey Pines South in San Diego, California. Several redesigns have occurred within the last 20 years at the South course, including one in 2019 by Rees Jones. The U.S. Open will return to this location for the first time since 2008, when Tiger Woods earned a playoff victory. Earlier this season, the Farmers Insurance Open hosted its annual tournament at Torrey Pines’ other course, which means Patrick Reed could be a strong play in your lineups this weekend after he won the Farmer’s Insurance Open (-14) back in January. I’ve selected a few golfers to target at the 2021 U.S. Open when constructing your lineups based on their skill set, salary, and recent performances.

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Previous Winners

  • 2020: Bryson DeChambeau (-6)
  • 2019: Gary Woodland (-13)
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (+1)
  • 2017: Brooks Koepka (-16)
  • 2016: Dustin Johnson (-4)

Course Overview

Torrey Pines South is the second of two courses at Torrey Pines, and it measures 7,652 yards with a par 71. The course has been redesigned many times, but Rees Jones made the most recent changes in 2019. They include modifications to holes 13 and 15 on the back-nine, which both present significant difficulty on approach shots. The updated fairways and greens overseen by Jones in 2001 and 2019 have created a lengthier challenge for golfers along the Pacific coastline.

Over 50 sand bunkers are scattered throughout the South course, and its terrain alternates between rolling slopes and flat surfaces. The ocean backdrop behind the cliffs that face south on certain holes creates a lot of difficulty due to depth perception, so golfers will need to be confident and accurate with their drivers on some of the longer par 4s and par 5s. The tee boxes and fairways are comprised of Kikuyu grass, while the greens are a mixture of Bentgrass and Poa Annua to create fast, rolling putts on shallow greens. Torrey Pines South opens with a 450-yard par 4 with a green flanked by two sand bunkers, while hole 18 is a massive par 5 that twists along a 570-yard fairway. Those holes make a strong start and finish imperative to success at Torrey Pines.

Relevant Betting Stats

  • Greens in Regulation (GIR)
  • Driving Accuracy
  • Driving Distance
  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
  • Birdie Average

Recommended Plays: DraftKings

Collin Morikawa ($9,500)

The 24-year old Collin Morikawa has been on an absolute tear in his last three tournament appearances, finishing T14 or better, including a T2 (-13) finish at the Memorial Tournament a couple of weeks ago. Morikawa ranks first in GIR percentage (71.83%) and first in birdie average (4.54 per round). He also ranks first in strokes gained approaching the green and tee-to-green, which allows him to overcome an often inefficient putter to finish near the top of the leaderboard. He is a great value on DraftKings at $9,500, as he falls under the $10,000 salary threshold that will allow you to roster an elite golfer like Jon Rahm or Jordan Spieth. Morikawa has phenomenal navigation of fairways, which positions him for success on the lengthy fairways of Torrey Pines South this weekend.

Patrick Cantlay ($9,100) 

Riding the momentum off of his victory at the Memorial Tournament in early June, Patrick Cantlay is another golfer who could enjoy immense success at the U.S. Open this weekend. Confidence is key in the sport of golf, and he has plenty of it, having finished within the top-20 seven times since the beginning of 2021. His salary is reduced due to four missed cuts scattered throughout March, April, and May, but Cantlay is dominant in nearly all strokes gained categories. In addition to being efficient in strokes gained, Cantlay ranks 18th in GIR percentage and averages 4.31 birdies per round. You can insert Cantlay into your lineups with confidence heading into Thursday morning at Torrey Pines South.

Patrick Reed ($9,000)

As the winner of the Farmer’s Insurance Open back in January, Patrick Reed is an underrated play at Torrey Pines South this weekend. The 30-year old has a hot putter, ranking fourth in strokes gained from putting on Tour this season, and he also is excellent at digging himself out of sand traps. With a total of 54 sand bunkers littered throughout the 18 holes at Torrey Pines South, Reed will be able to get out of bad landing spots if his driver is unable to go the full distance or navigate around a particular bunker. Reed finished fifth (-8) at the Memorial and T17 (E) at the PGA Championship while missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge in between the two strong outings. His familiarity with the Kikuyu and bentgrass, along with arguably the best putter on Tour and efficiency in strokes gained from tee-to-green, combine to make Reed an excellent play in your lineups this weekend.

Recommended Plays: FanDuel

Webb Simpson ($10,300)

Simpson is the definition of consistency. The 35-year old North Carolina native has made 12 of 13 cuts in the tournaments that he has competed in this season, including a T9 (-11) finish at RBC Heritage back in April. Simpson finished in the top ten during the 2020 U.S. Open this past September, but he’ll be dealing with a new course this time at Torrey Pines South. He generates a lot of opportunities in strokes gained categories, and he boasts an exceptional putter. His tee-to-green and around-the-green shots also reflect mastery of the irons. The only glaring red flag is Simpson’s inability to drive the ball far — he averages only 292.7 yards per drive, which he’ll need to bail out by efficient second and third swings because of the course’s length. Overall, Simpson is a quality addition to your lineups and should produce significant points because he has averaged 4.28 birdies per round on Tour this season.

Phil Mickelson ($9,400)

One of the most legendary veteran golfers on the PGA Tour, 50-year old Phil Mickelson, came out of nowhere to steal the spotlight and first place at the PGA Championship at Kiawah a few weeks ago. However, he has been wildly inconsistent, and he hasn’t produced the statistics to justify adding him to your lineup — other than his experience and historical ability to play well at past U.S. Opens. Mickelson can still crush the ball off the tee with a strong driver, as he ranks 46th on Tour with 302.8 yards averaged per drive. He also is decent at scoring birdies, averaging just under 3.75 per round. Again, this certainly isn’t the sexiest pick in terms of statistics, but Mickelson has already proven us wrong once on the East Coast, so why can’t he do it again out West? At this salary, I’m willing to roster Mickelson for his upside and past success at U.S. Open tournaments.

Shane Lowry ($9,600)

Flying low under the radar, Shane Lowry is one of my favorite sleeper picks at Torrey Pines South this weekend. The 34-year old Irishman has three top-ten finishes in his last four tournament appearances, relying on strokes gained tee-to-green and around-the-green to position himself for multiple attempts at par or better. Although Lowry’s putter is a bit suspect, as he ranks 134th on Tour this season, he ranks much better in GIR percentage and averages 3.79 birdies per round. That should translate into solid point production in your lineups at the U.S. Open this weekend. He is heating up at the right time and costs just $10,000 at FanDuel, which will allow you to add a quality player without sacrificing a significant portion of your $60,000 salary.

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Whether you’re new to daily fantasy golf or a seasoned professional, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Golf Glossary. You can get started with The Stats That Matter Most or head to a more advanced strategy — like How To Use Vegas Odds To Generate Your Lineup  — to learn more.

Matthew MacKay is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matthew, check out his archive and follow him @Matt_MacKay_.

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