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Can Koepka Pull Off the Threepeat? Plays and Projections for the 2019 U.S. Open

After a weekend north of the border where Rory dismantled the field, we’re back in the states for the U.S. Open. Pebble Beach Golf Links will play host to the 2019 version of the event. It’s one of the most famous golf courses in the world, and one we’re quite familiar with as golf fans. There are some tweaks for this setup, though. The course will play as a par 71 with just three par 5s on the card. We’re used to the U.S. open featuring mammoth courses but Pebble will be just a shade above 7,000 yards, relying on other measures than distance to challenge the field. The greens and rough are poa annua grass and are littered with 118 bunkers.

The lack of the typical course preview is due to the fact that the Pebble Beach Pro-Am involved two other courses and the database doesn’t split them up. That’s compounded by the fact that this is a U.S. Open set-up and not what we’d typically see from our usual late winter stop on the Monterey Peninsula. I figured I’d give the basic trends for courses below 7,100 yards, but it should be pretty intuitive. Of the 499 golfers that have finished in the DK top 20, 84 (17%) have finished in the top 10 of driving distance compared to 98 (19%) that hit that same rank in driving accuracy. But greens in regulation, as always, is where the bread gets buttered. Nearly 30% of golfers in the top 20 of DK scoring hit the top 10 in GIR, as well.  

Checking the Chalk

There’s also this guy Brooks Koepka ($11,600) who will be popular and is in the field this week. All he’s done is win the last two of these tournaments and another major over the past couple of years. We’ve seen the way that he can dismantle a golf course in the past. This is a different test of skill than just bomb and gouge, though. Koepka has negative splits on courses shorter than 7,200 yards. That tidbit and potentially high ownership make an interesting case for a fade, but it’s a scary proposition if you go down that road. 

Rory McIlroy ($10,500) will be a name that many people are happy to click this week. From a fit perspective, he’s hard to argue against. McIlroy gains more strokes tee to green on courses that are less than 7,100 yards than longer courses, per the RotoViz Splits App. He’s coming off of a dominant performance where he came into the final round with a share of the lead and went on to win the tournament by seven strokes. Rory has the ability to dominate shorter courses and he comes in with great form. In fact, out of over 171,500 instances in my database, only 264 (0.15%) have hit his raw number in the model. Fun fact: Tiger Woods is on that list of 264 instances 147 times.

The man with 81 wins who is looking to add a 16th major to his resume is going to be at Pebble Beach this week. Tiger Woods ($10,700) is priced up as the third-highest golfer. After a missed cut at the PGA Championship, he finished in 9th place while gaining nearly 7.5 strokes tee-to-green at the Memorial. So far in 2019, he’s made seven starts with a win at Augusta, four other top 20s and a 30th-place finish. Woods has only hit fewer than 60% of his greens in regulation once in that timeframe. He’s averaging nearly 80 DK points in 2019.

Dustin Johnson ($11,300) left his wedges and putter at home last week. He lost strokes around the green and putting in the same event for the first time since April of 2018. Outside of a “hiccup” last week where he still finished 20th, his 2019 has been impressive. DJ has made a dozen starts so far and has only finished outside of the top 20 on two occasions. He’s 12-for-12 in world wide cuts and has carded 36 of his last 48 (75%)  rounds in the 60s. No matter what timeframe you break it out to, DJ is up near the top of the list in SG: Tee to Green.

Webb Simpson ($7,700) is coming off of a second place finish at the RBC Canadian Open last week. All four of his rounds were in the 60s thanks to excellent ball-striking that saw Simpson finding greens in regulation at a 70% clip. This shouldn’t be news, though. Since missing the cut at the Valspar Championship, Webb has made five straight cuts including a fifth place effort in Augusta. Since the start of 2014, he has averaged 3.4 strokes gained tee-to-green, but over his past five that number has ballooned up to 5.66, per the RotoViz Splits App.

GPP Plays

Depending on how the week goes, Shane Lowry ($7,500) could be in this category or the chalk category. Either way, he’s an intriguing option. He opened his season with a win in Abu Dhabi but went on to miss four of his next six cuts, completely losing it off the tee. Since that downswing, he’s finished in no worse than 8th place over his past three events. He’s averaging nearly 90 DK points over that stretch with 9 of 12 rounds in the 60s. Each part of his game clicked in Canada this week as he finished in second place while gaining strokes in every category. He also popped up with a high sim score to some guy named Dustin.

Billy Horschel ($7,200) popped in the model a bit this week. We’ve seen him go on these tears before where he seems unstoppable. Horschel has been trending upwards since a missed cut in Texas right before the Masters. Horschel now has three straight events in a row with a Top 25, culminating in a ninth-place effort at the Memorial a couple of weeks back. Since the start of 2014, he’s averaged 1.16 SG: Tee to Green. Over his past three starts, that number has gone up to nearly 6.6, per the RotoViz Splits App. Horschel has taken about six yards off his driving distance and is hitting more fairways over that stretch which would bode well for his chances this week.

Two of my favorite plays in the mid-$7,000 range are Matt Wallace ($7,600) and Emiliano Grillo ($7,400). Make sure to check out the Yahoo article for why I’m so high on them.

Erik Van Rooyen ($6,900) has a -1.4 Power Ranking,1 which gives him an 81 from the model this week. He’s made eight cuts out of his ten worldwide starts this season. During that stretch, EVR has finished in the top 20 a half-dozen times. He’s averaging 62.5 DK points over that timeframe.

Cash Locks

So far this season, the totals for the cash locks are 37/42 made cuts, 26/42 top 30s, and 14/42 top 10s. Here are this week’s cash locks:

  • Patrick Cantlay ($10,000) 
  • Matt Wallace ($7,900)

Ownership Projections and Model Results - U.S. Open

The second run of ownership projections...Some tweaks might be made tonight but these are pretty close to final.
NameDK$Ownership ProjectionPRK Score
Brooks Koepka$11,60017.30.76
Dustin Johnson$11,30024.40.93
Tiger Woods$10,70017.70.84
Rory McIlroy$10,50012.01.00
Jordan Spieth$10,30010.20.76
Patrick Cantlay$10,00020.70.93
Justin Rose$9,7006.20.88
Rickie Fowler$9,5009.00.83
Justin Thomas$9,30015.10.87
Jon Rahm$9,2006.90.72
Jason Day$9,10013.10.77
Francesco Molinari$9,0009.10.70
Tommy Fleetwood$8,90013.00.79
Hideki Matsuyama$8,80015.50.86
Xander Schauffele$8,70022.40.78
Adam Scott$8,60015.60.86
Matt Kuchar$8,50015.90.86
Tony Finau$8,4005.00.70
Paul Casey$8,30016.40.79
Phil Mickelson$8,20011.50.60
Bryson DeChambeau$8,1006.90.81
Gary Woodland$8,00010.00.70
Louis Oosthuizen$7,9005.70.66
Patrick Reed$7,9005.40.64
Sergio Garcia$7,8007.50.69
Marc Leishman$7,8006.60.78
Webb Simpson$7,70019.00.88
Kevin Na$7,7009.50.82
Rory Sabbatini$7,7003.60.71
Henrik Stenson$7,60017.50.79
Matt Wallace$7,6005.70.90
Bubba Watson$7,6005.50.64
Brandt Snedeker$7,50017.10.80
Shane Lowry$7,50015.80.81
Ian Poulter$7,5007.90.65
Kevin Kisner$7,4006.50.64
Martin Kaymer$7,4005.70.74
Emiliano Grillo$7,4005.50.78
Matthew Fitzpatrick$7,4003.10.60
Rafael Cabrera Bello$7,3006.10.70
Graeme McDowell$7,3009.20.74
J.B. Holmes$7,3003.00.60
Cameron Smith$7,3001.80.57
Tyrrell Hatton$7,2005.20.73
Jim Furyk$7,20013.30.74
Billy Horschel$7,2006.20.79
Branden Grace$7,2004.90.60
Hao-Tong Li$7,2001.70.56
Alexander Noren$7,1001.60.62
Cheng Tsung Pan$7,1002.60.76
Si Woo Kim$7,1003.80.66
Daniel Berger$7,1002.10.69
Luke List$7,1001.70.61
Keith Mitchell$7,1000.90.63
Keegan Bradley$7,0004.30.68
Lucas Glover$7,0004.20.71
Jimmy Walker$7,0003.00.64
Scott Piercy$7,0001.90.66
Zach Johnson$7,0001.50.69
Abraham Ancer$7,0001.50.63
Thomas Pieters$7,0001.20.76
Erik Van Rooyen$6,9007.20.81
Chez Reavie$6,9004.30.70
Jason Dufner$6,9003.50.65
Byeong-Hun An$6,9002.30.73
Bernd Wiesberger$6,9001.80.62
Justin Harding$6,9001.80.63
Charles Howell III$6,9001.50.65
Aaron Wise$6,9001.20.63
Danny Willett$6,8008.00.63
Andrew Putnam$6,8002.30.73
Kiradech Aphibarnrat$6,8001.70.67
Thorbjorn Olesen$6,8001.50.58
Kyle Stanley$6,8001.50.59
Lucas Bjerregaard$6,8001.50.54
Jhonattan Vegas$6,8001.30.66
Ryan Fox$6,8000.60.43
Kyoung-Hoon Lee$6,8000.40.66
Scott Scheffler$6,7002.30.67
Collin Morikawa$6,7001.90.78
Joel Dahmen$6,7001.70.63
Aaron Baddeley$6,7001.10.71
Matt Jones$6,7000.90.67
Viktor Hovland$6,7000.90.63
Patton Kizzire$6,7000.40.44
Sam Horsfield$6,7000.30.62
Ollie Schniederjans$6,7000.20.54
Harris English$6,7000.20.64
Brian Stuard$6,6001.90.67
Chesson Hadley$6,6000.50.56
Marcus Kinhult$6,6000.50.05
Anirban Lahiri$6,6000.20.56
Roberto Castro$6,6000.20.60
David Toms$6,6000.20.62
Luke Donald$6,6000.10.12
Luke Guthrie$6,6000.10.55
Nate Lashley$6,5000.70.51
Shugo Imahira$6,5000.50.55
Dean Burmester$6,5000.30.62
Nick Taylor$6,5000.20.69
Ernie Els$6,5000.20.55
Brandon Wu$6,5000.20.05
Zac Blair$6,5000.10.59
Tom Hoge$6,5000.10.54
Alex Prugh$6,5000.10.52
Adria Arnau$6,4000.30.05
Sam Saunders$6,4000.20.52
Stewart Hagestad$6,4000.10.20
Justin Walters$6,4000.10.05
Julian Etulain$6,4000.10.47
Renato Paratore$6,4000.10.52
Matthieu Pavon$6,4000.10.55
Brendon Todd$6,4000.10.36
Marcus Fraser$6,4000.10.46
Billy Hurley III$6,3000.10.05
Sepp Straka$6,3000.70.60
Mike Weir$6,3000.10.30
Chun An Yu$6,3000.10.05
Jovan Rebula$6,3000.10.05
Daniel Hillier$6,3000.10.05
Michael Thorbjornsen$6,3000.10.05
Andreas Halvorsen$6,3000.10.05
Lee Slattery$6,3000.10.72
Joseph Bramlett$6,3000.10.61
Mikumu Horikawa$6,2000.20.05
Devon Bling$6,2000.20.05
Charlie Danielson$6,2000.10.62
Nick Hardy$6,2000.10.62
Brett Drewitt$6,2000.10.58
Ryan Sullivan$6,2000.10.19
Chandler Eaton$6,2000.10.05
Cameron Young$6,2000.10.05
Clement Sordet$6,2000.10.05
Cody Gribble$6,2000.10.47
Callum Tarren$6,2000.10.05
Kodai Ichihara$6,1000.20.09
Chan Kim$6,1000.10.05
Carlos Ortiz$6,1000.10.51
Matt Parziale$6,1000.10.55
Matthew Naumec$6,1000.10.05
Noah Norton$6,1000.10.05
Eric Dietrich$6,1000.10.05
Hayden Shieh$6,1000.10.05
Spencer Tibbits$6,1000.10.05
Rhys Enoch$6,1000.10.05
Chip McDaniel$6,1000.00.59
Connor Arendell$6,0000.10.00
Rob Oppenheim$6,0000.10.46
Luis Gagne$6,0000.10.55
Brian Davis$6,0000.10.47
Andy Pope$6,0000.10.22
Kevin O'connell$6,0000.10.05
Richard H. Lee$6,0000.10.05
Austin Eckroat$6,0000.10.05
Merrick Bremner$6,0000.00.05
Image Credit: Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Brooks Koepka.

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  1. Golfers with a score between -1.5 to -1 have finished in the top 20 40% of the time.  (back)
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