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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 U.S. Open Championship

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The year’s second major is upon us as we head to New York for the 118th U.S. Open Championship. New look Shinnecock Hills will play host to what is often the toughest test of the year. What will greet the 156 players in the field this week will be a firm and fast golf course that will play very long. At over 7,400 yards, Shinnecock Hills will prove a daunting prospect to the players, and the fact that it’s a par-70 will make things even tougher for the elite field.

An exposed golf course, wind could play a significant factor this week (although the forecast suggests it shouldn’t do so). Shinnecock Hills last hosted the U.S. Open back in 2004, where Retief Goosen triumphed and only two players finished under par for the week. Length, ball striking, approach play and greens in regulation will all be vitally important this week, and as always at this championship, the ability to hole clutch par putts will be significant. Last year, Brooks Koepka won his first major at Erin Hills, posting 17-under par for the week to win by four strokes. Don’t expect any numbers like that this week.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 14/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Justin Thomas 16/1
  • Rickie Fowler 16/1
  • Jason Day 18/1
  • Jordan Spieth 18/1

Ten years on from one of Tiger’s most incredible achievements, which saw him triumph against all the odds on one leg, Woods returns to this year’s U.S. Open still in search of his elusive 15th major. Do I think Woods can win at Shinnecock Hills? Absolutely. His iron play currently is electric. Over the past 12 rounds, Woods ranks first for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, fifth in Ball Striking and fourth in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green.

Many detractors will point to his putting woes of late, but that is the one part of a player’s game that is most liable to change in a short space of time. Proof of this was at The Players Championship in between Woods’ two poor putting weeks, an event where Woods finished in the top-20 for Strokes Gained-Putting. He led the field at the Memorial tee to green, and with slightly wider fairways than usual at a U.S. Open, there is no doubt that Woods is a contender this week. As is usually the case with Woods, however, not much value is offered at his price.

Still, let’s enjoy the moment of where we find Woods and his game compared to the last few U.S. Opens.

With a 156-man field and only the top-60 and ties making it through to the weekend, there is an even greater demand and reward on building a lineup capable of making it through all four days. It’s safe to say that if you can get all your players through to the weekend, then you’re looking at a very successful week. For that reason, Dustin Johnson (9/1, DK Price $11,700) is the man to lean on with your DraftKings lineup despite his skinny betting odds. Form-wise, what is there to say? He just lapped the field at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis with consummate ease to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, and the big man hasn’t finished outside the top-20 in an event all year.

Over his previous 12 rounds, Johnson ranks first in Ball Striking and Strokes Gained-Total and second in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. He hasn’t missed a cut in 12 months, and Shinnecock Hills should be a golf course that suits his game. For his last 36 rounds on courses measuring greater than 7,400 yards, Johnson ranks second for Strokes Gained-Total, and there was a sense with his victory last week that there is still more to come. Despite U.S. Opens often exposing even the best players in the world, Johnson is the only man in the field that I would genuinely be shocked to see not make the cut. Many see him as a virtual lock to be in contention come Sunday, and I agree. Bite the bullet with his salary.

With a win and four other top-20 finishes in 2018, Paul Casey’s (50/1, DK Price $8,000) level of play has been consistently good all year. The Englishman has the game capable of competing at Shinnecock Hills with his excellent ball striking as his primary asset. Over his last 12 rounds, Casey sits 10th in Ball Striking, 15th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 14th for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green. Even his putting, which has often been his nemesis, has looked good recently. He ranks a solid 14th in Strokes Gained-Putting over the same period.

Casey has made the cut in four of his last five U.S. Opens, and he will be aiming for more than just making the weekend as he enters this event playing some of the best golf of his career. In his last outing on the PGA Tour, he recorded a top-5 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship and backed that up with a top-20 finish at the BMW PGA Championship. In an event where steady and consistent ball striking is vitally important, Casey looks a safe bet to add to your lineups.

Speaking of consistency, Matt Kuchar (80/1, DK Price $7,600) has now made 30 of his last 31 cuts on Tour. It’s a remarkable statistic and one that I expect to improve to 31/32 after this week. Despite this, Kuchar has had a quiet year by his standards, but he appears to be trending upward right now. Over his previous eight rounds, Kuchar ranks 15th for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green and for the season is T-19 for Par 4 Scoring Average, an encouraging sign for tackling a course with as many as 12 par 4s.

The main reason I think Kuchar is such a good play for DraftKings lineups this week, along with his regularity at making cuts, is his price. At $7,600, Kuchar is the same price as Keegan Bradley (who incidentally I feel could also play well this week), yet the disparity in their betting odds is vast with Kuchar priced at 80/1 compared to Bradley’s 150/1. Kuchar is undoubtedly undervalued in the DraftKings market and looks a great play this week as he comes to Shinnecock Hills having made his last eight U.S. Open cuts.

Finally, deviating away from consistency and looking for cheap boom-or-bust potential, the enigmatic Si-Woo Kim (150/1, DK Price $7,000) seems an exciting prospect at his second U.S Open. Kim has made his last six cuts on Tour. Among these events was a runner-up finish at The Heritage, which he really should have won, and a top-25 at the Masters.

Statistically, Kim doesn’t show anything truly spectacular, although the Korean ranks a steady 22nd for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee, which should bode well on such a long golf course. Kim also plays tough golf courses well. Along with his runner-up at The Heritage, he has won The Players Championship, and at last year’s U.S. Open he entered the final round in sixth place before a poor Sunday dropped him back to T-13. At a very cheap price and the mercurial potential to find form in big events, Si-Woo Kim makes for an attractive play this week.

Recommended Bets

  • Dustin Johnson 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Paul Casey 50/1, DK Price $8,000
  • Matt Kuchar 80/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Si-Woo Kim 150/1, DK Price $7,000
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Podcasts

Mondays Off: Tipping Dos and Don’ts, Does Jordan Spieth really have the yips?

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Steve and Knudson talk about a PGA Tour pro allegedly tipping his caddie only $3,000 after winning a tournament. Steve gives Knudson a lesson on who he should tip and when during a visit to a private club. Finally, Steve then tells us why Jordan Spieth doesn’t have the yips and what you can do to help with the yips if you have them!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: George Dunne National in Oak Forest, Illinois

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member DeeBee30, who takes us to George Dunne National in Oak Forest, Illinois. The course is a part of the Illinois Forest Preserve golf system, and in DeeBee30’s description of the course, the challenge provided is underlined as just one of the highlights of the course.

“Really fun tree-lined parkland layout with some interesting holes that cover rolling terrain that you don’t find in many Chicago-area golf courses.  Coming in at 7262 yards and 75.4/142 from the tips, Dunne offers four sets of tees that will provide a good test for most golfers.  The course gets a lot of play, but it’s always in great condition.”

According to George Dunne National’s website, 18 holes during the week will cost in the region of $40, while the rate rises to $75 should you want to play on the weekend.

@ThomasRWitt1963

@GolfTfs

@Kurtis1908

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Opinion & Analysis

NCAA Transfer Portal: What the data says so far

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As reported, in September 2018 the NCAA made major changes to the rules by introducing new legislation which allowed players to transfer without a release and be signed up for a website which provided their information for all coaches. The idea was to make the process of transferring easier on the student athlete. three months into the process, we wanted to look at the numbers and see what, if anything we could learn from transfers so far…

When looking at these numbers, keep in mind that since September sixty-four (64) players in Division I and Division II have signed up for the portal and here are the transfers that I am aware of

  • Birgir Bjorn Magnusson from Bethany (NAIA) to Southern Illinois
  • Laken Hinton from Augusta State to Ohio State
  • Colin Bowles from Ohio State to Georgia Southern
  • Brandon Gillis from Wake Forrest to Rhode Island
  • Drew Powell from Brown University to Duke University
  • Jeff Doty from North Florida to Kansas

When looking at the transfers, keep in mind that Birgir at the time of the transfer was ranked No. 3 in NAIA golf with a stroke average of 72.09 and four top 10s in the fall. His WAGR has also significantly improve to a very solid current ranking of 473, which would put him among the top third of college players in the WAGR.

It is also important to remember that my data demonstrates that only about 6/64 player where immediately able to get deals to transfer. That means that 90 percent of players (58/64), got nothing. Not very good odds, but honestly not surprising since even with the portal, transferring is still going to be a major issue because of two reasons

  • Transfer Credits: most schools at best are going to take 2 years of credits, this means anyone past their sophomore year, who is unhappy, is likely going to have to do a full extra year of school to graduate. However, this is not to say that all schools will take all credits; it is more likely that only very generally 100 level classes will transfer.
  • Anchoring Heuristic: a single question survey of 10 coaches demonstrates that all 10 have at least some reservations about transfers; what’s wrong with this player? Why did it not work the first time? Why is the second time going to be any better?

In creating the portal, the NCAA has not dealt with the real issue; most young athletes have no idea what really to expect at the college level. The fact is that if you sign up to play golf at Auburn University, although you may get a scholarship, you have likely spent close to 100k on golf clubs, balls, lessons, memberships, trips and tournaments. Your reward? A grueling beat down of class responsibilities, tutoring and endless competition with the best golfers in the world. It’s hard and golfers who excel in college golf posses’ resilience, adaptability, coachability and grit.

There will be some golfers reading this article who are considering transferring, for those, I offer this advice: it’s not going to get any easier. Life is a curial, hard place and if you have any big aspirations for yourself, you will need to learn to be tough, fight through adversity and believe in yourself. Don’t let these questions stop you, instead let them motivate you and use your college coach, swing coach and family to figure out ways to become better.

With the NCAA reporting a transfer rate of approximately eight percent across all of college sport, it is likely that as player come closer to March, we will see a surge in players on the portal. The question is, what will happen to these players? My guess is, in the longer term we will see a lot more losers than winners.

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