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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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Opinion & Analysis

Prospective NCAA Golfers, are you ready for September 1? Here’s what you should be doing

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In June, I reported changes to the NCAA rules, including new legislation that prevented college coaches from contacting a prospective student athlete before September 1 of their Junior Year. With September 1 just around the corner, the question is: are you ready?

If not, don’t worry. As always, I am here to help you understand the college landscape and find the best opportunity to pursue your passion in college! Here’s what you need to know:

Be Prepared

Over time, you are going to hear from some coaches. It is important that students are prepared to talk to coaches. Before speaking to a coach, it is important to do research about their institution; what are the grades required for admissions? How many players are on the team? How much of the student population lives on campus? Know the basics before your conversation.

It is also important that you are ready to answer a couple questions. Coaches are very likely to ask, why are you interested in my school? Tell me about your grades or academic interests? Or, tell me about your golf game? Be honest and remember a passion for the game goes a long way.

Coaches are also likely to ask if you have any questions. Having a couple questions written down is important. If you are not sure what to ask, here are some questions I recommend:

  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What is your favourite part of coaching?
  • What type of student best fits in at your university?
  • What type of athlete best fits in?
  • What are the goals for the golf program?
  • How do you determine who play play in your top 5 at tournaments?
  • Do you ever take more than 5 players to a tournament?
  • What access does the team have to golf courses?
  • Is it expected to have your own vehicle?
  • Do you do any technical swing work with the players?
  • What is your greatest strength as a coach?
  • Do you offer academic support, such as tutors for students?
  • What percent of teachers have terminal degrees?
  • How does my major (X) impact golf? Can I do it and golf?
  • Do you support graduates in getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting into grad schools?

Know the Numbers

With only a couple weeks before September 1, I would recommend you take time and see where you (or your son and daughter) stands on websites such as Junior Golf Scoreboard or Rolex AJGA Rankings. Now that you know the number, consider in several previous articles I have presented how rankings related to college signings. My analysis of the numbers demonstrates that, for boys, the average Division I player is ranked approximately 300 in Junior Golf Scoreboard in their class with a scoring differential of about .5. The average Division II player is ranked about 550 in their class. For girls, it appears that ranking is less important, but there is a strong relationship between scoring differential and college signings. Girls that sign at schools within the top 50 have scoring differentials of at least -3 or better, while the average for any Division I player is approximately 5.

Keep in mind that when you search on Junior Golf Scoreboard for yourself, it will show your ranking overall. This number is going to be much lower for your ranking in your class. Without a subscription, you will not be able to find your exact rank, but I would generally say you can cut the number by about 50 percent to give yourself a fair gauge. So if you are 3750 overall, you are likely close to 1875 in your class.

For many members of the junior class reading this article, they may see that their ranking might be significantly higher than these numbers. Don’t panic; the rankings are over a 1-year period. After a year, old scores drop off and new scores can be counted. Also, on Junior Golf Scoreboard, your worst 25 percent of rounds are not counted. So, you have time to continue to work on your game, improve your ranking and get the attention of coaches!

Do your research

Now that you have an idea about your ranking, start researching. Where did players of similar rank sign last year? What is the rank of that school? What schools are ranked about the same? Answering these questions will require some time and two resources; Junior Golf Scoreboard and Golfstat.com. To find out where similar players signed from last year, go to njgs.com, then under the tab “rankings & honors,” the bottom option is college signees. Click there, and then you can order the signees based on class rank by clicking on “scoreboard class ranking as of signing date.” You will notice that last year, players ranked about 1800 in their class signed at such schools as Kenyon, Glenville, Southern Nazarene, Central Alabama Community college and Allegany college. Pretty good considering these schools have produced a president of the United States (Hayes, Kenyon), and a 5-time Major Championship participant (Nathan Smith, Allegany).

Now that you have a list of schools where similar students have signed, look up the golf rankings of these schools on golfstat.com. The rankings of schools are under the “rankings” tab on the home page and segmented by NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.

First find out where the school is ranked and then consider schools ranked 5-10 spots ahead and behind that school. Are any of these of interest? Any where you think might sound interesting? Take time and build a list, then send an email to those schools introducing yourself, along with a swing video.

Have a Plan

Regardless if you are a Junior in High School or a Senior in High School, come September 1, remember that there is still time and regardless of what people say, coaches are always looking. For High School Juniors, it is likely that next summer will have a critical impact on your opportunities in college golf, so what can you do over the next 9 months? Where are you missing out on the most shots? Take time, talk to people and develop a plan to give yourself the best chance to succeed in the future. And then, put in the time!

For Seniors, although many might be in your ear saying it’s too late, don’t listen to them. You still have some time. Take a careful look at how you can use the next 2-3 months to improve and prepare for events such as the AJGA Senior Showcase in Las Vegas. Remember that data suggests that up to one-third of players sign in the late period (for all levels) and up to 60 percent of players who compete in the AJGA Senior Showcase in December in Las Vegas, go on to get offers.

As always, if you have any feedback on this article or a story idea, please feel free to reach out to me! I always love hearing from people and helping them connect with schools that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs! Best of luck to you, or your son/daughter.

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TG2: Would you rather have Brooks or DJ’s career? 30+ more AMA-style Instagram questions

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Brooks Koepka vs. Dustin Johnson? All-time favorite driver? Poker chips as ball markers? Editor Andrew Tursky and Equipment Expert Brian Knudson answer 30+ questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram. They also discuss Joe LaCava (Tiger’s caddie) paying off a heckler to go away.

Enjoy the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Wyndham Championship

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After one of the most exciting Sunday’s of the golfing year, attention now turns towards the race for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the quest to attain a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. For the former, this week’s Wyndham Championship is the final opportunity for players to work their way into the top-125 in the FedEx Cup standings and earn a spot in the opening event of the playoffs. Despite many of the world’s elite understandably taking this week off, there are some big names in action here in Greensboro, with Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson all setting their sights on winning at Sedgefield Country Club this week.

Sedgefield CC is a relatively short par-70 golf course. It measures just over 7,100 yards, and it’s a golf course that doesn’t particularly favour the longer hitters. The rough is playable in Greensboro this week, and like most years at the Wyndham Championship, expect players who have their wedge game dialled in to thrive here at this event.

Last year, Henrik Stenson put on a ball striking clinic, posting 22-under par to win the title by one stroke over Ollie Schniederjans.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Webb Simpson 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 16/1
  • Henrik Stenson 18/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello 22/1
  • Brandt Snedeker 22/1
  • Shane Lowry 25/1
  • Billy Horschel 28/1

It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Daniel Berger (35/1, DK Price $9,300), but the Floridian showed some very promising signs at last week’s PGA Championship. After opening his PGA Championship with a very poor round of 73, Berger then shined over the next three days. The American posted three consecutive rounds under par, two of which were 66 or better. It was enough to give Berger a T12 finish and plenty of momentum heading to Greensboro this week.

In St. Louis last week, Berger lead the field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, gaining an impressive 8.5 strokes over the field. It was the second best performance with his irons in his career, and at Sedgefield, Berger is going to have hole after hole where he can attack pins with his precise iron game. The two-time winner on the PGA Tour has had a quiet year, but in a weakened field, with plenty of question marks surrounding those at the top of the market, he has a superb opportunity for win number three here in Greensboro.

A T31 finish at the PGA Championship last week means that Chris Kirk (80/1, DK Price $7,500) has now made the cut in his last ten events. From these ten events, four have resulted in top-25 finishes, and Kirk has been hitting the ball particularly well as of late. Over his previous 12 rounds, Kirk ranks fifth in the field this week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th in ball striking and eight in Strokes Gained-Total.

Kirk will cost you just $7,500 on DraftKings, and looking at some of the players that are more expensive this week, he appears to be a bargain. Kirk is three for three in cuts made at the Wyndham Championship in his last three visits, and the four-time PGA Tour champion looks in excellent shape to mount his best challenge yet in Greensboro. Over his last 12 rounds, Kirk leads this week’s field for proximity to the hole, and on a golf course where flushing short irons to close range is going to be key, the American looks to offer some of the best value around this week.

With 17 out of 19 made cuts this year, and arriving off the back of a T12 finish in his last outing, Rory Sabbatini (75/1, DK Price $7,100) looks undervalued once again on DraftKings this week. Over his previous 12 rounds, Sabbatini ranks 24th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. What’s more, is that Sabbatini is coming to a golf course that he has played very well in the past. In his last two visits to Sedgefield CC, the American has finished in the top-10 twice, with his best result coming last year when he finished T4. Coming off a strong showing in Canada, and with his proficiency in making cuts and excellent course history, Sabbatini looks a great DraftKings option here this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Daniel Berger 35/1, DK Price $9,300
  • Chris Kirk 80/1, DK Price $7,500
  • Rory Sabbatini 75/1, DK Price $7,100
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