The most difficult event in golf, on the most difficult course in golf. The 2016 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club, the 116th playing of the event, will be returning to the Oak-monster for the 8th time in U.S. Open history–the most of any course in history. With a long list of great champions–Els, Nicklaus, Miller, Hogan, Snead, Jones, Sarazen–the test of Oakmont is among the sternest in the game.
“I know that if you win a U.S. Open at Oakmont, you can go ahead and say that you’ve conquered the hardest test in all of golf,” said Jordan Spieth, last week during preparation for his title defense. Wisdom once again from the 22-going-on-50-year old.
To say the greens at Oakmont are fast would be an understatement the size of “this Presidential election isn’t that much of a mess.” The greens are as electric as can be found in golf, all before the severe slopes which host hole locations. Thick, gnarly, garden salad rough makes a missed fairway a bogey. Bunkers deeper than a Steph Curry 3-pointer make scrambling from around the greens a challenge.
Rickie Fowler posted a video showing the true speeds of these greens. If a mower didn’t touch this until Sunday, players would struggle. On the greens, many of them are shaped in the form of a square, something I find the architects must have done on purpose to pay homage to the amount of squares which find scorecards at Oakmont.
Arnold Palmer said this about the greens, “…you can hit 72 greens [in regulation] in the Open at Oakmont and not come close to winning.”
Overall, Oakmont is a venue that’s so difficult, with so much history, and so many storylines, it will be a sight to see. Winning scores, regardless the forecast will be likely over par for the week. If anyone breaks par, it will be the most special players in the game with a special week. We’ve got a list of names we think will be around come Sunday evening.
But like the USGA says, more history awaits.
U.S. Open Intro Video
2007 U.S. Open Top-20
2015 U.S. Open Top-10
Oakmont CC Info, Facts & Tidbits
- Henry Fowles’ only course design opened in 1903
- Nestled against the south berm of the Alleghany River, Oakmont possesses zero water hazards
- This interesting tidbit was pulled from Wikipedia: For many years, the Oakmont bunkers were groomed with a rake with wider than normal tines, creating deep furrows. The rakes were last used in U.S. Open competition in 1962 and eliminated from the club in 1964.
If you want to hear Mike Davis talk course set-up, changes, and more:
Click here for a link to the entire 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont field.
All of the TV Times can be viewed here via FoxSports.
Last 6 Champs
- 2015: Jordan Spieth in the Northwest (Recap here)
- 2014: Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst No. 2 (Recap here)
- 2013: Justin Rose at Merion (Recap here)
- 2012: Webb Simpson at Olympic (Recap here)
- 2011: Rory McIlroy’s First Major at Congressional
- 2010: Graeme McDowell Seizes Pebble Beach
This Week’s Picks– The U.S. Open Preview
THREE From the Fairway
He’s a player who you may be able to sneak away with as a sleeper, as many people will avoid him given his horrible record in the U.S. Open. At the event where mental toughness is at it’s absolute epitome, Bubba Watson has been a player to crumble at the difficult venues. But this year will be a different story for Watson.
Actually, it’s going to be the same story.
Back in 2007, Watson was a top-5 player at Oakmont, where a big, brawny golf course played nicely into his hands. With those big, undulating greens, Bubba’s putting touch and his ability to visualize made him a 2007 contender come Sunday afternoon, despite still being relatively unknown at that time on the ranks of the Tour.
Whatever Watson channeled that week, he’ll channel some of it this week. There just isn’t the buzz around Watson, which for him, will be good.
Scarred from 2010 and completely heartbroken after last year (as heartbroken, I imagine, as DJ can get), I think 2015 Chambers was everything Dustin needed to absolutely guarantee himself that his day in a major championship will come again.
I get the feeling now that DJ’s major is being pushed off, as every time he presents his resume at a major championship, the major responds, “sorry, we think you’re just too qualified for this,” before passing. At some point, he’ll get one.
His game fits so many places, but for Dustin, it’s how things are going in the moment. At this moment, his game is in a very, very nice place. I picked Dustin Johnson in the beginning of the year saying, “revenge in the sweetest way.”
Unfortunately after some thought and current form digesting, there’s one player who Dustin Johnson won’t be able to beat. The 2016 U.S. Open will be another top-5 in a major for Dustin.
It’s been a quietly successful (and wallet-filling) year for Reed on the PGA Tour this year, although his lack of hardware has to have him feeling bitter. In two U.S. Opens, Reed’s been good enough to stick around, going T35 and T14.
Reed hits a big, shaping draw off the tee on most tee shots and it’s a concern for me on tight, U.S. Open fairways. But when Reed decides to hit that hold draw, a cut for him, he’s able to play. It’s a shot I see him embracing this week. This isn’t going to be an event where driving distance is going to win the event for Reed. But if he can be a player to get his putting going, as he has for stretches in 2016, he’s going to be a really good look this week.
In the last 12 weeks, Reed ranks 3rd in the overall strokes gained tee-to-green. With 9 top-10s this season so far, Reed has been inside the top-10 more than anyone on the PGA Tour this year. And his short game is as good as any in golf, ranking 1st in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, with a large sample size spanning 42 rounds of golf.
Reed has elements to his game that I really like at Oakmont and elements to his demeanor that I love. He’ll embrace the challenge in PA and give himself the best opportunity so far of his career for a major championship.
Other players you wouldn’t be stupid in picking:
- Sergio Garcia: A win at the Byron Nelson a few weeks ago indicate his game is in typical strong Sergio form heading into the U.S. Open. Despite having never won a major, he’s actually got a surprisingly good record in the U.S. Open over the years. His last missed cut in a U.S. Open was 2007, at Oakmont, but that doesn’t scare me. Sergio’s putting then, isn’t what it’s become in the last few seasons. His worst finish in the last 8 U.S. Opens has been a T45.
- Brooks Koepka: For those concerned about Brooks’ play in the majors, his play in the U.S. Open has been perhaps his best. A breakout at Pinehurst in 2014 (4th) was followed by a nice finish in 2015 at Chambers (18th). He’s played great lately, with runner-up finishes in both of his last two events. With the length needed to score at Oakmont, Koepka might be one of those players to make enough birdies to negate the inevitable bogies and stay in contention.
- Justin Rose: Well rested and a U.S. Open horse. His game is suited so nicely for U.S. Open golf, it’s no wonder he’s already added a trophy to his mantle here. His win in 2013 is part of a 4-year run where Rose has been inside the top-30 at the U.S. Open. He played nicely before taking about a month off. No doubt he’s been sharpening his game and resting his mind for the test that is Oakmont. A nice finish for Rose this year.
2016 U.S. Open Draft Kings Value Picks
….from the Sports Monte:
Here’s a DFS secret that might make you a little money this week — every expert will tell you that the key stats this week are driving distance and GIR, but there are other ways to play well at Oakmont.
A lot of it depends on the weather, as dry conditions will make for more difficulty hitting greens and fairways, while some weather will allow player to hold greens and not allow for so much run out on tee shots. Keep an eye on that as you approach your DFS lineups this week. The rule to remember on this is, the better the weather, the better chance someone who doesn’t bomb it will be able to sneak up the leaderboard, and hopefully you have them rostered on your DFS teams!
Below, we targeted five players who might fit this roll if the weather holds off, and figure to have a low ownership percentage since everyone else will be targeting the same bombers this week.
5. Soren Kjeldsen ($6,400) – You don’t have to know how to pronounce his name in order to play him this week on your DFS team. The Dane has made 12 of 14 cuts between the PGA Tour and the European Tour this year, and finished a surprising seventh at the Masters. At the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, Kjeldsen managed to finish T20 after being tied for eighth going into the final round. Again, he doesn’t fit the mold of a bomber who hits a lot of greens, but he plays well enough on big stages and could easily grind his way toward another top 10 finish in a major this year.
4. Bernd Wiesberger ($6,700) – Sooner or later, Wiesberger’s game is going to translate on American soil, but until that happens, he’ll continue to be undervalued in DFS games and left off of rosters for similarly priced players like Charley Hoffman or Harris English. Don’t make this mistake. Wiesberger has some top 20 finishes in some high profile events in 2016, including the WGC Cadillac Championship, Qatar Masters, and most recently, the BMW PGA Championship. He has hit over 71% of his GIR on the European Tour this year, which wouldplace him second on the PGA Tour behind only Sergio Garcia.
3. Russell Knox ($7,600) – Knox might get overlooked because he isn’t long off the tee, but he is second on tour in bogey avoidance, and in an event where the winning score could be over par, avoiding bogeys is like making birdies in some other tour events. Knox is accurate, has four top 10 finishes this year (including a win), and has a WGC win under his belt in 2015, which shows he can compete in elite fields. He’s made seven of his last eight cuts, including top 20 finishes in two of his last three. Knox would make a solid play because he’ll likely see single digit ownership.
2. Lucas Glover ($6,200) – Glover has won a US Open (remember?) at Bethpage Black, another extremely difficult Northeast US course, in 2009. He was never able to build on the success from that win, netting only one more victory since then. Statistically, Glover’s game has been coming around, and he ranks inside the top-50 on tour in SGT2G and SG: Off the Tee. He’s second on tour in GIR, 25th in proximity to the hole on approach shots, and third in bogey avoidance. He’s missed the cut in each of the last four US Opens, so he’s by no means a lock, but at such a low price point, there are a lot of positives that make me think Glover could have a solid week on a difficult layout.
1. Charl Schwartzel ($7,500) – Schwartzel might see a slight uptick in ownership percentage thank to his having played in the 2007 Open at Oakmont where he finished T30 (at +20!). Still, the South African has made a lot of cuts this year, and sits inside the top 20 in bogey avoidance, SGT2G, GIR, and birdie average. Schwartzel hasn’t shot above a 72 in any event since the Masters, and while that trend will likely end this week, he is still a strong option in DFS games, especially cash lineups.
Ryan Rauch is the owner and lead writer for Sports Monte, a fantasy sports website that provides proven research for season-long and DFS games. He has played golf his whole life and lives and works out of Columbus, Ohio. For more information, follow @SportsMonte on Twitter.
A couple of other sleepers you could take a flier on:
- David Toms: Every 3-4 years, the Louisiana native finds his way oddly into contention at U.S. Opens. No wonder, he’s a phenomenal putter, grinds out every shot, and would probably hit a fairway with a stun gun to his head. This year, Toms may provide a sneaky, sneaky top-20 finish. The last time at Oakmont, Toms finished 5th and has another top-5 in a U.S. Open since then. He’s 8th in strokes gained around the greens and could a player who gets up-and-down enough to stay relevant into the weekend.
- Paul Casey: He may not be playing well right now, but as many players work to “peak” their games, I assume the major-less Casey is doing the same. Last time at Oakmont, he was a top-10 guy and has made cuts in the last three U.S. Opens (didn’t play at Olympic in 2012). He’s maintained a 24th ranking in the world, despite having taken time off in recent weeks, but Casey’s talent and ability to break-out is undeniably. He’s under the radar and lethally talented. He might be a good look this week at Oakmont. You wouldn’t be stupid for picking him.
- Jason Dufner: Something about Duf, he channels nice play in the U.S. Open. He’s been a top-20 finisher in three of the past 4 Opens and his plodding, fairways and greens, occasional nice putt style could keep him hanging around par for a while. Come Saturday, around par will be looking awfully good. Hasn’t missed a cut in two months and already has a win this year. No doubt 2016 has seen an uptick in play for Dufner and the U.S. Open might be a good place to capture some of that to benefit you. I like Dufner for nothing better than a 71 and nothing worse than a 75 this week, hitting inside the top-20.
The Man With the Trophy (Champion)
Having won 7 of his last 17 events, the current world number one adds another prestigious event to his already incredible 10-month stretch. I am having a hard time going in any direction that doesn’t have Jason Day the winner of the 2016 U.S. Open.
Vertigo in 2015 robbed Day of a prime opportunity to capture his first major championship, as he was arguably playing the best golf in the field Thursday-Saturday.
First, let’s talk about his ball striking. He’s a bomber off the tee, there’s no secret there. With top-50 rankings in all of the major ball striking categories and averaging 302.0 yards per drive, many would assume it’s what’s vaulted Jason to the top of the game. Truth be told though, the proof lies in Jason’s silky smooth putting. If you’re placing your life on a guy to make a 5-foot putt, Jason Day might be second only to Jordan Spieth right now. He may actually be first.
In fact, he’s 1st on the 2016 PGA Tour in strokes gained putting.
With so much fuss made of the greens at Oakmont, Jason’s ability to control his ball on putting surfaces will provide him an edge to the field that will make him very, very hard to beat this week, not to mention how hungry he is to finally pick off one of the big-3 major championships, with all due respect to the PGA.
With runner-ups in the 2011 and 2013 U.S. Opens, Day has proven his game can travel between difficult venues. As the world’s best embark upon one of the toughest in golf, there will be one man standing at the end of the day. It’s him.
Next June, is now this June: