U.S. Open Preview and Prediction

U.S. Open

Erin Hills

Past Champion: Dustin Johnson

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The toughest test in golf is upon us this week at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. The U.S. Open is known for its difficult layouts and USGA setups, and this week at Erin Hills will be no different. Playing a brutal 7,741 yards with fescue that has been deemed “dead” surrounding the entire course, this will be a test not many are prepared for. While some PGA Tournaments finish double digit under par, the U.S. Open is a different animal, with some winners finishing over par! Erin Hills will challenge all parts of your game, demanding not only a long tee shot, but an accurate one. Similar to other U.S. Open venues, Erin Hills will make players use their imagination when managing their way around this golf course. There are no short of storylines heading into this week between Phil flying across the country to try and make his tee time to some players already voicing their displeasure with the USGA (no surprise there), U.S. Open week is one of the best golf weeks of the year.

Erin Hills Hole by Hole Preview 

FORE U.S. Open Storylines

Family Man Phil

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Phil Mickelson is a US Open Championship away from completing the career Grand Slam, which has only be done by 5 other golfers ever (Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus, and Woods). Not that he hasn’t come close either, finishing runner up SIX times, Phil is in major limbo whether or not he will be able to compete in this years competition. As the news quickly circulated last week, Phil will be attending his daughter Amandas high school graduation ceremony, which she is giving her valedictorian speech the same day the tournament kicks off. HOWEVER, Phil is on the record saying he will be in the air immediately following the ceremony and on his way to Erins Hills in hopes of making his late Thursday tee time. Mickelson has also said the only way he believes he will make his tee time would be if there was roughly a 4 hour delay Thursday morning, but barring a miracle it looks like Phil will not make his Grand Slam run this year. Although a live stream of Phil making his way across the country would be electric content for Fox to fire up on Thursday.

USGA vs. The Field

The USGA pissing off players leading up to the U.S. Open (and during for DJ last year) has become a tale as old as time. This year the main discussion is the brutality of the fescue that starts just a few steps off the fairway.  Kevin Na was the first to hit social media with a video trying to hit out the nasty fescue, which seems to be pretty impossible. Adam Scott also complained about the USGA and how they go about setting up the course for the U.S. Open year in and year out. It seems as though the USGA heard the rumblings and had the fescue actually cut down some on a few holes. On the other hand, Rory McIlroy came out on Tuesday and made it pretty clear that if you are worrying about the fescue then you should just pack your bags and go home. I agree with Rory, being that the fairways are some of the widest in US Open history, players should focus less on complaining to the USGA, and more just hitting it in the fairway. The U.S. Open is known to be one of the toughest challenges in golf and I don’t mind it one bit.

 Daddy DJ Repeat? 

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 12.26.48 PM.pngWith the birth of his second child coming just days before the U.S. Open kicks off and Fathers Day, Dustin Johnson is in a great place mentally and physically to repeat. Other than the good karma that comes with the joy of having another child (farrrr away from having that feeling), DJs game places perfectly for Erin Hills. A track that favors long hitters will give Johnson much shorter approach shots than the rest of the field. As the odds on favorite (+750), DJ has everything going in his favor heading into this week and would not be surprised to see him dominate the field similar to what Tiger did at the 2000 U.S. Open when he won by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach. The only disappoint if DJ does finish on top this week, is we will not get to see Paulina in her white dress from last years win.

Far and Wide

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Stricker getting a little help on the greens from Bucky Badger

Not only are the fairways at Erin Hills far and wide, but the field is as well. An awesome part of the U.S. Open is the fact that anybody with a USGA handicap can enter into qualifiers for a chance to make their dreams come true and compete on golfs biggest stage. A few familiar faces made it into the field this week thanks to a qualifier, but none more special than Wisconsin native, Steve Stricker. Other notable names that made the field through qualifiers are Stewart Hagestad (Low Am at Masters), Stephan Jaeger (#1 on Web.com Tour), Harris English, and Jamie Lovemark just to name a few. These qualifiers have already went through the gamut to get to this point, so no reason somebody can’t make an amazing story that much more improbable.

U.S. Open Prediction

Jordan Spieth (+1200)

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First Major of the year, The Masters, I chose Spieth to win, and he finished T-11. Second Major of the year, The U.S. Open, and I am picking Jordan Spieth again, but for a few different reasons this time around. While I, and every other golf writer, have talked about the length of Erin Hills at nauseum, I believe Spieth will take advantage of the other aspects of his game that may not exactly be talked about as much. The three reasons why I think Erin Hills will play to his advantage this week are the width of the fairways, the difficult approach shots, and the tame greens. If Jordan can keep those sprays off the tee to a minimum and set himself up in the fairway at a higher clip this week, there is no one better in the world Approach to Green and since switching back to his old putter, has been rolling the rock like 2015 Jordan. Coming in a little under the radar this week, as I talked about in Right in the Fairway DK U.S. Open Picks, Jordan is in some of the best form of his career and is poised to win his second U.S. Open in the last 3 years.

Darkhorse of the Week

Graeme McDowell (+125000)

A golfer who has won the U.S. Open before in great form and the ability to hit fairways and make putts. I would throw a few bucks on him this week at Erin Hills, cause why not.

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Enjoy the beauty and brutality that Erin Hills will provide this week. One of the best golf weeks of the year is a must watch come the weekend. Continue to follow along on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend.

Right in the Fairway DK U.S. Open Picks

U.S. Open Picks 

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U.S. Open week is one of the best weeks of the year for any golf fan, but what would make it even better? Not only watching the best players in the world compete on a quite difficult track at Erin Hills, but winnings some money on DraftKings! Major Championships means huge possible paydays, and we have just that with the $33 entry into the $3.5 Fantasy Golf Millionaire paying out $1 MILLION to the winner.

Obvious Pick of the Week: Jordan Spieth ($11,500)

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For some reason I think Jordan has gone sorta under the radar coming into this week, and even though he is the second most expensive golfer (behind DJ), I do not believe he will be very highly owned. Even though Erin Hills is playing a daunting 7,740 yards, and sporting some brutal fescue just steps off the fairway, I think this course actually suits Spieth well. Although Spieth ranks 86th and 123rd on the PGA Tour in Driving Distance and Accuracy, Jordan will be able to take advantage of the 40-50 yard wide fairways. As one of the best players approaching the green AND arguably the best putter on Tour, I think if Spieth can keep it in the fairway this week he not only can be in the mix on the weekend, but win his second U.S. Open Championship.

Gut Guy of the Week: Jon Rahm ($10,300)

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To be successful at the U.S. Open you need to have guts, and boy does the 22 year old Spaniard Jon Rahm have guts (holy shit I still can’t believe he is only 22)! One of the longest hitters on Tour, paired with one of the best Greens in Regulation %, Rahm is going to attack this golf course in a way that maybe only DJ can. I love the fire that Rahm plays with, however that same fire has gotten him into trouble during stretches of rounds where he gets so frustrated that he lets it effect his play. If Rahm can channel that fire into a positive energy, and continues to play the golf he has so amazingly shown in this last year, I expect nothing less   than a Top 10 finish this week.

Value Pick of the Week: Graeme McDowell ($6,600)

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The 2010 U.S. Open Winner Graeme McDowell is my Value Pick of the Week for three reasons. The first reason has already been stated, success at the U.S. Open, and I would say a win in 2010 and runner up in 2012 would constitute as successful at golfs toughest test. The second reason I like McDowell this week is his driving accuracy, which ranks 9th on Tour. Oh, but he ranks 183rd in Driving Distance and you already said Erin Hills is playing 7,740 yards why would you want McDowell? The answer to that comes with the third reason I like McDowell this week and that his uncanny ability to make putts. Getting a former champion, who can not only put it in the fairway with danger all around, but gain strokes on the field while on the green, McDowell is a great value play this week.

Fade of the Week: Rickie Fowler ($10,500)

I have no other reason than that he is cheaper than I would have expected and in lieu of that, will most likely be one of the highest % owned players this week. I am banking on Fowler playing a little below his value and I will consider that a win because just as the PGA Tour keeps Strokes Gained against the field as a stat, in big daily fantasy tournaments you are trying to gain as many points on the field (per value) as you can.

Good Form+Value+Cuts Made+Tour Sauce-Players I can’t root for =

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NOTE: Notice my team consists of 4 former U.S. Open Champions (Spieth, Kaymer, McDowell, and Glover)

2017 Cape Cod Classic Preview

Cape Cod Classic 

East Dennis, Massachusetts 

Past Champion: Scott Bauer (Myrtle Masters)

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Coming off a little layover from the Players Championship, we have a tournament of a different beast this week, and that is the Cape Cod Classic. A Ryder Cup style format, including an individual championship, will take place this Memorial Day Weekend in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The field consists of some of the most average golfers in Rockland County, but will not disappoint when it comes to the action. A part of the Rockland Major circuit, the CCC field has been split up into two teams (Team Tiger and Team Fowler) who will competing not only for the Individual Championship, but the elusive Cape Cod Classic Cup for the team that compiles the most points throughout the weekend.

Team Format

Saturday Morning Fore Ball (2 points)

Saturday Afternoon Scramble (1 point)

Sunday Singles Match Play (4 points)

Sunday Team Mini Golf (1 point)

Monday Morning Singles Stroke Play (4 points)

12 Total Points Available

6.5 Points to Clinch the CCC Cup

Meet the Teams

Team Tiger

 Matt Marks (10 Handicap) *Captain*Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.24.26 PM.png

Holding the lowest handicap of the tournament, Marks is poised as the favorite to take home the title. The real question will be whether or not Marks has found the clutch gene between now and last years Myrtle Masters. After regaining the lead heading into the final round, Marks choked down the stretch and all but handed the trophy to rival Bauer. Being touted as the Sergio of Rockland County, it will be interesting to see if Marks can follow in the Spaniards footsteps and claim his first major victory at this years Cape Cod Classic. Marks is also battling a wrist injury that he fears will ruin his chances of competing at a high level this week.

                                                       Ethan Silverman (23 Handicap)IMG_1148.PNG

As the 1st Overall pick in the CCC Draft, Silverman is on the hot seat heading into the weekend. While Silverman has the ability of a No.1 pick, he has the clutch gene of Mr.Irrelevant. Well known for his solid all around play, Silverman may be most well known around Rockland for falling apart on the last few holes of weekend matches. If Silverman is able to put it together all weekend, there is no doubt he will be towards the top of the leaderboard come the final round on Monday.

Daniel Graviano (36 Handicap)IMG_8186.PNG-1.png

One of two Rockland Major rookies in the field this week, Graviano may be more interested in the booze than the golf. With the highest handicap of the bunch Graviano may not be in the mix for the individual trophy, but with the amount of strokes he is getting, can play a huge role in the team competition. The real question of the weekend for Graviano will be if his total beers consumed will be higher than his handicap (Hammer the Over). Let’s hope Graviano is spending less time in the trees and more time on the greens this weekend, but no matter what you know he is going to enjoy himself.

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Famous for his play in last years scramble round, Babat has ice in his veins when on the greens in competition. Rolling in over 100 feet of putts last year propelled his team to victory on that Sunday afternoon. As captain, I made it a priority to have the Ice Man on my team this year, in hopes he can repeat his clutch putting in this years competition. While his handicap may not show it, Babat came in 3rd place in the Myrtle Masters and can make some noise come the weekend.

Team Fowler

Scott Bauer (19 Handicap) *Captain* FullSizeRender.jpg

The winner of the Myrtle Masters, Bauer is coming into the CCC with all the confidence in the world, and rightfully so. With a new 3 wood in the bag, and a driver he is semi-confident with, Bauer has gotten longer (not taller) off the tee since last years tournament. While Bauer has a great chance to repeat this week as individual champion, he has a new task on his hands as the captain of Team Fowler. Can Bauer handle the newfound responsibility and keep his focus throughout the entire weekend?

Brandon Pochter (23 Handicap)IMG_1151.PNG

Word on the street is Pochter has reeled back his anger that he was so famous for in past years. If this is true, a clear headed Pochter can be a force to be reckoned with this weekend. However, if these rumors turn out to be false, a hot tempered Pochter could potentially bring down Team Fowler, and his CCC chances in the process. With his Matsuyama-esque pause at the top of his swing, Pochter has proven to be a streaky ball striker, but when in rhythm, he can strike the ball with the best of them. Could a clear headed Pochter take over the CCC?

  Greg Baron (23 Handicap) 

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Live Look at Baron and Pochter during the Scramble Round

 

The other rookie in the field this week, Baron is an up and comer in the Rockland Major circuit. While Baron has the skill level to compete, he has never played in a tournament of this magnitude, and we may seem him try to press too early. As the longest hitter on Team Fowler, the rumors are his new 3 wood will be used more than his driver, which will bring the average distance off the tee wayyyy behind that of Team Tiger. Team Fowler has a history of bickering, so it will be interesting to see how Baron inserts himself into the mix. It all comes back to captain Bauer, and how he will run his team.

Tommy Cooper (24 Handicap)img_4972.png

If Fore Right doesn’t provide score updates it is because we are still waiting for Cooper to finish his round. One can only imagine what is going on in Coopers head during his pre shot routine, but 2 minutes later, he is able to put the ball out there, which could make up for the lack of driving distance on the Fowler team. The inevitable lefty vs. lefty pairing between Cooper and Graviano could be one of the most important matchups of the tournament.

 

CCC Individual Champion Odds

Marks +175

Bauer +225

Silverman +400

Pochter +550

Baron +600

Cooper +800

Babat +1000

Graviano +2000

Cape Cod Classic Cup Prediction

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Be sure to follow the action on my Twitter @mattmarks19, as well as the blog for Round by Round updates. May not be PGA Tour type action, but when you get a bunch of average golfers fighting for the CCC Cup, it may get a little interesting.

Right in the Fairway DK THE PLAYERS Picks

Wells Fargo Picks Review

Paul Casey (74.5 points)

Zach Johnson (69.5 points)

Alex Noren (61 points)

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Another week making money with all three plays making the cut including the other three golfers in my lineup. Despite a few bad holes scattered throughout, Casey played solid the entire week, especially firing 68 on Sunday. ZJ was back to normal ZJ last week, which is exactly what I expected. Noren with a disappointing 77 on Sunday ruined an amazing week from a value pick, however all in all worth the value. Even though DJ, my fade last week, finished T-2 he did show some rust in the first two rounds barely making the cut, but by the weekend he was firing on all cylinders.

THE PLAYERS Picks

Obvious Pick of the Week:

Jason Day ($10,000): Defending Champion

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Day has had a pretty underwhelming season (for his standards) thus far, and rightfully so while his mother has been battling cancer. With recent good news on his mother’s prognosis, and The PLAYERS Championship Sunday falling on Mother’s Day I believe Day keeps those good vibes going. Also, taking Day at $10,000 gives you the ability to get another Top Tier player (See Team Below).

Gut Guy of the Week: 

Jason Dufner ($7,800)

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That gut speaks for itself. Duf Daddy has played great golf this year making 8/9 cuts, while finishing in the top 25 in all of those made cuts. Look for Dufner to let that gut hang all weekend and be towards the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Value Pick of the Week: 

Adam Hadwin ($6,800)

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As the first two time Value Pick of the Week, it is fitting that Hadwin has still not missed a cut this season (10/10). The greens at Sawgrass are some of the most difficult on Tour, especially this season with new TifEagle Bermudagrass, but fortunately for Hadwin he is pretty damn good in that category ranking 11th in Putting Average this season. Even with such a strong field I believe Hadwin is a little underpriced for making 10/10 cuts and already a winner this year, so I think he is a great play this week.

**Ryan Moore also good value at $7,000**

Fade of the Week: 

Jon Rahm ($9,600)

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There is no denying Rahm is a beast and has the game to compete this week at Sawgrass. However, I think everyone and their mother is going to take him, especially being he is relatively cheap for his recent form. For the shear fact that I believe he will be over 30% owned combined with him competing in his first PLAYERS Championship, I am fading Rahm, and the general public this week.

DK Tournament of the Week

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Good Form+Value+Cuts Made+Tour Sauce-Players I can’t root for =

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Good Luck!

 

RBC Heritage Preview and Prediction

RBC Heritage

 Harbour Town Golf Links

Past Champion: Branden Grace

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Yes I know we are not at Augusta anymore and that is obviously sad. The fact that we need to wait another year until the Masters is heartbreaking, but let’s look to the future. What better way to come off the stress and pressure of Masters week than the nice and relaxing Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, SC (or down in Bakers Bay with the SB2K17 boys). A Pete Dye design, and the staple of the Sea Pines Resort, not only tests players off the tee with narrow fairways covered with overhanging trees, but remain to be some of the toughest greens to hit in regulation. Harbour Town continues to be atop the PGA players favorite courses to play, and after a grueling week at Augusta, this seems like just the place.

As easy as Kuchar made that hole out to win seem, the 18th green is the 3rd toughest finishing hole in golf with a 4.415 stroke average. While considered one of the toughest finishing holes in golf, I would say it is also one of the most scenic, with the Atlantic Ocean on your left, and the lighthouse right in your face behind the flagstick.

Oddly enough in the mail about a week ago I received this pamphlet to visit the Sea Pines Resort, and now I don’t think I can plan my trip fast enough (free plug). FullSizeRender-2.jpg

The Field

Even with the SB2K17 boys taking the week off, the field is full of 79 past PGA Tour winners, including 11 past champions of the event. Headlining the field are past champions such as Matt Kuchar, Branden Grace, and Jim Furyk, as well as big names like Jason Duff Daddy, Keegan Bradley, and Bill Haas.

2017 RBC Heritage Prediction

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Martin Kaymer (+2500)

If you read my Right in the Fairway DK RBC Heritage Picks, you would have known that I considered Kaymer a must play this week. Digging deeper to try and find a winner this week I found a few reasons why I think Kaymer will win this week.

  1. Pete Dye. Harbour Town Golf Links is not the only Pete Dye design on tour, actually one of many, but a little place called TPC Sawgrass is also stop on tour during the year. With similar tight fairways, a daunting featured hole, and similar Bermuda grass, it would seem that a player who has had success there would play well this week. Good news. Martin Kaymer won the 2014 Players Championship at Sawgrass.
  2. Driving Accuracy. Ranked 4th in Driving Accuracy, hitting 72% of fairways, Kaymer is exactly what you are looking for with tight fairways.
  3. Due for a W. Winless on Tour since 2014, not only is he due for a win, he has been playing the game as well as anybody as of late (maybe not DJ). With finishes of 4th, 23rd, 23rd, and a 16th place finish at the Masters last week, I believe Kaymer stays in good form and pulls it out this week.

Dark Horse: Wesley Bryan (+6500) would become the first South Carolina native to win the event.

Enjoy a relaxing week at beautiful Harbour Town Golf Links to decompress after a stressful week at the Masters (unless you’re Sergio). You deserve it!

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