This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $2.25
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Pebble Beach, Calif.
Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links
2018 champion: Brooks Koepka
It's not often, or even ever, that Tiger Woods goes into a tournament sharing the top billing, much less a major tournament. But while Tiger's pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors has been given new life, Brooks Koepka has put together a stretch of major victories not seen since, well, Tiger and Jack. Koepka is riding a run of four wins in his past eight majors and this week seeks to become only the second man ever to win three straight U.S. Open titles, along with Scotland's Willie Anderson, from 1903-05. Woods and Koepka split the first two majors of 2019, and now the latest battle will be played out at iconic Pebble Beach. On the short list of the world's greatest golf courses, Pebble continues its 100th anniversary celebration by playing host to the 119th national championship, one that will unfold before a prime-time golf audience for much of the country. Talk about the potential for drama.
If all that is not enough for you, if the fifth U.S. Open to be played out before the stunning vistas of Carmel Bay on the Monterey Peninsula is not enough for you, there's more. Let's throw in Phil Mickelson for what may be his last, best chance to complete the career grand slam. Mickelson has won the regular Tour stop at Pebble a record five times, including just four months ago. Mickelson came close the last time the Open was at Pebble in 2010, tying for fourth behind champion Graeme McDowell. He didn't stand a chance back in 2000, but nobody else did either, nobody but Woods, who delivered a career-defining 15-stroke victory, the most dominant victory in major golf history. That was the beginning of the so-called Tiger Slam and was part of his historic stretch of seven wins in 11 majors. Koepka would have to win the next three to match that. No chance, right? We'll see.
Okay, on to the course. Pebble will play about as long as its ever been, but it still remains pint-sized by U.S. Open standards. That will bring a lot more golfers into the who-can-win conversation, notably the shorter hitters. Koepka will not be able to bludgeon his way to victory this week. Back in 2010, tiny Pebble was a beast, as it was the hardest course on Tour that year and five of the holes were among the top-10 toughest all year. That NEVER happens. In order, they were Nos. 17, 2, 14, 10 and 9. The fact that 14 is a par-5, and par-5s are always the easiest holes, is remarkable. Again, that NEVER happens. There were almost 400 double bogeys or worse. There were just 20 eagles total on a track that has three par-5s. Pebble also features the smallest greens on the PGA Tour and, with the traditional USGA setup for a U.S. Open, getting in the fairway and getting on the green will be hellish tasks this week. As Mickelson noted after his victory at the the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, Pebble will be far, far more penal that it was then. We'll break down what it will take to win in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
The field of 156 features only 78 of the top 100 in the OWGR, which is pretty surprising but speaks to the stringent qualifying standards. The low 60 and ties will advance to the weekend. About 32 of the golfers participated in the 2010 Open and there are even nine from 2000: Woods, Mickelson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Mike Weir, David Toms, Rory Sabbatini and Aaron Baddeley.
Weather-wise, it's been dry and will be dry all week. But the temperature is dropping to February levels, and some days will be hard-pressed to get out of the 50s. When the wind starts blowing, as it invariably will, it will downright cold. When was the last time that happened at a U.S. Open?
Key Stats to Winning at Pebble Beach
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
2018 - Brooks Koepka (Shinnecock)
2017 - Brooks Koepka (Erin Hills)
2016 - Dustin Johnson (Oakmont)
2015 - Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay)
2014 - Martin Kaymer (Pinehurst No. 2)
2013 - Justin Rose (Congressional)
2012 - Webb Simpson (Olympic Club)
2011 - Rory McIlroy (Congressional)
2010 - Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach)
2009 - Lucas Glover (Bethpage Black)
Even though Johnson is a two-time AT&T Pro-Am winner and a high finisher almost every year, driving distance has little bearing on who wins. In the past six years at the Pro-Am, no winner was top-20 in driving distance – not even Mickelson, who ranked 25th just four months ago. Normally, driving accuracy doesn't matter much either. But with the fairways narrow and the rough oh-so-thick in a typical U.S. Open setup, the golfers will pay the price for wayward drives. To combat that, just about everyone will club down, and that will bring so many more golfers into the championship conversation. Still, Pebble is a second-shot golf course. Getting on the green is always harder when the greens are small, and these are the smallest greens the golfers will see all year, at an average of 3,500 square feet, so superior wedge play is paramount – both from the fairway and around the greens (scrambling). Going back over the past 17 Opens, five of the winners have finished first in greens in regulation, and not one has been outside the top-18. In 2010, McDowell was 31st in driving distance (it's surprising that he was that high), 34th in driving accuracy, 12th in greens in regulation and 22nd in scrambling.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Brooks Koepka - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
Last week in Canada, DraftKings had Koepka second behind Dustin Johnson. But with all due respect, Canada's national championship is not the United States' national championship. It's a major, and we've seen four times over the past two years that Koepka simply elevates his game in majors. The interesting thing about this week is that it's different from all the others Koepka won: It will be played a short track, so a big part of Koepka's advantage will be negated. Still, he has found a way to get the job done time after time, and no one would be surprised if he did so again.
Dustin Johnson - $11,300 (7-1)
Johnson already has one U.S. Open title and should've had a second and maybe more. Even though the Pro-Am is no U.S. Open, it's impossible to disregard course history. Johnson has won the AT&T event twice and finished top-5 four more times in the past decade. And lest we forget, Johnson has finished runner-up in both the Masters and PGA this, was top-five at THE PLAYERS and won the WGC-Mexico. He's done everything but ... win a major. Very interestingly, Johnson is the betting favorite in Vegas, just ahead of Koepka. Those Vegas guys aren't dummies, you know.
Tiger Woods - $10,700 (10-1)
We really knew that Tiger would not be prepared in any way for the PGA; it was just too close in time to his life-altering Masters win. It was clear he was in a much different frame of mind, and body, at the Memorial, where he tied for ninth. Woods' biggest detriment this season has been his driver, and he knows it, so he clubs down often. He's only 63rd in distance off the tee. And yet, he leads the Tour in greens in regulation. He's also eighth in strokes gained: around the green. But really, what Woods has more than anyone else in the field is the intangible of knowing Pebble better than anyone else in the field. This pick was our hardest decision. It was either Woods or Jordan Spieth. Spieth could very well win this week. But we just couldn't bring ourselves to omit Koepka, Johnson or this next guy ...
Patrick Cantlay- $10,000 (16-1)
Ninth in the Masters, third at Harbour Town, third in the PGA, winner of the Memorial, now ranked eighth in the world. Cantlay has been as good as anyone in the world the past two months. These strokes-gained numbers are just staggering: 14th off the tee, 10th in approach, 13th around the green, 29th in putting, second in tee to green, third in total. There's simply no way to leave him off the list. Cantlay is only $300 cheaper than Spieth, but $1,600 cheaper than Koepka. That seems like a lot.
Tier 2 Values
Jason Day - $9,100 (25-1)
To us, this is one of the best bargains on the entire DK board. In the past seven AT&T events, Day posted five top-6s. He missed the cut in the past two U.S. Opens, but before that had top-10s in five of the previous six, including runners-up in 2011 and 2013. Incredibly, if you put aside those last two U.S. Opens, Day has finished top-25 in 14 of his past 15 majors, with top-10s in eight and of them, including his win at the 2015 PGA Championship. Want more? Day is ranked eighth on Tour in strokes gained: putting. Okay, one more thing: He will have Stevie Williams, Woods' old caddie, on the bag this week.
Xander Schauffele - $8,700 (25-1)
We're still in Tier 2, but incredibly we are almost $3,000 cheaper than Koepka – THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS CHEAPER. We're a broken record by now: Schauffele is in the mix at so many big tournaments. He's finished top-6 in four of his nine career majors, including both U.S. Opens. He's won the TOUR Championship. He's won a WGC in China. We don't even want to look at the numbers. No matter how he does it, he does it, at all kinds of different tracks.
Adam Scott - $8,600 (25-1)
If you hadn't noticed, Scott, who found himself ranked outside the top 75 in the world last summer, is back up to No. 17. That'll happen when you finish second at Torrey Pines and seventh at Riviera (two California courses), plus 12th at THE PLAYERS, 18th at the Masters and eighth at the PGA. Oh, and Scott was runner-up to Cantlay last time out at the Memorial. How does that happen? When you combine elite ball striking (seventh in strokes gained: tee to green) with a suddenly great putter (ranked 21st), that's how.
Phil Mickelson - $8,200 (30-1)
We'll be honest: This pick was not made entirely with our head, but with a good deal of our heart. What a story it would be for Mickelson to complete the career grand slam in what almost surely will be his last, best chance to win a U.S. Open. Of course, there's a lot of data to support this heart-over-head pick – Mickelson has won the AT&T event five times, including just four months ago. He's also been the Open runner-up five times, albeit not recently. Mickelson winning this week at age 49 – because his birthday is on Sunday – would be on par with Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at 46. (Our head would like it to be known that if it had final say on this pick, it would be Paul Casey.)
Tier 3 Values
Webb Simpson - $7,700 (50-1)
Simpson does not have the best track record at Pebble. He's played the Pro-Am four times through the years, with a best of T26 in 2013. He missed the cut in his most recent visit in 2017. But not everyone is cut out for six-hour slogs with amateurs. Simpson had finished top-20 in five straight majors until his T29 at the PGA. Before that he was fifth at the Masters. He's made nine straight major cuts and 16-of-18. He's missed one cut anywhere in the past year. Simpson has all the tools not only to do well this week but even to win this week: ranked 20th in driving accuracy, 20th in strokes gained: approach, 12th in strokes gained: around the green. His putting has been off from last year's otherworldly performance, but he led the field last week in Canada, where he was co-runner-up.
Henrik Stenson - $7,600 (60-1)
This did not start out as a good year for the veteran Swede. In fact, it was dreadful. But Stenson has not missed a cut since THE PLAYERS, relying on his laser-like iron game – he is ranked first on Tour in strokes gained: approach. He's also ranked sixth in driving accuracy. At 43, he's a really short hitter now, but again, that won't hurt him so much this week. Stenson has made seven of his past eight major cuts and tied for sixth last year the Open.
Shane Lowry - $7,500 (80-1)
Lowry has had a very good year, the latest example being his runner-up last week in Canada. He was also eighth at the PGA and third at Harbour Town, a similarly short course comparable to Pebble. Lowry is one of the few internationals to come back to Pebble year after year, five years in a row, in fact, and tied for 14th there in 2017. Lowry has also been dang good at the Open, sharing second in 2016 and ninth the year before at Chambers Bay. He is ranked 24th on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Brandt Snedeker - $7,500 (50-1)
If they made a logo of a golfer at Pebble Beach, it might be Snedeker. Okay, it would be Tiger, but you get the point – Snedeker won the AT&T in 2013 and '15, was fourth in 2017. He even tied for eighth at the 2010 Open at Pebble. In his past three starts, he was T16 at the PGA, T19 at Colonial and T$ just last week in Canada. Snedeker's total short game is perhaps better than it's ever been: ranked second in strokes gained: around the green and eighth in putting.
Jim Furyk - $7,200 (150-1)
It's pretty incredible that 49-year-old Furyk is still qualifying for majors, especially so soon after devoting his time and effort to the Ryder Cup. But he's back in the top-60, so here is. And he has a real shot to make the weekend. Not only is Furyk ranked first on Tour in driving accuracy, he's seventh in greens in regulation. He's played the U.S. Open every year since 1996 – and missed the cut only three times. Heck, Furyk was runner-up to Dustin Johnson just three years ago. He played the Pro-Am in February and tied for 14th.
Zach Johnson - $7,000 (150-1)
We picked Johnson for the PGA, and we were rewarded with a made cut. He also reached the weekend at the Masters. But not much else. He finished in the 50s in both majors. As Johnson slips closer and closer to falling outside the top-100 in the world, he has managed to hang on in the majors, making nine straight majors and 12 of his last 13. Johnson has some really bad numbers and some decent ones, as he is ranked in the top-50 in strokes gained: approach, around the green and tee to green. We're thinking/hoping this shorter track helps Johnson finish a bit better than in the first two majors?
Erik van Rooyen - $6,900 (250-1)
The South African has been steadily climbing the world rankings this year, beginning at 141st and now at 87th. He tied for eighth at the PGA and was T20 in Canada last week. Earlier this year, van Rooyen tied for 36th at the WGC-Mexico. That was his one finish outside the top-25 in four PGA Tour starts this season. Van Rooyen also has a couple of recent runners-up on the European Tour, in Qatar and Morocco.
Collin Morikawa - $6,700 (500-1)
Morikawa just turned pro last week after a star-studded career at Cal (which isn't too far from Pebble), during which he recently won the Pac-12 Championship and also spent a short while as the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world. His last week has been very impressive: Not only did Morikawa emerge from the toughest qualifying sectional at Brookside in Ohio, he then tied for 14th at the Canadian Open, moving up more than 1,000 spots in the world rankings. As an amateur, Morikawa played Bay Hill on a sponsor exemption at tied for 64th.