Fantasy golf: U.S. Open preview

The 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont will be an arduous test for the world’s best golfers. Trying to figure out who will perform well on one of the most difficult golf courses on the planet is also a daunting task. Here are some basic fantasy strategies, key stats to consider, and some picks that will help you on your way to winning some fantasy cash.

Fantasy strategies

Look for “value picks”: What is fantasy value? Basically it means getting the most out of your money or the best return on your investment. You don’t always get what you pay for in fantasy golf. Usually, the top players in the world will perform relatively well. Your top couple picks may falter but, hey, it’s golf. Picking the right players at a cheap price will lead to big points over the weekend.

Make the cut: If every player on your team makes the cut, you have a good chance to place high in most tournaments. If a player misses the cut, your team is not entirely doomed, but hampered. Having players continue to score points throughout the weekend is crucial to winning big leagues and placing high in the money. Finding “value picks” that make the cut and that can potentially score a bunch of points will give you a significant advantage.

Know the course: Oakmont is considered one of the toughest golf courses in the world. Extremely fast greens, over two hundred bunkers, a par-3 that could stretch over 300 yards, and the list goes on. Get acquainted to its mystique.

Vegas odds: Always check the odds in Vegas. The players with the best odds at the top of the list won’t surprise you, but pay attention a little bit farther down.

Who’s hot, who’s not: Pay close attention to how a player has fared the last couple tournaments and how he has performed all season. Especially when the stakes are high.

Player attributes: Overall, you want a player with a pretty well rounded game at Oakmont. Grab some big hitters, but beware, errant tee shots can spell disaster. You’ll need players that can hit fairways, scramble well and putt well. Check below for some stats to consider when choosing your picks.

Key stats

Putting stats: The greens at Oakmont are notoriously fast and the USGA will have them in optimum condition. A solid putting game is a prerequisite for success at Oakmont. Here are some stats to consider: Strokes gained-putting, putts per round, putts within 20 feet, average distance of putts made, average first putt distance, 3-putt avoidance.

Strokes gained: Strokes gained stats are a great indicator of a player’s performance compared to the rest of the field. The PGA introduced three new strokes gained stats in 2016: off-the-tee, approach-the-green and around-the-green. Check out all three along with these important strokes gained stats: strokes gained-putting and strokes gained-total.

Ball striking: Total driving + greens in regulation= ball striking. Long and accurate drives plus getting the ball on the green in the least amount of strokes will be very important for players looking to shoot low at Oakmont.

Driving accuracy and driving distance: Oakmont has many fairway bunkers and treacherous rough. Plus, the USGA has trimmed the rough around the bunkers so errant shots will roll into the sand. Staying in the fairway will be key to carding a low score.

Greens in regulation: GIR will give you a good idea of who has a good chance of making birdies and eagles. Or, in Oakmont’s case, save par. Being able to reach the glassy greens at Oakmont with the least amount of strokes will be crucial to scoring low.

Scrambling percentage/sand save percentage: Oakmont features 210 bunkers and tough rough off the fairways. Miss the fairways, bogeys await. Pay attention to a player’s scrambling ability and how well they play out of the sand.

Bogey avoidance: Pretty straight forward: there will be a ton of bogeys at Oakmont. Find the guys who bogey holes the least.

Talent pool

TOP TALENT- $10,000+

Jason Day($12,100) : What’s not to like? He has won seven times in his past 18 starts. He hits monster drives, has the strength to get out of Oakmont’s hazards and is very confident on and around the greens. He’s ranked first in both strokes gained-total and strokes gained-putting and is Vegas’ pick to win it. Put him in as many lineups as you can afford.

Jordan Spieth ($11,900): Spieth showed up early to Oakmont to prepare for his quest to become the first back-to-back Open champ since Curtis Strange. The Texas-ex has all the skills you need to win at Oakmont. He is arguably the best putter on Tour, fifth in strokes gained-total, can get out of trouble, and the list goes on and on. He has placed fourth or better in his past five majors and opened as the favorite in Vegas. Buy at will.

OAKMONT, PA - JUNE 13: Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his shot during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 13, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

OAKMONT, PA – JUNE 13: Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his shot during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 13, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Dustin Johnson ($11,000): Johnson has made every cut this season and has eight top-ten finishes in 14 tournaments. Plus, he has finished in the top four the last two Opens. Johnson can rack up serious points with his ability to birdie par 4s and par 5s.  Now, if he can only make a three-foot putt…

Rory McIlroy ($12,000): McIlroy shot a 64 in the second round of the Players Championship but poor putting put him out of contention. He went on to win his first Irish Open in dramatic fashion and tied for fourth at the Memorial. His spectacular driving abilities, solid iron play and experience on tough greens put him in a good position to win his second U.S. Open. McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained off-the-tee and fifth in strokes gained-total. If he can putt well on those slippery greens, he has a good chance to win.

Other top choice: Justin Rose.

TOP VALUE- $7,600-$10,000

Hideki Matsuyama ($9,800): At TPC Sawgrass in the third round, when many Tour players struggled due to the conditions of the super-fast greens, Matsuyama shot a 67. That kind of steely resolve will help at Oakmont. Matsuyama consistently makes cuts at majors and is ranked 10th in strokes gained-total. Before missing the cut at the Memorial, he had five straight top-20 finishes. His price is a tad high but worth the risk.

Henrik Stenson ($9,100): Stenson has missed his last two cuts, but don’t let that discourage you from placing him in some leagues. Here’s why: second in strokes gained-approach-the green, seventh in GIR, eighth in strokes gained tee-to-green, ninth in driving accuracy percentage and 15th in strokes gained-total. Count on Stenson to be playing on Sunday.

Branden Grace ($8,700): Grace won at RBC Heritage and has six top-25 finishes this season. He is in the top-20 in both strokes gained-total and strokes gained tee-to-green and 19th in sand save percentage. Grace tied for fourth last year at Chambers Bay and placed third at the PGA Championship. Grace’s game is well suited for Oakmont and he is playing at a high level.

Matt Kuchar ($8500): Kuchar’s last four finishes: tied for 3rd, 3rd, tied for 6th, tied for 4th. Kuchar is in top form and has the level-headed approach a player needs to withstand the frustrations that Oakmont will dish out. Kooch has made the cut in 12 of his past 13 majors, including five straight made cuts. He is also chasing his first major championship.

Patrick Reed ($8,400): Reed leads the Tour with nine top-ten finishes and placed 14th last year at Chambers Bay. Will that success translate into a couple good rounds at Oakmont? His confidence around tough greens and his competitive nature should keep him in contention. He ranks second in scrambling and first in strokes gained-around-the-green. Reed is a good bargain at $8,400.

Brooks Koepka ($8,100): Koepka is a big hitter and scores well in a number of key stats. Koepka is fifth in strokes gained-off-the-tee, 11th in driving distance, ninth in scoring average and 13th in strokes gained-total. Also, he placed second at the Byron Nelson a couple weeks ago. Snatch him up at $8,100.

Paul Casey ($7,900): Casey shot a 66 in the second round of the Open at Oakmont in 2007 and tied for 10th. Yeah, it was 9 years ago, but his experience in 2007 will aid him this weekend. He tied for fourth place this year at the Masters, so expect Casey to be ready for Oakmont. Stats: 22nd in GIR, 11th in total driving, 25th strokes gained-tee-to-green.

Brandt Snedeker ($8,000): Snedeker missed the cut at the Players championship and Byron Nelson, but rebounded with a top-20 finish at the Dean & Deluca Invitational. Snedeker’s putting game and his abilty to avoid bogeys will help at Oakmont. Also, he placed 23rd in the 2007 open at Oakmont, at 15 over par. Key stats: 24th in strokes gained-around-the-green, 18th bogey avoidance.

Zach Johnson ($7,800): Johnson’s calculated style of play should help him at Oakmont. He has three top-10 finishes and has made 12 of 15 cuts this season. Johnson is in the middle of the pack in most stat categories, but that’s not a negative. His consistency keeps him in contention. Don’t be surprised if he finishes in the top ten.

Other top choices: Bubba Watson, Danny Willett, Luis Oosthuizen.

VALUE PICKS-SLEEPERS $7,500-$5,400

Charl Schwartzel ($7500): Schwartzel has missed just one cut this season and tied for 11th place at the Memorial. The 2011 Masters champ tied for 30th in 2007 and has some impressive numbers going into Oakmont: sixth in strokes gained approach-the-green, ninth in strokes gained tee-to-green, 11th in strokes gained-total, 14th in scoring average, 17th in GIR and 19th in bogey avoidance. The numbers suggest that Schwartzel will be playing on Sunday.

Jason Dufner ($7,200): Dufner has posted four top-tens, seven top-25s, and has made the cut in 16 of 19 tournaments this season. He barely made the cut at the 2007 Open, but any experience at Oakmont helps. He ranks 14th in strokes gained-approach-the-green and 19th in strokes gained tee-to-green. He’s worth the gamble at $7,200.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello ($6,800): He ranks second in the field in GIR. That alone makes him a good steal at a cheap price. He tied for 17th at the Masters and has four top-25 finishes in six events on tour.

Charlie Hoffman ($6,700): Hoffman has made the cut in 13 of his past 14 starts, including a win at the Texas Valero Open. He ranks 22nd in strokes gained-total and 45th in strokes gained-putting. At 6,700, Hoffman is a great pick.

Kevin Na ($6,600): Na has made the cut in six of his past eight majors and has made the cut in 14 of 17 tournaments this season. He ranks 33rd in bogey avoidance and 36th in strokes gained-total.

Angel Cabrera ($6,500): El Pato won it at Oakmont in 2007 at 5-over par. If he makes the cut, you got a steal at $6,500.

Retief Goosen ($6,300): Goose has made the cut in 11 of 12 tournaments this season including a tie for 12th at the Players. The 47-year-old two-time U.S. Open champ has plenty of experience playing challenging courses and fast greens. Expect him to make the cut at a bargain price.

Other value picks: J.B. Holmes, Jimmy Walker, Marc Leishman, Smylie Kaufman.

Note: Prices based on DraftKings player salaries.