Inside the Sandbox: An Early Look at Chambers Bay

It’s a remarkable thing that the 2015 U.S. Open will be played on a golf course that didn’t exist a decade ago, but here we are, preparing for an unprecedented challenge on a site that poses a series of bizarre anomalies — from its unusual flora to the USGA’s plans to switch up the Par 4/5 designations on a couple of holes. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you prepare for what promises to be a strange week on the U.S. Open leaderboard.

1. The course is somewhat of a scary hybrid monster baby

It’s a Pacific Coast course that looks nothing like the other regional venues in Washington state, and it’s a diabolical links design build in an old sand-and-gravel pit that combines elements from Scotland’s St. Andrews and Carnoustie with the coastal paradise of Pebble Beach and the sandy mounds of Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. Fitter golfers who have good imaginations and can putt the ball make the most sense as favorites, so mixing in expensive but talented guys like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler will be essential in taking down the large-field GPPs.

2. It’s about the grass, man.

All the grass at Chambers Bay is fescue — which is normally found in the U.K. courses and common at British Open venues. It’s bouncy, which means it’ll be difficult to hold incoming approach shots (especially those coming from 175+ yards and out). The undulating greens will be cut to .18 inches, which could easily translate into three-putts for the short-stick-challenged. The first U.S. Open I watched live was at Shinnecock Hills, and some of these guys just couldn’t figure out the greens. For this reason, I’d favor longer hitters who are good scramblers and putters, with less of an emphasis on ball striking and approach proximity. For this reason, you might see popular picks like Hideki Matsuyama, Lucas Glover, Dustin Johnson and Ryan Palmer crash and burn.

3. U.K. Open?

As I discussed before, there’s a good chance we’ll see a few U.K. Golfers in the Top 10, so scour the sub-$7,000 player pool on DraftKings for guys who have some experience with links courses and pepper them in your lineups. This is a perfect opportunity to employ a scrubs and stars approach, because without a lot of course knowledge, basically anyone can get hot, make the cut and finish in the Top 25, while the more talented (read: expensive) golfers will crowd the Top 5. Even if you start by rostering the tournament favorite Rory McIlroy ($13,000) and a high-upside guy like Rickie Fowler ($10,800 — 5th most expensive), you’ll have $6,550 per player to roster the remaining four, which in a GPP could easily be the winning strategy. Mix in a Welsh wonder like Oliver Farr at $5,200 and you’ve now got $7K to spend on each of your remaining three!

4. Eyes on the prize, folks!

After the DraftKings Millionaire Maker at the Masters was won by a single-entry, perfect ballot $20 lottery ticket, it stands to reason that anybody can win the million this time around. Especially in a virtually unknown venue like Chambers Bay, it makes sense to get a little crazy with some of your selections. Don’t play it safe, don’t settle for a middling cash, and don’t rest on your laurels while all the other competitors are out there soaking up everything there is on the Interwebs about Chambers Bay, and considering all possibilities before your lineups lock. I’ve been reading a lot of course reviews from low-handicappers and pros who’ve played these links multiple times, and it’s getting me very excited for a thrilling weekend.

5. Rory is king.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it will be to mix in heavy doses of Rory McIlroy next week. He’s an up-and-down player, and it’s hard to say what his ownership percentages will be because he’s so darned expensive, but he’s the type of golfer who an run away with this thing, and lap the field in terms of contest scoring. Even if he’s as much as 25 percent owned, rostering him in 50 percent of your lineups will be a winning strategy, because he’s good enough to win 1/3 U.S./British Opens for the next decade. I’m not saying go all-in (there are a lot of great golfers and including Rory is still a calculated risk) but if I’m entering 10 lineups in the big one, he’s going to be on at least five.

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