Fantasy Insider: U.S. Open

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A win at Merion would put Padraig Harrington three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam.

If you play the pick-4 fantasy game at, you may be debating the merits of burning one of your 10 starts on Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open. At the start of the year, this tournament was on the bubble of top-10 sites where you'd plan to plug him in.

I have five starts remaining and I'll use one this week. Given, he'll probably play as many as nine more times, all of the factors that project success at Merion clinch a spot in his top five remaining sites. Included on that short list (in chronological order) are Congressional (AT&T National), Firestone (World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational), TPC Boston (Deutsche Bank Championship) and East Lake (TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola).

The next four in order of priority are Conway Farms (BMW Championship), Liberty National (The Barclays), Oak Hill (PGA Championship) and Muirfield (Open Championship). Conway Farms slots ahead of the other three since the BMW hosts just 70 golfers and there is no cut. Use current form and all of the other factors entering a tournament to rearrange your list accordingly.

Look for my choices for's fantasy game in Expert Picks. My one-and-done selection, analysis and season totals will appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.

On a Roll
Padraig Harrington ...
While he long ago abandoned an agenda to make a major his third consecutive start on the road, he has to be somewhat buoyed by a T10 in Memphis last week. In fact, it's his fifth straight top 20 on the eve of a major. He chased two of them with a top 20 and has three in his last five starts in majors.

Ryan Palmer ... In the process of surviving his last seven cuts, he's posted two top fives and another pair of top 15s. Ranks inside the top 16 in par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring. Overall, he's seventh in adjusted scoring. Placed T21 at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open.

Josh Teater ... One of only three golfers (Luke Guthrie, Robert Karlsson) to open qualify for both the U.S. and British Opens. In between those successful 36-hole sprints, he's survived four straight cuts, including a T7 at Colonial. The only weakness in his bag has been experience but that's rapidly disappearing.

Justin Hicks ... The regular in my Sleepers feature finally lassoed his first top 10 on the PGA TOUR with a T7 in Memphis. Currently 12th in fairways hit and 18th in greens in regulation. As Tiger Woods hits the fifth anniversary of his last title in a major, it's fun noting that Hicks co-led the 2008 U.S. Open after 18 holes.

Kyle Stanley ... Top-six finishes in three of his last five starts, including a solo third in his most recent at Muirfield Village. Ranks 28th in greens in regulation

Bo Van Pelt ... Six consecutive cuts made entering the week, three of which resulting in a top 25.

David Hearn ... Top 25s the last two weeks. Ranked T7 in fairways hit at TPC Southwind. Sits 23rd for the season in strokes gained-putting and T7 in par-4 scoring.

Horses for Courses
Hunter Mahan ..
. Arguably the No. 1 among the elite flying under this week's radar. He hasn't posted a top 15 since the conclusion of the West Coast Swing, but he's survived five straight cuts. Two of his last three resulted in a top 20. Ranks 32nd in both fairways and greens hit.

Kevin Chappell ... In the crosshairs of converging trends. Took solo second at Muirfield Village two weeks ago for his third top 10 of the season. Posted top 10s in the last two U.S. Opens. Wouldn't be incorrect to label him as a sum-is-greater-than-his-parts talent that's carving a niche on tough courses.

Boo Weekley ... With a victory at Colonial in his recent past and the documented reputation as a great ball-striker (with a little pop to boot), the lack of local knowledge on the greens for just about everyone in the field could neutralize his weakness in putting.

Tim Clark ... Has four top 20s in nine starts at the U.S. Open, which makes sense given his propensity to keep his ball in play. Currently second in fairways hit and 41st in adjusted scoring. Most recent of three top 10s this season was a T7 at Colonial just three weeks ago.

Francesco Molinari ... Not to be confused with his older brother, Edoardo, who won the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion. Francesco is arguably best known as a ball-striker -- he's 16th on the European Tour in fairways hit -- but he also arrives in good form, too. After a T5 at the Volvo Match Play Championship, he placed T9 at the BMW PGA Championship and T21 at the Nordea Masters.

Michael Thompson ... He's been exempt this week since finishing T2 at Olympic Club last year, and he's posted three top 10s this season. That includes his breakthrough victory at a difficult PGA National (The Honda Classic) and a T8 in his last start at Muirfield Village. Ranks 61st in fairways hit.

Ryan Moore ... Despite mixed results throughout his career, it's impossible not to consider him on a classic track. That alone inflates his value. Took last week off after a T13 at Muirfield Village.

Russell Henley ... He deserves an endorsement on form alone, but he's been submitting impressive numbers all season. Sits 40th in fairways hit (and ball-striking) and 27th in adjusted scoring.

David Toms ... Always on the short list of potential contenders when hitting fairways has value. Opened with a 67 at TPC Southwind before settling for a share of 54th place.

Not So Fast
Keegan Bradley ...
Never rule him out, but his recent solo second at the HP Byron Nelson Championship already looks like it may be the anomaly since he opened with a 60 that week. He played his final 54 holes in just 1-under, and then scored 4-over at Muirfield Village en route to a T50.

Luke Donald ... While his short game remains sublime, U.S. Open courses have exposed his weaknesses. In his last six appearances, his better finish among two cuts made is a T45 at Congressional in 2011.

Rickie Fowler ... If he was executing better of late, we could ignore his 2-for-4 record in the U.S. Open sans a top 40. Instead, we can't look past the absence of a top 25 in his last six starts entering this week. Ranks 126th in ball-striking.

Nicolas Colsaerts ... Possesses the tee-to-green game that could overpower any track, but he ranks 156th on the PGA TOUR in fairways hit and 145th in adjusted scoring.

Leaking Oil
Brandt Snedeker ...
This is relative. He's missed his last two cuts, but he's ninth in fairways hit, 12th in greens in regulation, 20th in scrambling and 11th in adjusted scoring.

Brendan Steele ... Making his U.S. Open debut (via sectional qualifying), but hasn't survived a cut in his last five starts.

Aaron Baddeley ... Arrives on an 0-for-5 skid. Ranks 178th in fairways hit and 180th in greens in regulation.

Y.E. Yang ... He's missed five straight cuts, but he warned us weeks ago that he was working on his swing.

Scott Langley ... Enduring typical rookie lumps. Has missed five of his last six cuts, but posted his best finishes on courses where hitting fairways has elevated value -- Waialae (T3), Copperhead (T30) and Harbour Town (T24).

Back in the Saddle
Robert Garrigus ...
First start since the birth of his second child. Still stuck on one top 25 since the conclusion of the West Coast Swing (T24, RBC Heritage).

Matt Bettencourt ... Sectional qualified (via a 3-for-1 playoff) in Maryland, but had to withdraw during his first round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic with an illness.

Notable WDs
David Lynn ...
Committed to a planned vacation. It's not unprecedented among qualifiers. In recent memory, Anders Hansen (2011) and Paul Lawrie (2012) took a pass on the U.S. Open.

Retief Goosen ... Out until July due to a bruised facet joint in his back.

Richard Sterne ... When he withdrew early this month, an explanation wasn't released, but it wasn't long thereafter that his first child was born.

Roger Chapman ... Taking the week off to focus on a busy schedule on the Champions Tour.