The Masters is only days away, and DraftKings has some huge fantasy golf contests available for the biggest major of the year. We figured it would be good to get a head start on strategy for this tournament, looking at the Augusta National course layout and history, as well as things to look for as golfers prepare for the biggest major of the year.
DraftKings has made two big changes to their tournament selection for The Masters this year. First, the entry fee for the Millionaire Maker has gone from $20 to $33, and there is a 150 entry cap for all participants. That gives everyone playing a fair shot at winning the $1 million top prize. The other change — and what we think is the biggest change — is the $3 Birdie contest going from 150 max entries to 20. The $600K guarantee event has evened the playing field, allowing the novice/beginner players to compete fairly with the top DFS pros.
HOW DRAFTKINGS FANTASY GOLF WORKS
- In each fantasy contest, participants will be assigned a fixed salary cap of $50,000 that they can use to draft their entire six golfer lineup.
- The golfer pool will consist of all golfers expected to be participating in the tournament. Any missing golfers will not be added to the pool once DraftKings starts offering contests for that week. If a golfer is scratched late from an event, he will remain in the player pool, and you must be aware to remove them from your team before the tournament starts. Golfer salaries will also not change once DraftKings starts offering contests for that tournament start time.
- Contest results and winners will be based on the total fantasy points scored across each entrant's six golfer lineup scoring system.
Golfers will accumulate or lose points during the tournament in the following ways:
- Double Eagle: +20
- Hole in One: +10
- Eagle: +8
- Birdie: +3
- Par: +0.5
- Bogey: -0.5
- Double Bogey or Worse: -1
Players will also score points depending on where they finish on the leaderboard. The tournament winner will receive 30 points, second place 20 points, third place 18 points, and so on, all the way down to the 50th place finisher who will receive one point. There are also points that can be gained for "streaks" which are hard to predict and even harder to get. These include a birdie streak of three straight holes and a bogey-free round. As you can see, you shouldn't try to guess or estimate a streak or bonus as they are hard to gauge. What you can look up and research is a players birdie or better % and bogey avoidance to try and help gauge a players ability to make birdies and not make bogeys helping you value a players point total. Keep in mind that most tournament have a Top 70 and ties for the cut line. At The Masters that number is Top 50 and ties PLUS any golfer within 10 shots of the lead.
Augusta National Course Layout and History
The gorgeous Augusta National plays host to The Masters every year. Every hole is scenic and every shot memorable. This is the only tournament where you can watch four rounds of golf and paint a layout of almost every hole. You will hear commentators refer to each hole as a name of a shrub or tree and you will hear players talk about how "Amen Corner" was a turning point for them, whether good or bad.
Augusta is a traditional golf course, playing as a Par 72 at roughly 7,400 yards. Holes #11-13 (Par 4, Par 3, Par 5) are commonly referred to as "Amen Corner," though the actual Amen Corner lies on the second shot on #11 through the second shot on #13. Some of the most memorable shots in Masters history have come on these holes, including Phil Mickelson's pine straw shot on #13 leading to birdie, and Jordan Spieth's collapse on #12 in last year's final round when he made a quadruple bogey on #12 allowing Danny Willett to win the Green Jacket.
The course is advantageous for the longer hitters as all of the Par 5s are reachable for them, but don't count out the short knockers. Spieth has placed in the Top 2 three straight years, while Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar have also found great success lately at Augusta.
If you've played well on this tough course in the past, you are a likely candidate to be in contention on Sunday. The 2016 Masters saw nine of the Top 10 (14 players) as repeat top 10 performers in the last five years. Thirteen players in the last five years have repeat finishes in the top 10, with three of them having three top 10s and one player having 4 (Lee Westwood). We are a big believer in course history at The Masters.
What to Look For
Look for players who played well in the Shell Houston Open to also play well at Augusta. Players have said it is a great gear-up for the event because the courses play similar. An average of 9 golfers over the past three years have finished in the top 35 in both events. Although that number looks low, less than half the field at The Masters plays the Shell. Check out the leaderboard from the Shell Houston Open.
Also look for players who hit it far and/or have touch around the greens. With the speed and angulations of the greens, chipping/scrambling should be a key stat at Augusta. With the exception of Willet, Spieth, Westwood and Kuchar, the leaderboard is packed with bombers most years.
DraftKings Picks and Strategy
Every golfer prepares for the Masters the same way: watching film. Tiger Woods started this trend to find out where to miss shots as well as where to hit shots (although at that time there was limited video of the front 9). Augusta is one of the only courses a player will play during the year where sometimes you want to land a ball 30 feet left of the hole, sometimes you want to land the ball in the front of the green to a back pin even with short irons and sometimes you actually want the ball to rest 20 feet from the hole (taking your medicine is the reference). This is due to the severe slopes of the greens mixed with the tightest, fastest green speeds the players will play all year.
Although players will use their different imaginations to hit that little white ball around Augusta, one common ally they will all have is leaving the ball UNDER THE HOLE. If you have been watching golf since the early-late 2000's, you remember the rise and fall of Padraig Harrington. Although he had two T5 finishes at Augusta and was coming off two Major wins, he decided to change his swing to go from hitting a tight fade to hitting a high draw. Why would he do this after winning two majors? The only reason was to win The Masters. Most of your winners at Augusta hit high draws (right-handed players). This is also a reason guys like Mike Weir (left-hander) have had success here. Lefties who can fade the ball have tended to play well.
Let's take a look at how rookies fair at Augusta. Do veterans play Augusta National better than the first-timers? Depending on if your guideline is just making the cut or if its top 20, it could be true or false. Around 60% of PROFESSIONAL first timers make the cut. However, much less actually finish in the top 20. Last year three of the 14 first timers placed in the top 20 (T10, T17, T17). In 2015, zero of the 13 first timers placed in the top 20, and in 2014 five of the 18 placed in the top 20. In total, eight of the 45 first timers in the last three years finished in the top 20. The eight players who have placed in the top 20 have the same thing in common; they are phenomenal from approaches 175-200 yards, they bomb it (with exception of Rafael Cabrera-Bello) and they gain a ton of strokes on strokes gained: tee to green. If you are going to roster a first time player for The Masters, make sure he has those three stats checked.
Key Stats: Approaches 175-200 yards, SG:T2G, Driving Distance, Par 5 Scoring, Scrambling, BoB%
Jordan Spieth ($11,500)
Spieth will battle Dustin Johnson for highest-owned golfer this week and deservedly so. Although it will be difficult to play both in the same lineup, we feel they are by far the two best plays of the week. If you are making multiple lineups, we recommend splitting ownership 50-50 between the two. Spieth played The Shell Houston Open to tune up for Augusta while Johnson was originally scheduled to play but withdrew after his victory at the Dell Match Play.
Entering the Shell, Spieth had placed 12th, 22nd and 1st in his last three tournaments. His course history at Augusta is unreal and unmatched as he has placed 2nd, 1st and 2nd in the three years he has played. We all remember last year's collapse at #12 which cost him the tournament. Spieth's mental game reminds us of one of the best players of all time, Tiger Woods. We feel the collapse in last year's final round made him tougher and a better player.
The short-hitting Texas native gets it done with mid-iron approaches as his ranking in approaches 175-200 yards is fourth on tour. His ranking of second in BoB% is only topped by his long time friend Justin Thomas. He is phenomenal tee-to-green (ninth) and ranks second on tour in Par 5 Scoring. He matches that with a ranking of second in Par 4 Scoring. The sixth-ranked golfer in the world will look to jump some spots this week and land right here he belongs in the top 3.
Dustin Johnson ($11,300)
If pricing were to come out this week and much earlier, DJ would be the highest salaried at $12,000. He is the #1 golfer in the world and is coming off a win at the WGC Match Play, a win at the Genesis, and a third-place at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. He has finished fourth and sixth in the last two Masters visits and is looking in prime form for his first green jacket.
DJ ranks sixth or better in four of our six key stats, ranking first in approaches 175-200 yards, second in T2G, second in Driving Distance, and sixth in Par 5 Scoring. He also ranks seventh on tour in BoB% and 23rd in scrambling. Basically, you're looking at a fantasy golf monster. Honestly, this is like the guy you create on PGA Tour golf video games and give him 99 ratings in everything. DJ could potentially create some distance between himself and everyone else in the WGC rankings if he plays well this week. We fully expect him to.
If you wanted to get a player with just as much chance to win as Spieth and DJ but with lower ownership, you can pivot to Rory McIlroy who rounds out the top 3 golfers in the field.
Phil Mickelson ($8,700)
The last time Lefty missed a cut at The Masters, he followed it up with a runner-up. He missed last year's cut and is looking to rebound at what he calls his favorite tournament of the year. He has two green jackets already and also has a runner-up and a third-place finish in the last five years. Although Phil is having a down year in scrambling (still ranked 45th) he is having a great year in BoB% (ranked 4th) and Par 5 Scoring (ranked 7th). Phil is getting it done this year with the flat stick, ranking 8th in SG:P which is one of his best putting years of his career. If he can control his ball with his irons this week like he has been doing, you will see his name in contention on Sunday. He isn't called Phil the Thrill for nothing.
Jon Rahm ($8,600)
The Spaniard is making his debut at the Masters, and if you recall what we said earlier in this article you know the key stats to look at for first timers. Rahm ranks fifth in approaches 175-200 yards, 21st in Driving Distance, and 3rd in T2G. That gives him a big check mark for first timers who could place well at Augusta.
Rahm also ranks 2nd in Par 4 Scoring, 6th in BoB%, 19th in Scrambling and 27th in Par 5 Scoring. He has already vaulted up to 14th in the official world golf rankings. He is one of the best young players in the game already and will look to contend in his first Masters appearance. Although he's making his debut at Augusta, Rahm did place 23rd in the 2016 US Open as an amateur and 59th at the Open the same year in his professional major debut. Phil Mickelson, who knows a thing or two about talent, has dubbed Rahm one of the best players in the world, not just one of the best young players.
Bernd Wiesberger ($7,100)
The tall lanky Austrian golfer is playing much better than what his salary suggests. He is coming off an early exit in the WGC Match Play in large part to a Molinari WD, which gave Alexander Noren the group. He finished third in the European Tour Maybank Championship eight weeks ago and finished 45th in the WGC Mexico Championship. In his first two years of playing The Masters, Wiesberger placed 22nd and 34th. He does not have enough rounds played in PGA Tour events to be ranked in stats but he has some great European Tour rankings. He ranks 12th in BoB%, 4th in Par 5 Scoring, 3rd in Par 4 Scoring, and 7th in Scrambling. At his price, we feel he is a must-play at Augusta.
Others to Consider: Rickie Fowler ($9,300), Justin Rose ($9,200), Bubba Watson ($8,400), Paul Casey ($7,800), Tyrell Hatton ($7,600), Daniel Berger ($7,300), Bill Haas ($7,200), Brendan Steele ($7,100), Adam Hadwin ($6,900)
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