Gambling on golf; a tradition unlike any other. It’s Masters week, which means someone (probably you) is going to win a million dollars playing fantasy golf. That’s a one, six zeroes, and a couple of commas. I’m getting excited just thinking about it. So let’s get down to business.
For all you neophytes, The Masters takes place at Augusta National Golf Club located in Georgia. It’s a 7,445-yard par 72, and the longer hitters tend to have an edge over the rest of the field. FiveThirtyEight Sports ran an article two years ago titled: “At Augusta, Hitting Short Drives and Losing is a Tradition Unlike Any Other.” The gist of it is you’re going to want to target bombers and GIR machines.
There’s a little talk of weather; specifically with respect to wind. Here’s the forecast for Augusta.
1. Jordan Spieth -18
T-2. Phil Mickelson -14
T-2. Justin Rose -14
4. Rory McIlroy -12
5. Hideki Matsuyama -11
T-6. Paul Casey -9
T-6. Ian Pouler -9
T-6. Dustin Johnson -9
T-9. Hunter Mahan -8
T-9. Zach Johnson -8
T-9. Charley Hoffman -8
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Putting
- Driving Distance
- Birdie and Eagle %
- Par 4 and 5 Scoring
PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS!
Adam Scott $11900 (12-1)
He’s a former champion in pristine form (last four stroke play events: T-2, WIN, WIN, T-12). Scott checks every single box: long off the tee, GIR monster, outstanding birdie rate, kills par 5s, and he even seems to have figured out the shorter putter.
Bubba Watson $11400 (10-1)
He allegedly has a case of the sniffles, but I’m not all that concerned. This is his course, and he’s in excellent form (WIN, T-10, T-14, MC, WIN, 2nd in his last six). He’s won this event twice and never missed a cut in seven tries. Distance trumps all at Augusta, and Bubba is one of the longest hitters on tour.
Rickie Fowler $10900 (15-1)
Rickie hasn’t finished outside the top-10 in any of his last four events (I’m ignoring the match play for practical purposes) and has the strongest 2015-16 statistical profile in the field.
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green – 6th
- Strokes Gained: Putting – 9th
- Driving Distance – 14th (hits it 300+)
- GIR – 2nd
- Scrambling – 13th
- Birdie % – 6th
- Eagle % – 7th
- Par 4 Scoring – 2nd
- Par 5 Scoring – 2nd
Beast. I think (I hope) he might go a little overlooked, too. It feels like it’s his time to breakthrough with a major win. He’s my favorite high-priced option.
Phil Mickelson $10500 (15-1)
It’s simple, Phil’s playing his best golf in years (four top-13s in his last five events) and he’s a three-time Masters champion. Everything he’s done so far this season has been working towards this moment. His combination of distance and imagination make him one of the favorites to take home the green jacket.
Justin Rose $9900 (30-1)
Although people tend to associate his name with the U.S. Open, Rose has an excellent track record at The Masters. He’s played this tournament eight times in the past 10 years, and he’s never finished lower than T-36. Not only that, he has five top-15 finishes including a T-2 last year. There also seems to be this perception that Rose is currently off his game, but he’s finished inside the top-17 in each of his last four events. So we’ve got course history and form, what about the stats? He currently averages a tick over 305 off the tee and hits 70% of his greens in regulation. So yeah… Rose makes for a great play.
Hideki Matsuyama $9100 (45-1)
He finished 6th at Bay Hill a few weeks back and 5th here last year. That’s a nice little combo of form and course history. Matsuyama is excellent tee-to-green and strong on both par 4s and 5s. $9100 just feels a little too cheap.
Louis Oosthuizen $8800 (25-1)
The ultimate boom or bust play. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what you’re going to get if you roster Louis this week. He could win the tournament or he could shoot 80 on Thursday and WD Friday morning. He does have a knack for showing up against elite competition, though.
Brandt Snedeker $8500 (45-1)
I think Snedeker is one of the sneakiest (and best) plays on the board, here’s why…
His last two Masters have been fairly ho-hum (37th and 56th, but prior to that, he had ripped off four top-20s in five tries (including a 3rd in 2008 and a 6th in 2013). So we know the Augusta upside is there.
Next, he made a driver switch in the offseason, and it’s been paying off big time (finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in consecutive events earlier this year). Snedeker’s previous career high in driving distance was 288.7 in 2012. So far in 2015-16, he’s averaging 293.5. He’s been pretty good at The Masters in the past, and this recent surge in power can only help.
As a little bonus, we know he can play in bad weather. Remember those hurricane-like conditions at the Farmers Insurance Open? He was the only one to shoot under par on Sunday/Monday and was three shots better than the next closest competitor.
Finally, he wants this one bad. Like really bad. He’s a southern guy (born in Tennessee, attended Vanderbilt), and he’s gone on record saying he’d trade in all of his career achievements for one green jacket.
Sergio Garcia $8400 (50-1)
I’m only using him in a couple of lineups, but I wanted to make quick note of him. His price is good, he’s relatively long, and he hits a ton of greens. Given his class and skill set, he’s worth a look at only $8400.
Brooks Koepka $8100 (55-1)
It’s finally time to unleash the Koepka. We’ve got a course that places supreme importance on length and GIR; Brooks’ two best discernible skills. He’s also pretty great with the flat stick, and that will certainly help on these tricky greens. He finished 33rd last year in his first shot at Augusta, and I expect him to improve on that performance.
Danny Willett $8000 (50-1)
With Willett, you’re getting the #12 ranked golfer in the world for less than the average salary on DK. Yes, please. Although he’s not the longest hitter (coming in around 295 yards), Willett still hits an inordinately high percentage of greens in regulation (71.3%). In his first Masters, he finished a respectable 38th.
Marc Leishman $7900 (75-1)
Leishman has been pretty good this year; finishing T-5, T-28, and T-17 in his last three stroke play events. As a routine backer of Marc, I can tell you his #1 problem this season has been avoiding the big number. If a course has water, he’s going to find it. That said, he also has a propensity for making birdies. We’re dealing with a course that isn’t all that punitive off the tee and playing in a GPP where one person will walk away with $1,000,000. What does that mean? Focus on UPSIDE. He’s long, solid tee-to-green, a good putter, great scrambler, and dominates par 4s. That’s the profile of a major champion.
Kevin Kisner $7800 (100-1)
Most will probably cross him off out of hand as he’s been playing some skunky golf, but he’s basically this generation’s Matt Kuchar with a little more length and much less name recognition. Kuchar has found success here (made his last six cuts and ripped off three straight top-8s from 2012-2014), so why not Kisner?
Matt Kuchar $7800 (65-1)
As I just said, Kuch tends to play well here. He’s not the longest hitter in the field, but he knows how to find his way around a golf course (and he manages to score very well on par 5s). A Georgia Tech guy who plays well in Georgia, who knew?
Paul Casey $7700 (65-1)
In his last two tournaments, Casey finished 7th at WGC-Cadillac and T-9 at Bay Hill. He could be peaking at just the right time. His course history is a bit of a roller coaster. He had three straight top-20 finishes at The Masters from 2007-2009, then his game fell apart for a few years, and he returned to form in 2015 (which resulted in a T-6 at Augusta). When he’s on, he plays well here. Casey is one of the best on tour in terms of hitting greens in regulation, and he scores well on both par 4s and par 5s. He has a solid all-around game and comes in at a nice price.
Justin Thomas $7600 (80-1)
As you’ll be able to tell by the end of this article, I’m not afraid of rostering first-timers. Thomas has all the tools necessary to succeed at Augusta: he hits it a mile, makes a ton of birdies, scores well on par 4s, and crushes par 5s. I’m taking a few shots with him.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello $7400 (100-1)
With all due respect to Day and Scott, Rafa Cabrera-Bello might be the hottest golfer on the planet. When someone is on a run like this and is only $7400, you don’t think, you just use him.
Kevin Na $6900 (150-1)
The low $7k to upper $6k price range is a bit of a wasteland. If you’re building multiple lineups, you will likely need someone around this price to balance out your ownership. He’s not in the best of form, but he does have two 12th place finishes in the last four years at the Masters. I’m going to lean on that recent course history.
Emiliano Grillo $6700 (175-1)
I don’t have much to say about this one; I just think he’s worth a flier or two.
Bernd Wiesberger $6500 (250-1)
Out of necessity, Wiesberger is my most owned golfer this week (in just over 50% of my lineups). You’re going to want to spend up on a few of the big names (rightfully so), which means you’re going to need a few cheap guys to fill out a roster.
He’s a world class golfer at a bargain bin price. I’d like it if he was a little longer off the tee, but 292 is respectable. He routinely finishes inside the top-20 on the European Tour in terms of GIR%, and he’s #9 in the field on the PGA Tour by that metric this season. Bernd made his first appearance at Augusta last year and finished T-22 (impressive). He’s the best value option on the board.
Charley Hoffman $6400 (100-1)
Initially, I intended to fade Hoffman. Despite blowing up a little at the end, he played reasonably well last week in Houston. Not only that, he was in the final group at the Masters and was on the winning Millionaire Maker lineup last year. I thought his buzz/ownership would clearly outpace his likely performance. And while that still might be the case, there just aren’t that many reasonable options in this price range. I don’t want 100% Wiesberger or 75% Berger/Kaufman, so I needed someone to help spread it out. So here we are. He’s played the Masters twice and finished 27th and 9th. Augusta is the ultimate course history course, so at $6400 I’m rolling with Charley.
Daniel Berger $6200 (250-1)
His last three tournaments? T-28, T-11, and T-5, with the T-5 coming at a correlation course. The Bergermeister was on absolute fire on Sunday; posting a -6. I think he keeps it going this week. He’s a good tee-to-green player and blasts it out there 305+.
Smylie Kaufman $6000 (325-1)
Kaufman ranks at or above average in every target area (including well above average in terms of distance and GIR). He’s a rookie, but he’s held his own against stiff competition (T-8 @ WGC-Cadillac, T-12 @ Bay Hill, took Rory to the wire in match play). You won’t be able to find anyone with more upside at this price.
Scott Piercy $5900 (225-1)
In the event you need that extra $100, you can drop down from Kaufman to Piercy. Scotty has all the skills I’m looking for (301 off the tee, 69.2% GIR, good on par 4s and 5s, etc.), and he made the cut in his only Masters in 2013. I wouldn’t go any lower than this.
This is one of the best weeks of the year, so enjoy yourself! Best of luck, hope you all win all the money!