MASTERS TOURNAMENT – Augusta, GA
Augusta National (7,435 yards, par 72)
$1,800,000 and 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner
It’s been over eight full months since the last major championship, but this week the fast ends. Masters week is upon us -- cue the familiar piano theme, settle into your favorite chair, and enjoy one of the most dramatic and memorable sporting events the world has ever known. After Russell Henley booked the last ticket with a win at the Houston Open last week, the field is now set at 94. The field makeup includes 17 former Masters Champions, 14 first-time professionals, and five amateurs who all received the coveted invite to Augusta National. Storylines for this week include Dustin Johnson looking to make it four straight victories, Jordan Spieth seeking redemption after his back-nine implosion last year, and Rory McIlroy (still) seeking the elusive career grand slam. Don’t look now but this year marks 20 years since Tiger Woods – though he’s not in the field this week – shocked the world with his record-breaking 12-shot victory in 1997. Sadness will also loom as it also marks the first Masters in 63 years without Arnold Palmer. With forecasted storms early in the week and breezy conditions on Thursday and Friday, we could see softer conditions and wind affect scoring. By the weekend, the weather should be calm and clear for contenders who can survive the Friday cut line. In any case, expect plenty of incredible drama to unfold as the tournament inches toward the back nine on Sunday afternoon.
Prior Decade Champions
2016 – Danny Willett
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – Bubba Watson
2013 – Adam Scott
2012 – Bubba Watson
2011 – Charl Schwartzel
2010 – Phil Mickelson
2009 – Angel Cabrera
2008 – Trevor Immelman
2007 – Zach Johnson
Key Stats to Winning at Augusta National
• Par-5 scoring
• Driving Distance
• 3-putt avoidance and putting conversion from 5-10 feet
Under normal conditions, the blueprint to win at Augusta in the modern era is clear: Hit it longer than most, have a great short game, and keep your head in check all week. Someone can probably win by doing two of the three really well, but it’s unlikely. Augusta National has wide fairways, short rough, and plays on the long side. A big advantage of length is all four par-5s are reachable in two for longer hitters. On average, the winner averages 2- or 3-under on the par 5’s each round, and getting near or on the green in two is the easiest way of doing that. Though the course requires players to work the ball both ways, at least nine holes favor a right-to-left shot shape off the tee, so having control of this shot is key. It’s why left-handers like Bubba and Phil have had much success here, because their right-to-left shot is a fade that is much more controllable than a right-handed draw. Around the green, tight lies and scary fast slopes are commonplace. Augusta National requires not only great touch, but the right technique and strategy for players to save shots. In many situations, the best a player can do is setup a 5-to-10-foot putt to save par – making most of these is critical to keep momentum. That’s where the touch and putting come in. When players get out of position off the tee, it’s imperative to stay patient and know when to take their medicine and trust your short game or try an aggressive hero shot. Making the right decisions in these situations -- and keeping a cool head when they don’t -- keeps the ship steady while the inevitable drama takes place.
FanDuel Value Picks
Dustin Johnson, $11000 – There’s no golfer on the planet who’s hotter than DJ, who has collected three straight victories at great tournaments and holds top-10s at his last two Masters. There’s easily enough game in his arsenal to get it done at Augusta, though he’ll need to make a few more putts than normal.
Jordan Spieth, $10600 – Second, first, second -- that’s Spieth short but incredible track record of success at Augusta National. He has the patience, course management, and short game prowess required to earn another green jacket.
Rory McIlroy, $10400 – Rory has notched top-10s his last three Masters and enters in solid form, hungry for the career grand slam. Only five in history have accomplished this feat, but Rory is oh so close and more than capable of being the sixth.
Jason Day, $9500 – Though Day’s mind is pre-occupied with the serious health struggles of his mother, it’s assumed he will be playing and capable of being the Jason Day who is patient and extremely talented. Day is primed for a green jacket, as he’s had several close calls at the Masters (2011, 2013) and has already closed the deal on one major (2015 PGA) in his career.
Phil Mickelson, $9500 – Though Phil has missed two of his last three cuts at the Masters, his history is ironclad despite his age of 46. Back in 1986, Jack Nicklaus pulled off a Masters at 46, and there’s little doubt Phil can do the same.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Bubba Watson, $8300 – You have to go back more than a year to find a top-10 stroke play finish in a full-field event for Bubba, but on the other hand, Augusta National is perfect for his length and creativity. There might be some value here, but his salary is understandably down because of his poor recent play.
Brandt Snedeker, $7800 – Sneds has notched five top-25 finishes in eight starts this calendar year, and let’s not forget his five top-20s at Augusta, including near misses in 2008 & 2013. Snedeker’s putter is as good as it gets, but his average length off the tee could be a liability on the par-5s at Augusta.
Brooks Koepka, $6800 – Plenty long and back to full health this year, Koepka has two respectable finishes (T31, T33) in two starts at the Masters. His game fits the champion’s profile quite well, and it may only be a matter of time before he contends for a green jacket. His risk comes only in his limited experience at Augusta and having just one PGA Tour win to his name.
Marc Leishman, $6500 – Leishman is third in strokes gained: putting in 2017 and enters off a strong victory at Bay Hill just a few weeks ago. He also had a top-5 at Augusta National in 2013. The risk comes in the fact that he has missed 3-of-4 career cuts at the Masters.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
Much is said about the very limited group of players who can theoretically win the Masters, so gravitating toward at least one of the elite players in the field like DJ, Spieth, Rory, or Day is a prudent choice to start a lineup.
Because of the limited field (94) and the Masters always being at Augusta National, choosing players with high finishes here in the past is smart, because experience in handling the pressure of this prestigious event is hard to come by. With that said, don’t be afraid to differentiate your lineup with some talented buy lesser-experienced guys in a massive GPP like the PGA Golden Eagle (over 220,000 entries).