The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
We’re here. We’ve slogged through two months of West Coast courses, a Florida swing and even a visit to Puerto Rico. We’ve seen players like Jason Day and Adam Scott go on massive heaters and had to endure questions every week about the state of Jordan Spieth’s game. None of that matters now, though. This week we’re headed to Augusta where the first three months gets thrown out and we get treated to four days of competition at one of the games true treasures for the right to wear the green jacket, the years first major, and golfing immortality. Excited yet? Good, cause on top of all this, there’s also 1 million dollars up for grabs this week on DraftKings in the years first PGA Fantasy Golf Millionaire. It’s a huge tournament with huge prizes, and this article is hopefully going to prepare you for your shot at becoming a fantasy legend.
The Masters is one of the most unique fields of the entire year. While there are tons of elite players here, it also includes a handful of older champions who are generally past their prime and not really a factor at all in the actual tournament. The players, therefore, take a lot of pride in just being invited to the Masters each year as simply being a solid player doesn’t ensure one gets an invite. Winning a PGA event, being a top 50 player in the World or having a big finish at another major, or the tour championship, are usually the only ways in (having a victory at a past Masters doesn’t hurt either). As a result, several very solid Tour players will be sitting out this week, but late qualifiers like Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who stormed in with a couple top finishes in WGC’s, will be in the field.
“The Masters is one of the most unique fields of the entire year”
The cut line for this event is also unique. The cut still takes place after Friday, but only the top 50 plus ties, PLUS all those within 10 shots of the lead will play the weekend. With only 89-90 players in the field this year, getting all six of your players through the cut line for fantasy purposes will be especially crucial, as over 50% of the actual field will get a chance to play the weekend.
|PGA Targets||More Content||PGA Love/Hate|
|PGA Cheat Sheet||for the Masters||Expert Rankings|
Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
Par 72, 7400-7500 yards (depending on setup)
Augusta National was built on the site of an old tree sanctuary, and every one of its holes has a name associated with its natural surrounding (usually a tree, bush or flower… how quaint!). At its most basic, Augusta is a standard par 72 course that has four par 5’s, four par 3’s and ten par 4’s. However, there truly isn’t anything standard about the setup of the holes or the course. Augusta is one of the hilliest tracks on Tour, and the elevation changes and slopes means experience playing the course can really pay off. The greens here are also some of the most treacherous and fast the players will see all year and again can really cause havoc on those who aren’t familiar with the speed and severe breaks. The course was redesigned back in 2002 to catch up with modern technology and now plays quite long but has still seen winning scores ranging all the way from +1 (Zach Johnson 2007) to -18 (last year Jordan Spieth). As far as the individual holes go, here’s a brief breakdown of what will await the player’s this week:
Par 5’s 550-600 yds: 2
Par 5’s 500-550: 2
Par 4’s over 500 yds: 1
Par 4’s 450-500 yds: 5
Par 4’s 400-450 yds: 3
Par 4’s under 400 yds: 1
Par 3’s over 200 yds: 1
Par 3’s 150 – 200 yds: 3
While Augusta’s par 5’s are often the “action holes”, where you’ll see a ton of birdies and eagles, the true teeth and test of this course lies in the six par 4’s that range over 450 yards. Players who can tread water on these brutes (and the tricky par 3’s), AND take advantage of the very score-able par 5’s, will be in great shape come the final nine holes on Sunday. Ultimately, Augusta is a course where aggression and length off the tee will certainly pay off for the players in spots, but also one where careful planning and an imaginative short game will be needed to save par and avoid the big scores.
Last Five Winners
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – Bubba Watson
2013 – Adam Scott
2012 – Bubba Watson
2011 – Charl Schwartzel
- No player has won at Augusta on their first attempt since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979.
- No player since 1996 has won after missing the cut the year prior.
- Five of the last seven winners have ranked inside the top 25 in driving distance in the year of their victory.
- Five of the past six winners have ranked 19th or better in par 5 scoring in the year of their victory.
- The past six winners of this event have ranked 36th or better in par 4 scoring in the year of their victory.
Below are the most important statistics that correlate to winning at Augusta.
Par 4 Scoring
Par 5 Scoring
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
I already mentioned how important Par 4 and Par 5 Scoring is above, but I’ll just touch on it again briefly. The par 5’s are where players need to score this week if they have a hope of ending up near the lead on Sunday. Past winners like Bubba Watson (-8 on par 5’s in 2014) and Zach Johnson (-11 on par 5’s in 2007) have killed these holes in the years of their victory, and that is a trend that seems to hold up every time on this course. Additionally, with the par 4’s being mostly brutes seeing players with good stats in this category show up near or at the lead on Sunday is becoming the norm here as well. You could definitely include both in any projections you’re making this week.
Driving Distance is another huge factor this week. While shorter hitters can compete here, everything else being equal, I’ll take the guy who hits it further off the tee at Augusta almost every single time. Wide fairways mean less need for accuracy and more reward overall for the bombers (and more fantasy points in the long run, too). This is a stat I don’t think can be overstated this week given the results we’ve seen since 2002 (when the course was redesigned).
Finally, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green is the way we measure how a player has stacked up against the field in his shots from off the green. Since its induction it’s been a great indicator of who the elite players on tour are, both statically and result wise, and in a major championship, I see no reason not to use it. Past winners here have almost always been ranked highly in it in the year of their victory (and over their career), and I doubt that will change this week.
Odds to Win
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Louis Oosthuizen||30-1||$8,800||Henrik Stenson $9,600 and 30-1
Charl Schwartzel $9,400 and 30-1
Hideki Matsuyama $9,100 and 35-1
|Ryan Moore||110-1||$6,800||Keegan Bradley $6,900 and 175-1
Chris Kirk $6,700 and 200-1
Kevin Na $6,900 and 125-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
- Phil Mickelson has three wins and seven top 5’s since 2004 and absolutely loves Augusta National, which sets up great for lefties. Lefty will certainly be an interesting play this week as a result.
- Bubba Watson is another lefty who this course sets up perfectly for. He has never missed the cut in 7 tries and already has two victories here. I won’t be shocked if one or both him and Phil are in contention this Sunday.
- Justin Rose is 8/8 in cuts made here since 2007 and has five finishes of 15th or better in that span. He was runner up last year and obviously someone who’s taken to the course. Often the forgotten man, Rose looks as safe as they come this week.
- Lee Westwood is not in great form, but he has made 9 straight cuts at the Masters with 6 finishes of 11th or better. He knows the course and knows how to get himself into contention at major championship events (winning is a different story).
The Masters is a smaller than normal field which means we actually have less to choose from overall, but most everyone in the field is quality talent. It’s important to note a couple things this week that will hopefully help with making your choices. First, new players don’t typically do well at the Masters, and last year the top debutant in the field failed to crack the top 20 (thanks to @thepme for that stat). Given how important it is to have played the course before, I think you can safely give extra weight to players who are familiar with the course, even if they haven’t been in the best form lately.
Additionally, we really want players who can get us those birdie streaks and eagle bonuses, as they proved to be very vital to last year’s winning lineup of the Millionaire Maker. The winning lineup featured players like Russell Henley who only finished 21st but had a bigger fantasy total than players who finished in front of him due to bonus points. I’ll be looking to target those cheaper plays in the $6-$8k range, who are not only reliable, but have the firepower to land you those extra fantasy points. Players like Marc Leishman ($7,900), Danny Willett ($8,000) and Harris English ($7,100) all fit the criteria and are the sort of players I’ll be looking towards this weekend to help fill out my teams.
Finally, we need to pick a winner. With so much elite talent coming in this week, I think it’s important not to worry so much about ownership percentages and just go with who you think the best player in the field is. While it’s tempting to make choices on ownership, there’s only one winner, and differentiating yourself with lower priced players is always an option if your big gun is high owned. Don’t talk yourself out of someone you like because of what someone else is doing. There are six spots on your team and plenty of room to apply game theory in other spots.
Top Performing Studs from Recent Weeks
- Henrik Stenson
- Jason Day
- Phil Mickelson
Top Performing Value Plays from Recent Weeks
- Chris Kirk
- Charley Hoffman
- Daniel Berger
MY PICK: Rickie Fowler ($10,900)
There’s so many players coming into this event with good recent form that almost any of the top names would merit a spot here this week. However, my pick for this event way back in February was Rickie Fowler, and, even though seeing Jason Day and Adam Scott reel off consecutive wins makes me a tad nervous, I’ve seen nothing that makes be believe Rickie isn’t ready to take down this event. Fowler has raised his game this season to an entirely different level in pretty much every different statistical category of note:
SG: Tee to Green: 8th SG: Tee to Green: 26th
Par 5 Scoring: 1st Par 5 Scoring: 19th
SG: Putting: 9th SG: Putting: 36th
Driving Distance: 29th Driving Distance: 39th
On top of all this, Rickie is coming in here with experience this year having already compiled a 5th and a 12th place at the Masters the past two seasons. While many may point to his “collapse” in Phoenix as a reason not to pick him, that was a case of a couple tough holes and also an experience I think he’ll benefit from in the long run. While there’s a ton of options to choose from this week, my pick to stand out this week is Rickie Fowler. He’s my choice to don the Green Jacket on Sunday evening and join the elite group of major champion winners.
Puerto Rico Open: Freddie Jacobson (14th)
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Rory McIlroy (28th)
Valspar Championships: Webb Simpson (MC)
Cadillac Championships: Henrik Stenson (28th)
Honda Classic: Brooks Koepka (26th)
Northern Trust Open: Bubba Watson (Win)
Pebble Beach: J.B. Holmes (11th)
WMO Phoenix: Justin Thomas (MC)
Farmers Pick: Jimmy Walker (T4)
CareerBuilder Pick: Graham DeLaet (T42)
Sony Open Pick: Danny Lee (T33)
MY SLEEPER: Chris Kirk ($6,700)
Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7,000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned
Kirk’s a continuously underrated golfer who already has four wins on tour. He’s not necessarily someone who will spring to mind for a lot of people this week because he doesn’t kill the ball off the tee, but he’s proven over the past two years that he doesn’t need length to be successful here. In two trips to Augusta, Kirk has made the cut both times, and even though his 33rd from last year isn’t super inspiring, it was off the back of inconsistent form. This year, however, Kirk comes in off three consecutive solid finishes, including a 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a quarterfinal appearance at the World Match Play event. What’s even more inspiring for me is the fact that Kirk has absolutely killed the par 5’s at Augusta going -12 on them in his first trip there and -4 on them last year. Kirk’s a pretty cerebral golfer who has already discovered some of what it takes to be successful at Augusta. At $6,700, he’s someone I’m targeting this week under $7k and a player I won’t be shocked to see finish higher up than expected come Sunday.
Puerto Rico Open: Scott Langley (T8)
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Harold Varner (MC)
Valspar Championships: George McNeil (T11)
Cadillac Championships: Daniel Berger (28th)
Honda Classic: Jon Curran (MC)
Northern Trust Open: Scott Pinckney (MC)
Pebble Beach: Alex Prugh (MC)
WMO Phoenix: Jason Kokrak (MC)
Farmers Sleeper: Robert Garrigus (T50)
CareerBuilder Sleeper: Chez Reavie (T17)
Sony Open Sleeper: Daniel Summerhays (T13)