The Masters. Without question, Augusta National is one of the PGA’s highlights of the entire year, and it is here. The first major of the year – it is the first time many casual fans will tune in to the PGA for the year, the first time those of us still seeing snow on the ground out our windows will dream about spring. It is a sign that summer is coming, and it’s usually a hell of a golf tournament, too.
With a field chock full of people who either have had some very recent success or some historical success, you can come up with a good reason to pick anyone. It’s hard to tell which one is more important to get right – your picks or your reasons. They’re both important. Good luck.
Bubba Watson ($12,200) – The defending champ has also not been worse than T14 in any start this season (6 for 6), including a first, a second and a third. The only thing surprising about this price is that there is anyone more expensive.
Dustin Johnson ($10,500) – So far this season, he has missed two cuts in six appearances and has finished T6 or better in each of the other four. In his last two chances, he had that T6 at the Texan Open and won the WGC-Cadillac. He has the game to win this thing outright, and he has shown an ability to navigate the course as recently as 2013, where he finished T13 after an opening round 67.
Henrik Stenson ($10,100) – He ended up withdrawing last week to deal with an illness, which you have to assume is cleared up – there is no reason to think otherwise. The WD only highlights the level to which he is committed to and focused on bringing home his first major. And he has the talent to do it. He has spent a good amount of time playing in the States this spring, making sure he is comfortable and prepared for this tournament. And considering he has finished T4, 4 and 2 in the three tournaments he’s competed in since the beginning of March, it’s safe to say his game is sharp right now.
Matt Kuchar ($9,600) – He has shot his way into the top ten in each of the past three years here, including two top-5’s. He has exactly the kind of game that’s required to play well at Augusta, with consistent ball-striking and solid putting. He just doesn’t also have the distance to go out and dominate like a Bubba or a younger Tiger. But he is one of the plays you can make this week that leaves you feeling comfortable, like you didn’t just waste your salary cap budget. You might not get the win, but you should get something useful.
Jimmy Walker ($8,900) – He’s coming off a win in his last tournament, and he’s another who withdrew last weekend with an illness. Again, if you assume his health is fine going into this weekend, his game is too. Last year was his first trip to Augusta National, and he played it like someone who is eminently comfortable with this whole Southern swing section of the Tour, coming in at even par (for 8th), very impressive for a first-timer. He could improve on that showing this time around.
Lee Westwood ($8,200) – He has finished in the top-12 seven different times here, including each of the last five. He’s also finished in the top 12 in each of the last three tournaments he’s played in this year, coincidentally. He would be one of my favorite picks of the weekend, regardless of money, and for this price, he’ll be a building block player in my lineups.
J.B. Holmes ($7,200) – He’s coming off a final round 64 and a win in Houston this past weekend. Before that, he had a MC at the Arnold Palmer, and before that, a 2 at the WCG-Cadillac. Suffice it to say, he’s been a little up and down, but even at the Arnold Palmer, he shot a 73-70. His game was never that far off, and he does have experience here, with a single appearance back in 2008. He’s not my pick to win, but he has the ability to make birdies on a course like this, and to make the cut, and anyone who is going to earn you fantasy points in this one is useful, because they are going to be hard to come by. Even winning DFS scores will likely be lower than most other weeks, as a great many of the pros will struggle to break par here on any given day.
Zach Johnson ($7,000) – He has played here ten times, and he has shot over par every single time… and yet, he has a win. +1 was enough to get it done in 2007, but he has also missed the cut four times here, and knowing which extreme he will land on is tough. But his game has been much closer to the end of the spectrum where he contends than where he misses cuts, with a T9 and a T20 in back to back weeks at the Arnold Palmer and the Texas Open.
Steve Stricker ($6,800) – Fact is, even in a field this deep, you usually don’t see this much talent, this cheap. He’s got a long history here, having played here 14 times. He has only ended in the top 20 three times out of his last six, but he also hasn’t missed a single cut over that time frame. He’s got the kind of repeatable swing that can lead to useful, if not spectacular, results, and if he wasn’t coming back from an injury, he would cost more than this.
Kevin Na ($6,000) – He didn’t play here last year, and his only good performance here was in 2012, when he finished 12th with a -2. But he has shown a sneaky ability to compete no matter who is in the field with him in the past, and he’s finished in the top-20 in each of his last four tournaments, including T6 at the Arnold Palmer and T9 at the WCG-Cadillac, which each provide plenty of challenges and plenty of competition. For this price, he’s as sure a thing as you’re going to find.