In this edition of ‘The Nine,’ Geoff Ulrich walks through the most important questions ahead of the Masters.
UPDATE: Dustin Johnson (back) took a serious fall in his Augusta Rental home and is now QUESTIONABLE to compete at the Masters.
1. What’s the significance of the Masters? Why is it so important?
Geoff: The Masters is the first major championship on the golfing calendar, so the hype for the tournament is always the largest of any tournament on the year. It’s also the only major to be held at the same course every season — Augusta National. The Masters is an invitational event meaning the field is much smaller than most majors and includes past champions. The winner (on top of prize money) gets a “green jacket” and a lifetime invitation to participate in the tournament. Many players consider it a huge achievement just to make the field here every season.
2. One thing I hear a lot – “Just make the cut.” What is this? Is it harder at the Masters?
Geoff: For daily fantasy golf the cut is everything. Most stroke play events are four rounds long but the field is significantly reduced after the second round by “the cut.” If your player fails to make the cut, it also means he’ll miss out on two full rounds of fantasy scoring, leaving your lineup at a significant disadvantage. At the Masters — like most weeks — the cut occurs on Friday after the second round. The Masters has a unique cut line in that only the top 50 players (plus any ties) will make the cut, whereas most regular tournaments it is top 70 and ties. There is also a rule allowing any player within 10 shots of the lead to make the cut as well.
3. Are there more talented golfers that play at the Masters?
Geoff: Yes and no. Overall, this is a smaller field than many PGA events, and obviously, with it being a major the elite players are all in attendance. That being said, past champions get to play this event every year, as do six top amateurs from around the world. This actually waters down the field a bit and makes it a little less daunting than some of the other major championships. For DFS, we can easily rule out some of these older champions as they have (almost) no shot at winning the tournament. Amateur players have had some success here in the past but are still riskier plays overall.
4. I’ve seen a lot about “course history” at Augusta. Explain that to me. Does it matter?
Geoff: Course history is a term which refers to a player’s past history (i.e. past finishes) at a tournament in previous years. Since every tournament is played on a different course, and every course has different attributes/setups, certain players tend to have better results at certain venues. When using course history in research one thing to take note of is the sample size — aka how many results do we have to work with for a certain player. Generally, the larger sample we have the more reliable an indicator course history is. This week, since the tournament is and has always been played at Augusta, course history is definitely worth monitoring.
5. Following up on that, if a golfer is playing here for the first time, do they have a chance at success?
Geoff: It depends how you define success. Several debutants had nice finishes at Augusta last year, including Daniel Berger who finished T10. On the flip-side, no first-time player has won this event since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979 (although Jordan Spieth came close in 2014), and it’s not uncommon to see players struggle on their first couple of visits to Augusta National. Given the trend of past champions at this course, a good general rule for the week might be that the more expensive a player is on DraftKings, the more you should be weighing his overall history and experience at this event.
6. Is there a certain type of golfer that has success at the Masters? Long drivers, good putters, etc?
Geoff: Since Augusta underwent some course changes in 2006, the course has played at just over 7,400 yards and has tended to favor longer hitters. With that being said, the past two winners of the Masters (Jordan Spieth and Danny Willett) have only ranked 44th and 32nd respectively in Driving Distance for the week of their win. The speed and contours of the greens here (generally regarded as some of the fastest in the world) do even up the playing field somewhat.
7. Are there any golfers that are head and shoulders above the rest of the field (the Russell Westbrook of PGA)?
Geoff: There’s not much doubting that as of now the most dominant player in the game is Dustin Johnson. Johnson leads the Tour in several categories of note — including Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Driving Distance — and he’s already racked up three wins on tour this season over strong fields. There are several players in this field who are nipping at his heels, however, with the most obvious one being Jordan Spieth. Spieth has dominated play at the Masters since 2014. In his debut at the Masters in 2014, he finished second and followed that up by winning the event in 2015, where he tied for the lowest winning score (-18) with Tiger Woods (1997). Spieth and Johnson are the two highest priced golfers for the Masters on DraftKings, and either (or both) could put up dominant fantasy performances this week.
8. Let’s walk down narrative street – what are the top storylines surrounding the Masters this year?
Geoff: Can Dustin Johnson win his first green jacket?
He’s distanced himself as the top player in the world, and everyone is expecting him to perform well here. Anything less than a win would seem like a failure.
How will the younger stars like John Rahm, Thomas Pieters and Tyrell Hatton perform on their first visit to this course?
So far in 2017, we have seen a few young players really light it up, with the most successful being John Rahm, who won the Farmers Insurance Open earlier in the year. This will be the first time visiting Augusta for all of the above-mentioned players, so whether or not they can overcome their lack of experience this week will be a big question mark for fantasy.
How will Jason Day perform?
Day is less than a year removed from being the most dominant golfer on the planet. He enters this week under the cloud of his mother’s health issues, a development which forced him to drop out of the last WGC Matchplay event. He has second and third place finishes at the Masters and is a player you never can fully count out.
9. Final thing – are there any “under the radar” golfers that could end up with the Green Jacket?
Geoff: We see several surprise winners in the PGA every year, and it wouldn’t be entirely shocking to see one of the “non-favorites” win this week; don’t forget that Danny Willett was only priced at $6,800 on DK last year and wasn’t really a player anyone expected to win in just his second go-round at the event. A few under the radar names to keep your eye on going into Augusta include two-time runner-up Lee Westwood ($7,200), Georgia native Kevin Kisner ($6,900) and Bill Haas ($7,200), who has made the cut here in all seven of his Masters appearances.
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