Each spring, ‘a tradition unlike any other’ draws us to Augusta National for the biggest week in golf. Don’t let the scenic views and panorama shots on TV fool you – this is one of the toughest courses on the planet, and for one talented golfer, the four rounds end in one of the crowning achievements of a career: a green jacket and a place alongside some of golf’s greats.
This year, the Masters didn’t disappoint. On the final day, the usual 18 holes left a tie between the two leaders, dramatically requiring the outcome of the match to be decided in a playoff. For Sergio Garcia, once branded a “choker” by golf great Johnny Miller, — and DraftKings — the fourth round of the Masters was their biggest day of golf yet. For Sergio, he recorded his first major. For DraftKings, we had the single largest day of user entries for golf contests since we launched the product in 2014.
The way golf fans are engaging with the sport is evolving and, in many ways, evolving faster than the PGA might realize. Since 2014, roughly 15 million DraftKings Golf lineups have been created. This past year, we’ve seen an 81% growth in the number of contests created for our golf product. DraftKings players want to get closer to the game of golf – to be on the edge of their seat not only as they watch Sergio Garcia putt his way to a win, but also when the folks in the middle of the pack are taking risky fairway shots in their attempt to climb up the leaderboard.
This year’s tournament had the lowest TV ratings for the Masters since 2005. However, on the digital side, several networks (including our own) broke records for online and digital engagement. On average, for each day of the Masters more than 1 million people engaged with major sports networks’ online golf content. Eight hours prior to the start of the first round on Thursday, DraftKings’ Millionaire contest, a contest with more than 122,000 entries, sold out.
That enthusiasm for golf is why we launched Weekend Golf ahead of this year’s Masters. Weekend Golf is a new DraftKings contest for just the third and fourth rounds of each tournament. Previously, if too many of the golfers on a player’s lineup didn’t make ‘the cut,’ DraftKings players could end up out of the running by Saturday morning. Now with Weekend Golf, users have the chance for a fresh start on Saturday which, for this year’s Masters, turned out to be important. On Thursday, fans reacted immediately as Dustin Johnson withdrew from the tournament before teeing off on a single green. DraftKings’ players also reacted with an 83% spike in Weekend Golf submissions after Johnson’s withdrawal.
When we looked at the data, we found that the way users played their lineups shed some light on how fans are engaging with our golf product. For full tournament fantasy contests, the top five DraftKings selected players were: Rory McIlroy (37.04%), Jon Rahm (31.21%), Rickie Fowler (30.87%), Jordan Spieth (28.92%) and Tyrrell Hatton (26.84%). Notably, the top five golfers for full-tournament Fantasy Golf contests were some of the PGA’s youngest – all under 28 years old.
By the time the Weekend Golf contests came around, the top five DraftKings selected players had shifted considerably to more seasoned players: Sergio Garcia (49.85%), Rickie Fowler (46.84%), Thomas Pieters (40.52%), Charley Hoffman (35.00%), Phil Mickelson (27.39%). Based on golfers’ performances on Thursday and Friday of The Masters alone, DraftKings players were able to make educated choices for their Weekend Golf lineups.
For upcoming major golf tournaments, I’d look to the leaderboard for starters, but I’d also look for some value picks in the middle of the pack – the folks that are going to need to keep pushing their game, going for birdies and eagles on days three and four instead of playing it safe to maintain their lead. Take this year’s Masters, Sergio Garcia didn’t crack the top five DraftKings golfers for the Weekend Contests even though he was the top performer in the full four-day contests. But a guy like Brooks Koepka did make that list even though he finished eight strokes back from Garcia.
Regardless, this year’s Masters once again provided us with an incredible four days of golf, a down-to-the-wire win for Sergio Garcia and an exciting weekend for a ton of DraftKings players. On to the next one!