Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2020 Masters Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Augusta National.
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2020 Masters: Field
Field: 93 Players | Cut: Top 50 and Ties after 36 Holes
First Tee: Thursday, Nov. 12
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods
At last year’s Masters, Tiger Woods tapped in for par, embraced his son just paces off the 18th green — causing upper lip gyrations of varying magnitudes; stiffness was lacking — then entered Butler Cabin to don sports’ highest sartorial honor. The comeback of the most dominant athlete of the 21st century was complete. Tiger Woods, sporting the green jacket over the customary Sunday red Nike apparel, was a mouthful of memberberries. It was the rare nostalgia moment without backlash; almost unanimously, everyone wanted it to happen. But now that too feels like a distant memory. It’s like Tiger’s triumph was a decade ago. It wasn’t, it only been 18 months.
Pushed from its annual Easter-adjacent slot on the calendar, the 2020 Masters has shifted from the year’s first major to its last. As evidence by the drive up Magnolia Lane looking less like a majestic entrance to a hidden oasis and more like the creepy drive up to the house in “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The winds will blow in different directions, no patrons, a weather shift, the azaleas will be less in bloom and more, you know, dead, but one thing remains unchanged. The field lock was the end of March. Well, actually, there are two things. Jim Nantz will issue the reminder that he and you are friends.
Despite two majors, the FedEx Cup playoffs, a WGC and 23 total events on the PGA TOUR since the restart, the four players to grab invitations based on their World Golf ranking from March 17 will remain the last four players in the field: Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Graeme McDowell. The Masters lucked out with Morikawa earning one of those spots. It would have been an awful look if the PGA champion wasn’t at Augusta. Not that they care about what you think.
Still, despite posting a win and currently sitting at No. 13 in the world rankings, Daniel Berger will have to monitor Rae’s Creek on the dedicated stream to the 12th hole — Golden Bell. Ditto for Norwegian wunderkind Viktor Hovland. Now 10 spots ahead of Tiger at No. 23, the poor guy can’t even fly back to Oslo without having to self-isolate for two weeks.
After positive COVID-19 tests have taken Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann out of the field, along with past Masters champ Angel Cabrera withdrawing with a wrist injury, the 2020 Masters field is set at 93 players. And those 93 players will encounter slightly different rules than Masters past.
With the November time slot, The Masters broadcast is fighting two enemies this week — daylight and the NFL. CBS does not want the live broadcast upending its 4 p.m. ET NFL game. The highest-rated Masters won’t even compete with the NFL in terms of TV ratings. Additionally, it gets dark early in November. So, two changes have been made to the Masters rules for 2020. First, the cut line will now only be the top 50 players and ties after 36 holes. The former rule of top 50 along with any player within 10 strokes of the lead is done. Just the top 50. Also, after getting a taste of it to avoid nasty weather in 2019, The Masters is switching to split tees the first two rounds. All of this is done to speed each round. Does it bother me? No. Will it bother the old men yelling at clouds? Most definitely.
It’s doubtful it will have much of an effect on the results, however, the spilt tees could lead to an interesting live betting opportunity. Maybe the sportsbooks are savvy to it, but it usually takes them a cycle or two to adjust properly. Holes No. 10-12 are typically far more difficult than No. 1-3, while all players will eventually get to Amen Corner, having it occur at the beginning of the round may drop some of the highest-end favorites a few points before they get the chance to make it all back with two par 5s in the next three holes. It may be a small difference, but at the top of the betting board, the difference between +900 and +1300 is gigantic.
2020 Masters: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
Strokes Gained: Approach
Driving Distance Gained
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2020 Masters: Course
Course: Augusta National
2020 Masters: Past Winners
2019: Tiger Woods -13
2018: Patrick Reed -15
2017: Sergio Garcia -9
2016: Danny Willett -5
2015: Jordan Spieth -18
2014: Bubba Watson -8
2013: Adam Scott -9
2012: Bubba Watson -10
2020 Masters: Strategy
Augusta National’s a Par 72, which plays longer than its 7,435 yards in a normal year because of the incredible amount of elevation shifts across the course. Now, the elephant in the room is the November weather versus the April weather. Presumably, it’s going to be colder for the 2020 Masters than in a normal year. Not so fast. While the forecast is always a changing variable, Augusta, Ga., appears like it will be rather temperate, hovering between 70-80 degrees (20-23 Celsius for the Non-Americans out there) every day. That’s no issue at all. Now, some of the early morning tee times could be a bit cooler before the day really heats up, but it’s not the temperature that should be of concern, it’s the rain.
A wise man once said, “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty,” and the storms should have Augusta looking its usual green. But the damp conditions may make the course play even longer than most years. Driving distance and strokes gained off the tee are always heavily emphasized at The Masters, but adding carry distance with the driver may be necessary depending on the actual amount of precipitation that actually hits the course. It’s one thing to smash it with the smoke wagon and let it roll to infinity. It’s another to when the ball eases up in the soft conditions. Although three of the past five leaders in Strokes Gained Approach have found themselves in Butler Cabin, the degree of difficulty on hitting approaches from 200 yards is much higher than from 165 yards like we see in a regular year.
Driving is ultra-important, but accuracy not so much. Look at some of the recent past champs: Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson (twice), Danny Willett, Tiger Woods. Even Patrick Reed punched well above his usual baseline at Augusta in his victory, gaining +3.35 strokes with his driver. He’d only gained more than that in two starts in the previous two years before the victory (2017 Travelers and 2017 Memorial) and only three times since (2018 BMW Championship, 2019 NORTHERN TRUST and 2020 Wyndham Championship). A hot putter is always going to factor into the outcome, but positioning off the tee leads to easier iron shots, which results in shorter putts. They say “drive for show and putt for dough,” but that’s really the opposite of how money is made in professional golf.
There are 41 bunkers, six water hazards and a whole lotta pine straw scattered across the grounds. Unless there’s an untimely tree in the way, however, the pine straw isn’t the end of the world. As long as there is a clear path to the green, pine straw has never held anyone back.
The bentgrass greens are around Tour average in size; the major difference is the wild undulations. These are some of the hilliest and fastest putting surfaces the players will encounter all year. The speed and bumps are one of the big reasons course history plays a more significant factor at Augusta than every other course. That’s not anecdotal either. Course history on a week-to-week basis holds very little predictive value at most events, despite the prevailing narrative, but The Masters is an outlier in that regard. The dampness may cause the putting surfaces to run a tad slower than usual, but don’t expect it to be by much. Knowing the undulations isn’t really indicative of someone making a bunch of 15-foot putts for the week, but understanding the speed is critical for lag putting and avoiding extra strokes on the greens.
With the “within 10 strokes of the lead” rule abolished, the Masters DraftKings strategy remains relatively unchanged. Whereas the U.S. Open has 156 players in a normal year, the Masters will still have the highest percentage of the field see the weekend of any major with only 93 players on the grounds. At a minimum, 53% of the field will make the cut. But in reality, it’s actually much higher. Scanning to the bottom of the pricing, where the amateurs and former champs are congregating, reveals a bunch of players with no hope. By my count, there are 14 dead in the water players in the field, and that’s not including the CT Pans of the world. Of those 14, let’s be generous and say four make the weekend. Well, all of a sudden, it’s really like having 83 players in the field, raising the minimum cut rate to 60%.
I harp on this only to show how critical picking the winner is to your DraftKings lineup. Especially in a tournament like the Millionaire Maker. I understand that’s a “well, DUH” statement, but it’s important to your roster construction. It’s fun to take Fred Couples. He may even make the cut. But he’s not going to win. So, what you’ve done is allocate one of six roster spots to someone with no win equity. Since even the best prognosticators don’t know who is going to win, you may as well at least give yourself six viable shots at getting lucky instead of wasting a few of those bullets. Crossing players off the list for any reason, even frivolous ones, narrows your options. You can’t just pick everyone.
In a normal DraftKings golf week, the goal is to get all six players through the cut. Doing that at the Masters isn’t going to guarantee your lineup returns a single cent. Most weeks that’s more than enough to get at least minimum cash, just not here. If two or three popular names are slamming their trunk and hitting the private charter out of Augusta on Friday evening, sure, all the six-of-six lineups are doing great, but if we knew who those players were going to be we’d already be millionaires.
2020 Masters Picks
Bryson DeChambeau $11,200
Dustin Johnson did every Bryson backer a huge solid in Houston by looking great. Initially, paying up for Bryson as the most expensive player was going to be the most popular option. While Bryson, as the betting favorite, certainly won’t be overlooked, it’s much easier to start your rosters with the No. 1 player in the world at just $10,000 on DraftKings. It’s actually a pretty good argument. Pricing at the top doesn’t really matter, though. If you think one of the top five players is going to win, you’re going to need that player in your lineup. I think Bryson is going to win, so I’m picking Bryson. Projecting ownership is critical to make sure you don’t have the same lineup as everyone else, but you need that winner, so don’t let anything talk you off your position if it’s firm. Bryson has simply been preparing for this Masters the entire year. The increased distance, improved short game and lack of focus on short irons all screams Augusta. His game has gotten so good that he picked up a major win along the way. You may have to get creative with the rest of your roster, but making Bryson your anchor is how you should start.
Bubba Watson $9,000
It all boils down to one thing: Can Bubba putt this week? If he does, Bubba enters the week hitting better than any other time in his career. Per Fantasy National, over the past three months, he rates out tops in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (SG: OTT + SG: APP). Even his short game is clicking at the moment, a rare feat from Bubba. Already a two-time Masters winner, he’s very difficult to pass up at this price when he’s in such great form.
Si Woo Kim $6,800
Don’t let recency bias impact your decision making at the bottom of the pricing. All these are guys are wildly inconsistent and are going to periodically blow up. DraftKings players loaded up on Kim at the Houston Open only to see his irons tank and get him sent home from weekend golf. It’s Si Woo Kim, this is what happens. But now no one wants him. Even in two rounds, the former PLAYERS winner still managed to gain +2.2 strokes off the tee, giving him at least two strokes gained off the tee in each of his past three starts. And Kim’s not as short off the tee as you may think, he’s 30th in this field in driving distance over the past three months. He’s finished top 25 at Augusta the past two years, and while inconsistent, actually possesses the game to make a deep run on Sunday. With people filling out conservative DraftKings lineups at the Masters, you should embrace the volatility and gambling on Si WOOOOOO’s upside.
Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Sungjae Im, Scottie Scheffler
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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