The Masters is upon us and so is one of the most unique fields in golf. 88 players will tee it up this year at Augusta. While that may seem ridiculously small for a major championship, the battle just to get in makes it all that more special. Winning a PGA event, being a top-50 player in the World or having a big finish at another major — or making the Tour Championship field — are usually the only ways in; unless, of course, you have already won the tournament, then you have an invitation back for life.
The field this year may be smaller, but outside of Tiger Woods — who is still recovering from a brutal car accident — everybody’s here. Brooks Koepka was questionable after undergoing a mid-season knee cleanup, but he flew in last weekend and has already been walking the grounds. That means we currently have all of the top-50 players in the OWGR in attendance. Experience is also abundant here — only three professional players in the field this year (and three amateurs) will be making their debut: Will Zalatoris, Robert Macintyre and Carlos Ortiz.
One final note for DFS purposes, 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. Getting all six of your golfers through the cut line will be especially crucial this week since over 50% of the actual field will get a chance to play the weekend.
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). At it’s 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 mean experience playing the course can really pay off. The slick bentgrass greens offer up their own challenge too, and missing an approach here on the wrong side of the green can often bring big numbers into play.
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 (Jordan Spieth in 2015). While the course has played somewhat neutral the last two year’s, with winner’s posting 15 and 13-under-par scores, poor weather really affected scoring in 2016 as Danny Willett won at just 5-under-par,
As far as the individual holes go, here’s a brief breakdown of what awaits the player’s this week:
Par 5’s 550-600: 2; Par 5’s 500-550: 2; Par 4’s over 500: 1; Par 4’s 450-500: 5; Par 4’s 400-450: 3; Par 4’s under 400: 1; Par 3’s over 200: 1; Par 3’s 150-200: 3
The big difference this year may be in how tough the course plays. Augusta has seen winning scores range from 5-under to 20-under here the past five years, and news from the venue is that a dry spring and a mandate from the club means we’ll see faster greens and tougher conditions overall. The last couple times we saw tough conditions (2017 and 2016) we did see more long-shot winners prevail as Sergio Garcia went off at 40-1 while Danny Willett went off at 50-1 (and much bigger in the futures earlier that year).
More of a premium on bogey avoidance and tee to green play could be something to consider here since we should likely expect things like Green in Regulation percentages, three-putt avoidance and scrambling to all be lower than what we saw last November. If things do tighten up, we’re also less likely to see as many birdies (or a runaway winner), so bogey avoidance and placing points for fantasy purposes could become something to key on.
2021 Outlook: The draw is something to keep an eye on this week. Early-week weather looks sunny with highs in the 80’s, so the course should play fast. That said, the chance of thunderstorms increase as the week progresses, and we could see some hit Thursday afternoon. Right now, wind and rain are expected to pick up late Thursday, so keep an eye out. Friday has the possibility of thunderstorms and a much higher chance of precipitation, so we could see some stops in play. As of now, Thursday afternoon looks like the potential wave to avoid. But, with a couple days before the event starts, that could change in a hurry. Expect better weather on Sunday and a firm, tough finishing day, assuming we don’t get too much rain.
Last 10 winners
2020—Dustin Johnson -20 (SungJae Im and Cameron Smith -15)
2019—Tiger Woods -13 (over Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Dustin Johnson -12)
2018—Patrick Reed -15 (over Rickie Fowler -14)
2017—Sergio Garcia -9 (over Justin Rose playoff)
2016—Danny Willett -5 (over Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood -2)
2015 – Jordan Spieth -18 (over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose -16)
2014 – Bubba Watson -7 (over Jordan Spieth -5)
2013 – Adam Scott -10 (over Angel Cabrera playoff)
2012 – Bubba Watson -12 (over Louis Oosthuizen playoff)
2011 – Charl Schwartzel -14 (over Jason Day and Adam Scott -12)
- No player has won at Augusta on their first attempt since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979.
- Since 1996, only one player has won The Masters after missing the cut here in the previous year (Patrick Reed 2018).
- Nine of the last 12 winners of The Masters ranked 19th or better in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in the year of their victory.
- Each of the past six winners had recorded at least a T5 placing on the year already — six of the last seven had recorded a T2 or better — prior to winning The Masters.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
Dustin Johnson (2020)
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green: +19.1
Greens in Regulation—83.3%
Par 5’s – 11-under-par
Par 4’s – 5-under-par
Par 3’s – 4-under-par
· Dustin absolutely destroyed this course last year, gaining nearly 20 strokes Tee to Green for the week; he also only missed 16.7% of his green in regulation, which means there was little to no stress on his short game.
· As with many winners in the past, DJ destroyed the par 5’s here, playing them at 11-under. He had two eagles on the week on these holes (both on the second hole), which he used to kickstart big rounds.
· Expect greens to play faster this time around — compared to November — since the course has had a dry spring and the setup is likely to be tougher as a result of DJ’s dominant win.
· That said, strong tee to green play is still what you want to be targeting here. Four of the last five winners here have now gained +12.1 or more strokes tee to green for the week, with a lot of that coming on the approach side of things.
· A tougher course may even put more pressure on the ability to score on the par 5’s than even par on par 3’s and 4’s.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
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 DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Jordan Spieth ($9,400; best finish: win-2015, T2-2016, 2014 T3-2018): Spieth has placed second here (twice) and won the event in 2015 by tying the then-scoring record set by Tiger Woods (-18). In 2018, he shot a brilliant 64 in the final round to vault him into solo third place. Even when he was dealing injuries and poor form the last two seasons, he was able to make the cut here. With no Woods in the field this year, Spieth gets lead horse honors.
2. Rory McIlroy ($10,200; best finishes: T4-2015, T5-2018, 2021): McIlroy may not have a win at Augusta, but he’s been through the ringer here as far as experiences go. He was the leader going into the back nine in 2011 before he slid to T15, and he also went off in the final pairing in 2018 before losing out badly to Patrick Reed. He’s finished T10 or better here in six of the last seven seasons and seems likely to breakthrough at this event one day.
3. Dustin Johnson ($11,500; best finish: win-2020, T2-2019, T4-2016): Johnson absolutely tore apart a watered-down Augusta last season, missing just 12 greens in regulation for the week on his way to breaking the scoring record. He’s now finished second and first at this event the last two years. While his overall form has dipped, another big week from DJ here would not be shocking at all.
4. Brooks Koepka ($9,200; best finish: T7-2020, T2-2019): Koepka has been under-the-radar dominant at this event. He narrowly missed getting in a playoff in 2019, shooting an opening round of 66, and shot four rounds of 70 or better here in 2020 while coming off a knee injury layoff. Thanks to a knee injury, once again, he’s coming in with little prep, but shouldn’t be written off given his recent history here.
5. Cameron Smith ($8,200; best finish: T2-2020, T5-2018): Smith has seemingly mastered Augusta over the last few seasons. The Aussie, who possesses a slick short game, finished runner-up here in November and was also T5 here on his second time through in 2018. Even if the course plays tougher, Smith has a pretty extensive history to fall back on, making him an interesting mid-tier value this week.
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1. Jordan Spieth ($9,400; Win-T48-T4): Spieth comes in off a dominant win at the Valero Texas Open where he gained +12.9 strokes TTG. He now has four top-five finishes over his last six starts and looks ready to start making some serious runs in the big events.
2. Justin Thomas ($10,600; Win-T15): Thomas captured one of the biggest wins of his career three weeks ago at the PLAYERS. He bowed out early at the WGC Match Play but has scored over 100.00 DKFP in three of his last five starts.
3. Sergio Garcia ($7,900; T5 (MP)-T9): Sergio has looked in great form of late, posting T9 and T5 finishes in his last two starts. He’s gained +6.7 and +8.3 strokes on his approaches in his last two stroke-play events.
4. Bryson DeChambeau ($10,800; third-Win): DeChambeau failed to get out of the group stage at the WGC Match Play, but he finished T3 and won his last two stroke-play starts. He’s gained +12.4 and +8.7 strokes tee to green in those two events and looks primed to make a run at the green jacket here.
5. Matt Wallace ($6,400; third-MC-T18): Wallace is an underrated player who has found some mojo of late. He gained an insane 15.3 strokes TTG at the Valero where he finished third. At well under $7K in salary, he could be the steal of the tourney if he continues this play into Augusta.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Start with Spieth and go for balance with Berger
It’s hard to ignore the run Spieth ($9,400) is on as we approach the first major. He’s never missed a cut here in seven appearances and now enters this week with his best form in years. From a value perspective, he’s the best option among the big names. Lower down, it also feels like Daniel Berger ($8,500) isn’t getting enough respect here. He has had just as good a run-up as Spieth, but remains nearly $1K cheaper. He was T10 here in his debut in 2016 and has gained +9-strokes tee to green in two of his last three stroke play events. Matt Kuchar ($6,800) and Adam Scott ($7,600) also look like two vets you can trust to make the weekend. Scott hasn’t missed the cut here in 11-years, and Kuchar is back in form and only has one MC in his last 11 tries at Augusta, as well. Patrick Cantlay ($9,800-see below) and Webb Simpson ($9,000) can also be considered for balanced lineups.
Tournaments: DeChambeau the upside play; Garcia a solid pivot
DeChambeau ($10,800) has arguably had the best lead-in of all the big names in the field this year and still possesses some of the best upside in the game. If he displays the same kind of accuracy with his irons that he did at Winged Foot for the US Open, he could win going away here. To me, he has the best chance of a posting a dominant win among the big names this week. Sergio Garcia ($7,900) is another name who has had a great start to the year. The 2017 Masters winner grabbed a win on the PGA TOUR last fall and is coming off back-to-back top-10 finishes. Given the dearth of value in the $7K range, he’s unlikely to get too popular in big GPPs. Other potential GPP targets here include the likes of Lee Westwood ($8,800), Max Homa ($7,100), Brian Harman ($6,800) and Si Woo Kim ($6,700-see below).
MY PICK: Patrick Cantlay ($9,800)
Cantlay has looked ready to win a major since last all when he fended off Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas in impressive fashion down the stretch at the Zozo Championship. Since that event, he’s made six stroke-play starts on the PGA TOUR and only finished worse than T17 in an event once (MC at the PLAYERS). Cantlay has turned himself into a complete-package player of late, showcasing an increasingly sharp around the green game, which has seen him gain strokes ATG in 12 straight stroke-play starts. While his MC at the PLAYERS may be off-putting, he bounced back to post strong Tee to Green metrics at the WGC Match Play and narrowly missed advancing from his group, losing in a playoff there.
He’s shown us he has the ability to handle these tougher, classical venues, too — as he’s already got a win to his credit at Muirfield Village and has been in the hunt at places like Riviera (T2-2018) and Pebble Beach (T3-2020). This will be his fifth time playing Augusta this season, and he sits right in that sweet spot of experience and youth. His last eight rounds here have now yielded three efforts of 68 or better, including a third-round 64 in 2019, which pushed him toward the lead late on Sunday. While he fell to T9 that year, the experience will be invaluable if he finds himself in a similar situation in 2021. Entering the tournament in the midst of a great start to his 2021, if the conditions do indeed play tough here, I like his sharp tee-to-green game to keep him in the mix and potentially allow him to make a run at his first green jacket.
MY SLEEPER: Si Woo Kim ($6,700)
With the deeper field in play, there’s a ton of big names you can turn to under $7K this week. Both Matt Wallace ($6,400) and Ryan Palmer ($6,500) have had great lead-ups this year and stick out as healthy value targets. However, for me, the best upside resides in the 25-year-old Kim, who saw his most consistent stretch of golf eventually pay off with a win in January at The American Express — the third win of his career. He’s missed a couple cuts since his win, but he’s still ranked ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach stats in this field (over the last 50 rounds) and 16th in SG: Tee to Green stats over that same span.
In short, Woo has played well in 2021 — extremely well — and he might be having the best lead-in to Augusta of his career, making his sub-$7K price-tag here disrespectful. While the loss of focus in February and March may be a bad sign for some, I’d rather focus on the rebound he had at the PLAYERS, where he finished T9 and gained +8.1 strokes for the week on Approach. His performance in Texas last week also likely went under the radar since he was able to gain strokes in every major category there, en route to a T23 finish. This will be his fifth Masters appearance, and even though he’s yet to crack the top 10, he’s 3-for-3 in terms of made cuts here over the past three years and has gone under par in six of his last 10 rounds here. With his game trending well, you have to figure this might be the year he finally gets himself into the conversation late on a Sunday. He makes for the best upside target for me in GPPs this week in the sub-$7K range.
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