Daily and weekly fantasy sports have become all the rage. Battling it out over an entire season is fun, but sites like DraftKings offer a quicker payoff and big payouts for winners! Not only do they offer daily action in the four major professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) as well as college basketball and football but also the PGA Tour.
Your DraftKings lineup is made up of six golfers you select from within the $50,000 salary cap.
Each week DraftKings offers a wide selection of games to enter at a variety of price points. You can even get a feel for the game in a freeroll contest. Before you put your cash on the line, I'll offer my Top Values and Steals in this space every week, specifically geared to help build a winning DraftKings squad. I'll also give you my Overpriced golfers to avoid, and a couple of “Vegas Says…” tips to help you find those players for GPPs.
This Masters is full of anticipation and storylines. Rory is going for the career grand slam and seems to be finding his form after a rib injury. Dustin Johnson is clearly the man to beat and comes to Augusta having won his past three events. Jordan Spieth missed the cut in Houston but has posted 2nd, 1st, and 2nd place finishes at Augusta. Jason Day has been out of form and batting personal off-the-course issues with his family, but seems primed for this week. Phil’s playing well, which is always fun. Then we have the first-timer’s curse: no Augusta debutant has won since 1979. This year, we have several guys who can overcome that curse, namely Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, and Alex Noren.
Augusta National is a course where I’m heavily weighing course history and tournament experience. First-timers have a poor track record here, but I mentioned a list of debutants that I could see cracking the top-10 this week. The green complexes are so difficult and undulating that knowing where to miss shots and how to recover smartly is even more important than at other Tour stops. Because scrambling is so difficult this week, hitting greens and placing your shots correctly is key. I’m going to look heavily at strokes gained tee-to-green this week, which obviously spits out the best players in the world. If you break up the strokes gained stats even further, the off-the-tee play has the biggest correlation with finishing position at Augusta. It makes sense, as most of the recent bombers who have won the Masters are guys who gain the most strokes off-the-tee (Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, etc.). I’ll be looking at short gameplay as well, but it will be weighed less than off-the-tee and approach shots.
Roster construction is going to be very difficult this week. Odds are, one of the top guys will win. The odds are also that several of the top guys will finish inside the top-5 this week. My suggestion would be to pair two studs on each team and try to find the value plays/sleepers who can crack the top-10 (at least regarding fantasy scoring). Also, because this is a limited field, a high percentage of the field will make the cut. This allows us to be a little riskier in terms of picks.
Recent Tournament History
Here is the data we can draw upon for this week’s Tournament History:
Finished in the top-20 each of the last three years: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose.
Finished in the top-20 in two of the last three years: Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Bill Haas.
Current Form Review
Each week, we’ll look backward at the last three tournaments on the PGA and European Tours. I have included the top-20 from the past three events: the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC-Match Play, and last week’s Shell Houston Open.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%): There are not many weeks where we aren’t going to target birdie or better percentage because that’s what fantasy golf scoring is all about. There’s going to be plenty of bogeys this week, so we need birdies to offset the damages. Guys like Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Hideki Matsuyama come to mind in this week’s field when targeting birdie-makers. It’s possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP): There’s no doubt that ball-striking and GIR% are huge at this venue, and that’s clear in past leaderboards. Because of the firm and windy conditions, the iron play is going to be a major key this week. Keeping your ball on the right portions of greens will eliminate three putts. There’s going to be an edge to bombers, but targeting solid iron players is also important for me this week. If you have a player who sticks approach shots inside 10’ consistently, he’s going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, and Kevin Kisner.
Par-5 Scoring (P5): Par-5 scoring is going to be key this week, and I think the winner will be the player who leads the field in par-5 scoring. This could mean a bomber who makes a couple of eagles, or an elite wedge player. Either way, I think looking at par-5 scoring on the season will be a great pointer towards success this week. Some players who popped out to me were Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and Thomas Pieters.
Strokes Gained Off-The-Tee (SG:OTT): I wanted to target driving distance alone this week, but I think SG:OTT is a more comprehensive metric overall. You’re going to see an edge towards bombers in this stat, but it also considers extremely accurate drivers. I think it’s a much better metric than total driving or even good drive percentage. Names that stood out to me in this field were Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, and Justin Rose.
*In order of my rankings
Dustin Johnson ($11,300) – You can’t put anybody else but DJ in the #1 spot, as he’s coming off three consecutive winds: the Genesis Open, the WGC-Mexico, and the WGC-Match Play. He drives the ball farther and straighter than anyone, and he’s dialed in with his wedges and putter. DJ finished 6th and 4th at Augusta the past two seasons and is the odds-on favorite. The only concern is he is part of the poor weather draw, where he’ll be contending with the strongest wind gusts on Thursday afternoon.
Rory McIlroy ($10,600) – Like DJ, Rory received the bad end of the weather draw, but he has enough experience (and good rounds) in windy conditions for my confidence to still be high. Rory finished 7th at the WGC-Mexico, 4th at Bay Hill, and comes into Augusta seeking the career grand slam. Rory is doubly motivated to regain control of the Tour, which is now DJ’s playhouse. He leads the Tour in strokes gained-off-the-tee and is one hot putter away from torching this field. Rory has posted three consecutive top-10s at The Masters.
Justin Rose ($9,200) – I've saved my hot take until now, but here it is: Justin Rose will win the 2017 Masters. It's been a weird season for Rose, who has strung together a bunch of high finishes while struggling with his iron play. He's been an elite ball-striker throughout his career, so I think a bounce back is in order. Rose hasn't missed a cut at Augusta in his career and has posted 10th, 2nd and 14th place finishes the past three seasons. Everything is lining up for him, and some bad weather may put the Brit over the top this week.
Jordan Spieth ($11,500) – Decent course history here: 2nd, 1st, 2nd in his three appearances. Both times he finished runner-up, Spieth had control of the tournament midway through Sunday. He’s an elite short game artist but has shown leaks in his game off-the-tee and with his short irons. That was evident last week in Houston, where Spieth’s second round 77 led him to a MC. This place is special for him, so there’s little doubt Spieth will be in contention Sunday.
Jon Rahm ($8,600) – 1st, 16th, 5th, 3rd, and 10th in his last five starts, which includes two World Golf Championships. Rahm is the next superstar in golf and excels with a mix of power, elite iron play, and clutch putting. He’s a rookie at Augusta, but I’m sure he’s had plenty of practice rounds and guidance from fellow Europeans to learn his way around. He’s paired with Rory for the first two rounds and drew the bad end of the weather. Either way, Rahm is a top contender this week.
Rickie Fowler ($9,300) – A trendy pick, Fowler seems to have all the good pointers heading into this week. He won the Honda Classic a month ago, played well at Bay Hill, and finished 3rd in Houston despite a Sunday struggle. Fowler is a great ball-striker, bombs it off the tee, and has been dialed in with the putter. His goal right now is to win a major, and this might be one of his best chances. He has an early tee time, which helps.
Jason Day ($10,200) – Day is flying under the radar because of his recent form and off-the-course issues. His mother is battling lung cancer, and last we saw of him, he WD from the Dell Match Play. His form as been shaky, but late reports are that he's excited and ready for this week. On paper, he obviously fits, as he's an elite bomber and scrambler. Day has contended several times at Augusta and should be glad to get his mind focused on golf.
Paul Casey ($7,800) – Stats and game theory say to fade Paul Casey, but course history and intuition say to play him. Casey has elite course history here, having finished 4th and 6th the past two season, with several other high finishes on his record. My concerns with Casey are his ownership and his struggles (mainly with the driver) since transitioning away from Nike clubs. Casey ranks 101st in strokes gained off-the-tee, and 144th in strokes gained putting this season. Those are really bad signs for Augusta.
Matt Kuchar ($7,400) – If you overlook his MC in Houston last week, Kuchar’s recent form has been solid. He’s consistently posting top-25 finishes, with some upside. He comes to Augusta where his record reads: 24th, 26th, 5th, 8th, and 3rd the past five seasons. He’s not the longest hitter on Tour, but he makes birdies, avoids bogeys, and tends to be an elite par-5 scorer thanks to his sharp short game.
Marc Leishman ($7,100) – Leishman has a spotty record at Augusta, with a 4th place finish and three MCs. His form is extremely strong, highlighted by his win at Bay Hill. Leishman loves playing in the wind, is a great scrambler, and has been steadily improving his off-the-tee and approach statistics. Aussies have done well here in the past, and Leishman's improved mindset should pay dividends this week.
Kevin Kisner ($6,900) – Kisner is another local, who lives about an hour from Augusta in Aiken, SC. He loves this event and had a solid 37th place finish as a debutant last season. I think the stage isn't as overwhelming this time around, and Kisner should easily crack the top-25 this week. He has recent Tour finishes of 2nd (Bay Hill), 10th, and 4th, and tons of confidence. Stat-wise, Kisner ranks 4th in strokes gained approach and 7th in strokes gained tee-to-green.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100) – King Louis is an auto-bet for me every year at Augusta if he’s healthy. This year, as a bonus, he’s actually in decent form. Louis hasn’t missed a cut yet this year and posted two top-5 finishes during the west coast swing. He loves Augusta, highlighted by his runner-up finish in 2012 (highlighted by an albatross on the 2nd hole Sunday). Louis is an elite ball-striker and driver, who just needs to get his confidence with the putter back.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($7,400) – I don't think Fitzpatrick is getting the attention he deserves, mainly because he's perceived as a short hitter. But the truth is, he's long enough, as he showed last year at the Masters where he finished 7th. Fitzpatrick is a great ball-striker and putter and should excel if the rain and wind wreak havoc early in the week. He's coming off two straight top-20 finishes at the WGC-Mexico and Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This section focuses on “odds” players – those players whose odds vary the greatest with respect to their DraftKings salaries. Keep in mind, this doesn’t make these players “good plays” or “bad plays,” but it simply measures the value based on their price. I’ve done this not just with the actual rankings, but as a percentage. So, if two players have a difference of 10 spots in pricing versus odds rankings, the player ranked higher overall will have a higher percentage. It’s a quick way to find value. I use an aggregate of odds from various oddsmakers to come up with my valuation.
The value differential column shows the number of spots lower in salary than their odds to win imply. The differential % column shows that as a percentage of the players DraftKings salary ranking. Here is a list of the top-20 “values” based on my aggregations:
On the flipside, we have the list of players Vegas believes are overpriced based on their odds to win. Using the same model and calculations as above, here are the top-20 worst “values” based on my aggregations:
DraftKings lineups for the Masters
Stars and Scrubs