Daily Fantasy Golf Helper: The Masters

We get a November visit to Augusta in what is sure to be a thriller. Which golfers should you build around on FanDuel for the Masters?

By now, you've probably dabbled in daily fantasy sports, but if not, don't worry. Now is a great time to start, especially with FanDuel's daily fantasy golf offering.

Golf can be one of the most exciting DFS sports to follow, as tournaments span four days and allow ample time to prepare each week. It's a great balance between time to research and time spent tracking your team.

But whether you're brand new to the PGA or daily fantasy sports in general, we have you covered -- and we have daily fantasy golf projections and lineup building tools, too.

Let's take a look at some golfers to target this week.

Key Stats

Key Stats for The Masters
at Augusta National
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass
Course History at Augusta

Augusta National is so demanding that you can't get by with mediocre ball-striking, and ball-striking isn't a stat that just comes and goes week to week. Yes, golfers can get hot or cold with their irons, but the weak iron players and drivers won't magically gain distance in a particular event, so that's why it's vital to make sure our golfers are performing well with their first and second shots.

Driving distance is disproportionately more important at Augusta National than your average PGA Tour course, via datagolf, as is putting. Long hitters who putt well are somewhat of a small overlap in the Venn diagram, but they do exist.

And as someone who never really puts much faith into course history relative to current form, I'm treating it differently this week because knowledge and performance at Augusta do matter. We know that first-timers never win here, but the top of the leaderboard is generally filled with those who are playing through for at least the second time (if not significantly more).

Historical Optimal Lineup Analysis

Because the Masters is a bit of a unique field -- it's not a no-cut event, but the field is limited and has a lot of non-competitors at the bottom -- it's worth digging into past optimal lineups to see if anything stands out. (Prior to 2018, the FanDuel roster construction was different.)

2019 Optimal
Masters Lineup
Brooks Koepka $11,500 122.1 7.33%
Tiger Woods $11,100 126.8 26.04%
Xander Schauffele $10,300 123.6 10.01%
Webb Simpson $9,500 96.8 5.36%
Matthew Fitzpatrick $9,300 83.2 4.14%
Justin Harding $8,200 96.3 0.35%

2018 Optimal
Masters Lineup
Jon Rahm $11,300 110.6 9.12%
Rickie Fowler $10,800 108.9 14.73%
Bubba Watson $10,300 93.3 28.80%
Patrick Reed $10,000 128.6 5.73%
Russell Henley $8,900 83.8 5.78%
Cameron Smith $8,700 86.7 4.67%

So, these are pretty close to identical constructions where there is little on the absolute highest end (toward $12,000) but also no real value plays in the $7,000 range. It's two years, yes, and the two winners -- Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed -- were salaried between $10,000 and $11,100. If someone at the high end wins, he's going to make the optimal.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll need a low-salaried golfer to round it out because they won't be offering enough upside. Over the past two years, only 3 of 50 golfers with a salary of $8,000 or below finished in the top 30 in FanDuel points at Augusta. Again, even if the winner comes from the top of the salary pool, it's unlikely that the punt-level golfers are going to be near an optimal lineup, just based on what we know about the structure of this event.

This means, to me, probably building around one stud per lineup (possibly two if we bump down for the top stud) and then balancing out the build to ensure we're not frequently dipping below $8,000 -- if at all. In a field this tough, we get elite golfers who are in a lower salary range than is typical because of the field strength.

Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for The Masters

Stats cited below come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour, and putting surface splits include the past 100 rounds when possible, unless noted. Ranks are among the field.

High-Salaried Plays

Bryson DeChambeau (FanDuel Salary: $12,100 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +800) - DeChambeau is set to demolish Augusta National, and with where his salary is, it's really not hard to play him. That's not to guarantee he'll win (he rates out about the same as a lot of the top-end golfers in my win simulations), but the floor is really high.

DeChambeau has most recently finished eighth at the Shriners after winning the U.S. Open, so that means we'll have seen him just twice since mid-September. Unsurprisingly, he ranks first in both driving distance gained and in strokes gained: off the tee over the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour. He's also 8th in strokes gained: putting over the past 50 rounds overall and is 10th in strokes gained: putting on bentgrass over the past 100 rounds. He has made the cut three times at Augusta with a 21st his best showing back in 2016, but this is a new-and-improved DeChambeau, and he's ready to unleash a 48-inch driver.

Dustin Johnson ($11,900 | +1100) - Johnson won't go overlooked by any means, but he's every bit as good a play as DeChambeau is for your primary stud in a lineup. Johnson ranks fourth in distance gained, ninth in strokes gained: off the tee, and third in strokes gained: approach. He also putts well enough (gaining 0.10 strokes per round) on bentgrass over the past 100 rounds. At the Masters, he has four straight top-10 finishes and was penciled in for a win in 2017 before his injury.

Justin Thomas ($11,600 | +1400) - Thomas is an interesting case because, unlike some of the other studs, he hasn't been particularly great at Augusta. Thomas has finished 39th, 22nd, 17th, and 12th at the Masters, so he's trending up overall but hasn't quite cracked the mystery of Augusta National just yet based on his finishing position. Thomas has the right game overall to do it, though. He ranks 24th in strokes gained: off the tee (19th in distance gained) and 2nd in strokes gained: approach. He's the top scrambler in the field and has plus putting splits on bentgrass. He's every bit as good as the other guys when he's on.

That said, DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy ($11,900), Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm ($11,700), Xander Schauffele ($11,500), and Brooks Koepka ($11,300) are all easily defensible plays. The trends, though, in the optimal lineups suggest a more balanced approach, for what it's worth, so perhaps the right play is to roster one of them and move down the list in most of your lineups.

Patrick Cantlay ($10,700 | +2200) - Cantlay should get a recent-win popularity bump after picking up the trophy at the ZOZO Championship in late October, a win that came from a really balanced, all-around showing. That type of performance is what makes Cantlay so intriguing week after week from a data standpoint: he's really good at everything even if he's not elite at anything specific. Cantlay ranks 21st in driving distance and 23rd or better in all three tee-to-green strokes gained stats over the past 50 rounds. That sample includes the recent win but also some not-great showings from him. Cantlay finished ninth at Augusta last year.

Tony Finau ($10,400 | +3100) - Finau has one positive putting surface: bentgrass. That tracks for the Masters. He's also put forth good showings at Augusta with a 10th and a 5th in his only two tries. So the knowledge isn't quite as extensive, but it's hard to argue the results. Throw in the stats -- 18th off the tee, 11th in approach, 5th in distance, and a viable 33rd in bentgrass putting -- and it's clear to see why he checks the boxes. He actually ranks third in my stats-only model, which weights in the key stats, including Augusta course history.

Mid-Salaried Plays

Adam Scott ($10,100 | +4500) - Scott doesn't golf that frequently: he's been in just four PGA Tour fields since the restart, three of which came in August. He finished 22nd at the PGA Championship, 58th at the Northern Trust, and 25th at the BMW Championship. Then in September, Scott finished 38th in the U.S. Open. Scott sits 17th in approach over the past 50 rounds and is basically a fully neutral putter on bentgrass. Scott secured the green jacket in 2013 and has five top-10s and 10 top-25s in 18 tries at Augusta.

Bubba Watson ($10,000 | +2500) - Watson is a two-time winner at Augusta (2012 and 2014), and he's doing enough to make him a justifiable play this year, as well. Watson has four top-20 finishes in the past five events. He ranks 5th in strokes gained: off the tee (9th in distance gained) and 22nd in strokes gained: approach over the past 50 rounds on Tour. The real problem is putting overall, as he ranks 77th in strokes gained: putting over the past 50 rounds on all surfaces and 82nd in the field in bentgrass putting over the past 100 rounds (losing around 0.27 strokes per round with the putter on bentgrass). But the ball-striking and course fit are certainly there for Watson to be in play in 2020. He just needs to putt.

Paul Casey ($9,600 | +6000) - It'll be hard to forgive Casey for last year's performance at Augusta (an 81-73 to miss the cut and lose 9.1 strokes to the field), but prior to that, he had finished top-15 at Augusta in four straight Masters, including three straight top-six finishes in that span. We know Casey isn't perfect, but at his best, he's a good tee-to-green golfer (25th by way of ranking 14th in strokes gained: off the tee and strokes gained: approach) and someone who putts best on bentgrass, which is what we have at Augusta National. The case is an easy one to make for him.

Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,400 | +7000) - Fitzpatrick has one primary blemish: he's struggled since going by Matt instead of Matthew driving distance. He ranks just 70th in the field in distance gained over the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour. However, he's still 30th in strokes gained: off the tee in that sample and is 2nd in strokes gained: putting. Fitzpatrick has made four straight cuts at Augusta but has finished just 32nd, 38th, and 21st since a 7th in 2016. There's course knowledge and viable tee-to-green data here (38th overall) as well as the right putting to surge up the board.

Low-Salaried Plays

Si Woo Kim ($8,500 | +12000) - Kim is probably the standout play below $9,000. Among golfers in that salary range who have played at least four rounds at Augusta, Kim is one of three who ranks 35th or better in both strokes gained: off the tee and strokes gained: approach. So the ball-striking is there for Kim, at least relative to the other value plays, and he is actually a plus putter on bentgrass, ranking 34th in the field over the past 100 rounds. The Augusta form isn't amazing, but he's played here thrice and has made two straight cuts, both top-25 finishes.

Cameron Smith ($8,700 | +6500) - Smith is going to get talked up it feels like, but it makes some sense. He has gained strokes with his approach play in eight straight events and is a top-tier putter on bentrgrass greens. The main issue is that he will almost never gain strokes: off the tee due to how he drives the ball, and that won't change in a tougher field. The reason to like him is that he has made all three cuts at Augusta and has the short game to do so again. To me, he's more of a floor play despite what the win odds suggest.

Zach Johnson ($8,100 | +19000) - Johnson, like Stenson, will likely struggle with the driver at Augusta -- not because of this gaffe but because he's just 81st in distance gained relative to the field. Johnson, though, has won here back in 2007 and has kind of shown life with the irons lately: he has gained 4.8 strokes from approach in four of his past seven events. He's also a good long-term putter on bentgrass (ranking 7th in this field over the past 100 rounds).

Ian Poulter ($8,800 | +15000) - Poulter has plenty of experience at Augusta, including five straight made cuts, three of which were top-20 finishes. The more recent data outside the Masters is kind of hit-or-miss. He gained 9.4 strokes from his short game (around-the-green and putting) at the CJ Cup to finish 12th but lost 3.9 strokes from approach, which he has done in three straight events. Poulter is more of a grinder assumption to make a cut (he's second in scrambling) with minimal realistic upside.