Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: The Masters
At long last, we arrive at Augusta National for The Masters. When last seen on the PGA Tour, the golf world was absolutely buzzing after Tiger Woods' incredible victory. Fast forward 19 months, and here we are, fresh off a certain other massive victory fueled in part by performance in Georgia.
Augusta stretched 7,475 yards to its par 72 in 2019, and we'll have to see when the official yardage comes out how the course has changed with the season, if at all. The Masters has a unique field and cut rules, with only 94 golfers in the field and the weekend limited to the top 50 plus anyone within 10 strokes of the lead after 36 holes. The field also includes a cadre of former winners and other qualifiers unlikely to figure into the endgame come Sunday evening. This is a loaded field, but a heavily imbalanced one.
Much has been made of the distance boom in golf right now, personified by Bryson DeChambeau's uncompromising efforts to gain length off the tee. That should serve him well at Augusta -- as Phil Mickelson noted on Twitter in a 2019 drive-up to his third round, the goal is to "hit bombs." Mickelson cited an analysis done by coach Dave Pelz that concluded that longer drives led to lower scores at Augusta National. We'll have to take Lefty's word for it, but with three green jackets hanging in his closet at home, he's a trustworthy source.
Rain is in the forecast this week, and like Woods' early victory in 2019, we may see some schedule shuffling over the weekend. The field will also split starting 9s for the first time in an effort to speed things up. This bears repeating -- no golfer in this field has ever started a round at Augusta on the 10th hole. If betting first-round leaders or playing single-round fantasy games, focus on golfers starting on the 1st tee rather than the 10th.
Let's dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.
Course and Tournament Info
Course: Augusta National GC
Distance: 7,475 yards
Fairways/Rough: Bermudagrass fairways overseeded with ryegrass / no rough at Augusta, just pine straw
Augusta is just about the ideal layout for championship golf. There are a blend of par 3 lengths between 150 and 250 yards, and one short par 4 and a bunch of long ones (three are 495 yards or longer). And while all the par 5s are gettable, the challenge is altogether different between the 570-plus yarders on the front nine and the 510-yard 13th to round out Amen Corner.
We have a wide range of finishing scores the past few years, with Woods reaching 13-under par last year on the low side. The winning scores going backward starting in 2018 are 15-under, 9-under, 5-under, and 18-under. Given the gains the field has made in equipment and style, as well as the wet conditions, we can expect the course to produce a winner within a few strokes of Tiger's score last year.
Course comps are dependent on multiple factors, including empirical data like length and green size, scoring, grass type, geography, field strength/size, and performance overlap. This week, with distance front and center, we look to long par 72s like the South Course at Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open), Muirfield Village GC (Memorial Tournament), and Firestone CC (the now-defunct WGC-Bridgestone). Some golfers in the field never got the chance to compete at the WGC event before it was moved to TPC Southwind, and if we want to pull a more recent sample, we can look to the past two major championship tracks, TPC Harding Park and Winged Foot GC.
These stats will be key to success in The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
|Key Stats for The Masters at Augusta National GC|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Birdies or Better Gained|
|Strokes Gained: Par 5s|
|Course History at Augusta National|
The distance piece is covered above, but it bears repeating -- play guys who hit bombs. We'll go straight distance over strokes gained: off the tee because we really don't care about accuracy when there is no rough to contend with.
What Mickelson goes on to explain is that the reason distance is so important is because many of the greens have "shelves" where the holes are tucked away, offering a risk-reward proposition for those golfers willing to target the pin. That proposition becomes much easier to manage when you can pull a wedge, as opposed to a mid-iron, and softly land the approach shot with a birdie opportunity. That brings in both strokes gained: approach and birdies or better gained.
Woods had a well-balanced distribution of strokes gained on par 3s, 4s, and 5s last year, but the rest of the top-five led the field in strokes gained on par 5s. In 2018, the top-five finishers ranked first, seventh, second, third, and seventh on par 5s. You simply can't afford to miss out on the best birdie opportunities at Augusta.
And finally, we come to course history. While we always look at course form as a separate part of our process, we want to make it a bigger piece this week. As we'll highlight below, Augusta brings out the best of the best, and those golfers tend to beat the field and contend year after year.
Course History Studs
All that being said, some of the biggest names in the course history category -- Woods, Mickelson, and Jordan Spieth -- have looked so out of form on the PGA Tour for the past year that they are hard to rely on.
Bubba Watson is a two-time champion with great finishes in 2018 (T5) and 2019 (T12), but most other recent winners have very little in the way of consistency. Patrick Reed won in 2018 but has otherwise failed to crack the top 20; Sergio Garcia was the 2017 champion but has missed consecutive cuts and has just one other top-10 since 2004; and Danny Willett was opportunistic enough to capitalize on Spieth's collapse in 2016 but has missed the cut each year since then.
In all, the top golfers tend to fill up the leaderboard at Augusta. This is a function of the smaller, top-heavy field, and the cream rising to the top on the biggest stage. Golfers with multiple top-10s in the past five editions include Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler.
Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.