We’ve finally arrived at the years first major. Augusta National is a test and tournament unlike any other and before we get to the picks allow me to give you the basics. The course is a longer par 72 that plays between 7400-7500 yards, depending on setup. While it’s a tree lined venue Augusta is also extremely hilly, and the knowing the contours of the greens and fairways are a big deal this week. Overall Augusta doesn’t contain much thick rough but the speed of the greens, the tree-lined fairways and some extremely difficult hole and approach setups provide its best defenses. Even though the course is well inland and not bordering any body of water the weather can still be a huge factor too as we saw last year when the winds got up and gave us a winning score of only five under, the worst since Zach Johnson won in 2007. As of now the weather has some possible storms and wind in the forecast for the first two days but excellent weather over the weekend, which means we might see players struggle a bit the first two days and play pick up over the weekend.
Course History: Being a first-timer here is a distinct disadvantage. As noted previously, the Masters is its own tournament in both style and setup and having played it at least once or twice before is huge—no first-time player has ever won at Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979. That being said, it’s not entirely out of the question for first-timers to put up a decent showing. Last year Daniel Berger finished T10 and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello was T17, while Jordan Spieth nearly the entire tournament back in 2014 on his first attempt. Still these players are generally the exception, not the rule, and when paying up for more expensive players this week you’re generally going to want to see at least some Augusta experience on their card, regardless of how good their recent form has been.
Milly Maker Strategy: There are some big contests out there this week in DFS, with the largest obviously being the Milly Maker on DraftKings. The MM has a hugely top heavy structure so if you are playing it there’s a couple strategy points to take into consideration. The first is lineup duplication. Spending all of your salary cap money in a big tournament like this will make it much more likely your lineup is duplicated by someone else (and will leave you open to chopping a big prize if you are successful). Leaving some money on the table—$300 or more—isn’t a bad idea to help avoid this. The second point to consider is deciding which highly owned players to fade. Certain golfers will be very popular this week and so making your lineups unique by swerving off of potential popular plays can be key in making your way up to the top of the leaderboard this week (and most weeks to be honest). While you shouldn’t fade every top player, also don’t be afraid to take chances! Golf is a highly variable sport and we rarely get to play for this much money in DFS.
**Wednesday Update: The weather looks like it will be a huge issue on the first two days, mainly due to wind and cold temperatures. The AM wave on Thursday is the most likely to see lower winds so it is probably worth stacking and hoping for a bias to develop, but honestly I’m not sure of there will be a huge advantage as the winds are supposed to be prevalent over all of Thurs/Fri. Still, if you’re making multiple gpp lineups this week using a couple bullets on an all Thursday AM roster isn’t a horrible idea.
Dustin Johnson ($11,300): There’s not much to say at this point as Johnson has answered all the questions for us during his recent run of three straight wins. Many will point to his overall lack of success at Augusta but the ability he has shown to turn his putter and short game into something of a strength this season should make a world of difference this year. I’d stick with DJ here and simply look elsewhere if you want to differentiate this week.
**Wed update: Dustin hurt his back, questionable to even play, would be a hard fade for me at this point. Given their AM draw times I would side with Day in gpps and Spieth in cash games if paying up for a stud this week.
Rickie Fowler ($9,300): Coming off a blown opportunity to get his second win on the year at the Houston Open, there will be a lot of opinions on Rickie this week, and he’s definitely one of the most polarizing figures on tour. I’m more than happy to load up on him this week on DraftKings however. Of all the contenders who played in Houston he showed the most readiness and—outside of Dustin Johnson or Jon Rahm—Rickie has shown the most consistency over the past two months as well with nothing worse than a T16 over his last five starts. Ranks first in scrambling on tour and was 1st in strokes gained: tee to green last week in Houston.
Justin Rose ($9,200): Outside of Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose might have the most impressive record at Augusta over the past few seasons. Rose has now made nine straight cuts at the Masters since 2007 and has gone 10th-2nd-14th here over the past three years. He comes in having not missed a cut in 2017 and slightly under the radar. He should be quite a bit lower-owned in gpps than the obvious play in his range, the red-hot Jon Rahm.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100): With lots of strong looking plays, nailing the 8k range will be pivotal this week. Oosthuizen may not jump off the page at you, but his consistency and performance in majors over the past few years should. The 2010 Open winner has not missed a cut in 17 straight starts and has three top 20 finishes at the Masters over his last five starts here—including a playoff loss from 2012. His improved his play around the greens this year—top 50 in SG: Around the Green and Scrambling—could make a huge difference as his ball-striking is almost always amoung the elite.
Others: Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm
Paul Casey ($7,800): Does not have a top ten on the year, but he has made seven straight cuts in 2017 and has three top 20’s in his last four starts. Casey seems like he’s been building towards a great result and his consistency has really been brought forth by his improved his play around the greens this year too—ranks eighth for the year in scrambling. T6 and T4 at this tournament the past two years, he brings real upside at a reduced price.
Alex Noren ($7,500): Alex Noren is surprisingly making his first visit to Augusta. He took a major leap forward last year with four wins on the euro tour in the span of six months. The 34-year-old Swede has a game that I think will translate well to this week and his ability to play in shifty weather could be an asset early on. Noren ranks 2nd in scrambling on the euro tour in 2017 (was fourth last year) and is coming off a very nice week at the match-play. He’ll be a great target in gpps this week.
Bill Haas ($7,200): Haas is a player I’m very high on this week. He’s made seven straight cuts at Augusta and hasn’t finished worse than 24th here over the last four years. Haas has had trouble getting himself into contention in big events over his career but he landed his first top ten in a major last season (T9 at the Open) and has top-five finishes in two of the last three WGC events. Haas ranks high in some key stat areas for me as well, as he’s second in scrambling and ninth in par 4 scoring on the year.
Kevin Kisner ($6,900): Kisner has had a great start to the 2017 season. He narrowly missed a win at the API and has not missed a cut this year in seven starts. Kisner ranks top 30 in scrambling and played Augusta for the first time last season, finishing 37th in bad conditions. There’s a lot of solid plays at just under 7k on DraftKings this week but I think Kisner, a Georgia native, is the one to back in DFS.
**Wednesday Add-Russell Henley ($7,200): I was on the fence about Henley to start the week but I’m all-in now. Statistically he’s enjoying his finest season to date and to have that validated by a win last week is huge for his confidence. As a player who literally just won himself in he’ll have no pressure, and he also may have gotten a bit of luck with an early tee-time Thursday. Henley has also shown progressive form at Augusta as he’s made the cut in two previous starts and was top 25 his last time out in 2015. He’s a Georgia native and should be relatively low owned as many people won’t have a bias towards him since he was a late add to the player pool.
Others: Adam Hadwin, Russell Henley
High-upside GPP Picks
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,900): Matsuyama is definitely a player I would like some exposure to this week, especially if he’s going to be around or under 10% in big gpps. He’s proven he can find form fast on golf courses he likes, as both of his Phoenix Open wins have come off the back of sub-par weeks. While his short game woes could be a problem on Sunday, back-to-back top tens at Augusta and almost assured low ownership, makes him a great target on DraftKings this week.
Thomas Pieters ($7,700): Lots of talent and performed well in a couple of strong fields early in the year at Riviera and in Mexico. This will be his first time visiting Augusta but the Belgian has the game and the mentality that should translate to a lot of success at this venue. If he can avoid too many big numbers (big if I admit) his high birdie rate and ability to crush the par 5’s (fifth in par 5 birdie or better percentage) could be huge in large gpps. He’ll be far lower-owned than he should be after two straight below-average results.
Bernd Wiesberger ($7,100): Wiesberger may not win much but at just $7,100 he brings some good momentum and course history this week. Wiesberger has played this course each of the past two years, in varying conditions, and done extremely well placing 34th in 2016 and 22nd in 2015. The Austrian has not missed a cut over his last six starts and ranks seventh over in Europe in scrambling (was 11th last season). Expecting that he’ll be quite low owned in big gpps.
Tommy Fleetwood ($6,900): Fleetwood has shown some of the best form in the field over the past few months. He landed an early season win over in Abu Dhabi against a strong field and has followed that up with a top ten finish at the API and a solo second at the WGC Mexico. He’s a phenomenal ball striker whose improved putting and recent form gives him a shot at a high finish this week. Risky due to lack of experience but fully capable of a monster fantasy week.
Other: Charl Schwartzel, Russell Henley, Sean O’Hair
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Bill Haas, Alex Noren, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm
– Kevin Kisner, Charl Schwartzel, Tommy Fleetwood, Bernd Wiesberger, Adam Hadwin, Thomas Pieters, Russell Henley, Sean O’Hair
Rickie Fowler (28-1, now 20-1)
Paul Casey (45-1)
Louis Oosthuizen (66-1)
Alex Noren (100-1)
Bill Haas (125-1)