Let’s be formal. It’s The Masters to you and me, The Masters Tournament to Augusta National Golf Club – the home of the first major championship of every golf year (excepting 2020 which was, of course, a bit weird). Is there a golf course any of us know so well without (in all probability) ever having played it? We know the par-breaking opportunities, we know where trouble lurks. We know which apparently off-target landing area is dynamite and which one has got three-putt written all over it. We crave a tight leaderboard on Sunday, we hope that hasn’t changed at the turn, we want to hear the back nine roars. So, sit back and enjoy the week. It’s a little bit mad, but it’s also a little bit glorious and Tiger is back! But first? Get picking.
Last time out
A strange week that ended with glory for J.J. Spaun. Our deep dive with Kevin Chappell almost reaped super success but, like Kevin Streelman and Austin Smotherman, they were good value picks. Chris Kirk and Corey Conners were solid.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|A list||D. Johnson||$10,500|
Dustin Johnson ($10,500): The 2020 champion missed the cut last year but we can easily lay that to one side because defending champions frequently struggle here at Augusta National – there’s just too much going on off-the-course for most golfers to cope with. Plus he was in a nasty run of form. He remains a little up and down, but he does have three top 10s in his last five starts and, before the missed weekend last year, he finished top 10 at Augusta five years in a row.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($6,700) Possibly one of our favourite players but for absolutely solid reasons, not least the fact that he makes a lot of cuts. He’s missed only two in 12 starts this season and those are actually the only two weekends he hasn’t played in a strokeplay event since October 2020 in worldwide starts (there were four no-cut tournaments in that run). Add in two cuts made from two starts at Augusta, a sparkling short game, and the sort of calm demeanour that copes well with Augusta vagaries, and you’ve got a neat package.
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300) Nothing complicated here. As discussed above, defending champions have difficulty here. Where else do they have to deal with creating a menu and then hosting an evening of legends? It’s tricky. Then you can add that Matsuyama isn’t a real lover of the oppressive Japanese media scrum, which wasn’t in attendance when he won, but returns this week. The final factor is that he’s withdrawn twice recently so might not even be fit. An unnecessary risk.
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Augusta National Golf Club
As already discussed, we know this course inside out. But the A.N.G.C. also like making little tweaks and, as Jon Rahm has pointed out, that has happened again; real subtleties. It’s a par-72 set at 7,510-yards – that is 585 yards longer than it was back in 1998.
We know that it is a course that suits bombers. They don’t have to fear rough (there is only a “second cut”), there are lots of trees, but they are not thick, and big carries can hit downslopes.
Approach shots need to be smart. The greens are well-contoured and balls can be sucked towards holes. They can also be swept into terrible spots. And the difference between those two different conclusions might be a matter of millimetres. Patrick Reed said: “It truly is a course knowledge golf course. You need to know where to put the ball on certain pins and if you miss you need to miss it in certain spots because there’s some areas around here that it’s literally impossible, unless you make a 15, 18-footer.”
Jason Day added: “I know it’s very much a second-shot golf course. I’ve played with countless older generation players and younger generation players, and you can definitely tell that the more you play here, the better your course management gets around this golf course.”
Then there is the short game. The areas around the greens are shaved and the putting surfaces are swift. A sure touch is essential. But don’t overplay the short game. Very, very good short game craftsmen have won here (Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in recent years), but most often excellent approach players thrive.
Paul Casey, discussing his own game, revealed plenty: “There’s no question that the golf course suits my game. Fundamentally, I’m a very good ball striker. But then there’s other subtleties: the off-camber lies, the slopes, steep angle of descent into the golf ball, good spin control. I’m not a great putter, but I’m a good touch putter, which very much assists round here.”
What about shot shape? “Everyone says you have to play a draw and you don’t,” argued Collin Morikawa last month. “I tried and it forced me to hit shots I wasn’t comfortable with. I didn’t know my misses. I’ve got to stick to my strengths. Guys have hit cuts there and won. It’s possible.”
The weather forecast for Augusta, Georgia is good for tournament days but wet and stormy before then. Thursday and Friday? Blustery. Saturday? Breezy. Sunday? Probably very little wind. The temperatures will rise and fall either side of 60 degrees with, thankfully, very little chance of rain. It will mostly be sunny.
Past Winners of The Masters Tournament
The first thing to note is something that rookies struggle to win here. First winner Horton Smith couldn’t help win on debut, there was a repeat in the second event, but the only other untested champion? Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Now, that’s pretty much a Masters cliche we all know. The reason we’ve introduced it quickly? Because first-timers might not win very often, but they can feature high up the leaderboard. They do so very often, in fact, and Will Zalatoris was a prime example 12 months ago when solo second.
Now to deal with who does win and we’ll stick with modern times. Why not start 25 years ago? Someone did something a little special that year. He took 40 blows to reach the turn in round one and then destroyed the field by 12 strokes. Tiger Woods did many marvellous and outrageous things, but boy did he start in style. His then-good friend Mark O’Meara succeeded him before Jose Maria Olazabal claimed a last win in a glorious two decades of Augusta domination for the Europeans. Only Danny Willett (2016) and Sergio Garcia (2017) have added further success.
International golfers thrived in the next two decades: Fiji’s Vijay Singh (2000), Canada’s Mike Weir (2003), South Africa’s Trevor Immelman (2008) and Charl Schwartzel (2011), Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (2009), Australia’s Adam Scott (2013) and the Japanese defending champion Hideki Matsuyma all slipped their arms into green jackets.
There was also, of course more triumph for Woods. He won again in 2001, 2002, 2005 and – wonderfully, magically – in 2019. That Phil Mickelson won three times (2004, 2006, 2010) was not surprising. That Bubba Watson won twice (2014, 2016) was. Zach Johnson’s victory in 2007 was also out of leftfield, but Jordan Spieth’s in 2015 was not: the boy loves Augusta National. Patrick Reed (2018) and Dustin Johnson (2020) added further wins for the home golfers.
Two thoughts to close: In the 21st century three different lefties won a total of six green jackets. And defending is difficult. There is not only the usual hoopla associated with the media and club duties, but in this week there is also more of both, not least the Champions’ Dinner.
A good short game is a help, but mostly when that golfer thrives in that element of the game. Mostly, we need fine major championship performers, who were playing well in them last year, who have some decent form, solid course returns and are exceptional approach players.
Here’s A Line-up of Core Picks For The Masters Tournament
|A list||B. Koepka||$9,400|
|B list||S. Lowry||$8,800|
|B list||C. Conners||$7,600|
|Deep dive||M. Hughes||$6,300|
Brooks Koepka ($9,400) Since he joined the first tier of golf in 2014 Koepka has landed a top 20 finish in 21 of 27 major championship starts. He’s also got 16 from his last 20 appearances and eight from his last 10. That’s relentless and brutal consistency. No less than 16 of those 27 starts were top 10s and, of course, four were wins. It’s all proof that Koepka loves the major tests and he tells us as much repeatedly. He knows how to deal with the slings and arrows. Moreover, he gets a kick out of seeing how others shy away from them.
Shane Lowry ($8,800) The Irishman was far from the most convincing Masters golfer in his early visits. In fact, he missed the cut three times in his first four starts. But in the exception he was top 10 through the first 36 holes and he has added T–25 and T–21 since. He’s on record as saying that he knows how to deal with a major week these days and thrives on the examination. He’s also in stellar form. He’s landed six top 15 finishes in his last seven strokeplay starts and the exception was a top 25.
Corey Conners ($7,600) Form? He was T–11 at Bay Hill, T–26 at Sawgrass, third in the WGC – Dell Match Play and T–35 last week in the Texas Open. Course form? He missed the cut as an amateur, was T–46 on pro debut in 2019, T–10 in 2020 and T–8 last year (great Greens in Regulation stats the last two years, also). Then there is his elite field form. Since that first top 10 at the Masters in late 2020 he’s added top 20s at THE PLAYERS, the PGA Championship, the British Open, the Olympics and the TOUR Championship.
Si Woo Kim ($7,100) If we forgive a post-first round withdrawal from THE PLAYERS Championship, the Korean has made the cut in his last 10 events and 17 of his last 19. That’s solid and his Masters record is sneaky good. He missed the cut on debut but since then? T–24 in 2018, T–21 a year later, T–34 in 2020, and a best of the lot T–12 last year.
Kevin Na ($6,800) A low salary for a grinder who will do all it takes to have a good week. And since missing the cut in both his first two course starts Na has done his grinding very well at Augusta. In fact, he is 7-for-8 with four of those finishes top 15 (including both of the last two visits).
Mackenzie Hughes ($6,300) Many will need to creep beneath the $7k mark to find some value, off-setting a bias towards big salaries and Hughes’ recent excellent major championship form might hold value. He was T–15 at last year’s U.S. Open (leading heading into the final round) and T–6 in the British Open. He was also T–40 at last year’s Masters, when in the top 25 through most of the week.
Other Player Options For The Masters Tournament
• Gary Woodland has a really quite dazzlingly bad Masters record. Nine starts, just four cuts made, and he hasn’t broken 70 since 2014.
• Xander Schauffele remains a superb major championship performer. He’s got 12 top 25 finishes from 18 starts – and nine of them were top 10. He also has three top 20s from four Augusta National appearances (two of them top three).
• It’s not been a great start to the year for Patrick Reed, but he has made six of his last seven Masters cuts with three top 10s in the last four starts (including victory in 2018).
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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