Welcome to the 83rd edition of The Masters.
This is arguably the premier event in the golfing calendar and there’s a host of players arriving in excellent touch.
They will all be chasing the elusive green jacket and the list of starters doesn’t get much better.
Patrick Reed ($6,400) is the defending champion at a tournament famous for its thrilling back nine on the final day.
Legends are made at Augusta and this year promises to be an excellent event.
The Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia is one of the world’s most famous courses.
It is in pristine condition and the players will find a track that is almost delicately cut to the millimetre.
It’s a par-72 measuring 7,745 yards and it can play longer as the fairways are cut back towards the tee box so there is no significant roll on tee shots.
The players will find undulating fairways and plenty of bunkers but the fascinating aspect is the lighting-fast bentgrass greens.
First-time players regularly struggle with the greens and being able to hit your approach shots in the right spots is crucial.
The four par fives are where a lot of scoring is done but those up the top of the leaderboard will be the ones who can keep it in check on the par fours.
The course has been adjusted this year with 40 yards added to the already-challenging par-four fifth hole; it will now play 495 yards.
The magnolia trees and azaleas are also a feature.
The tournament’s record score is -18, recorded by Tiger Woods in 1997 and Jordan Spieth in 2015. Woods ($8,400) and Spieth ($7,100) represent intriguing DFS plays in their own right.
If you like someone, don’t be afraid to play them. There are some excellent golfers that are well-priced given the strength of this field.
You will need to decide whether you try and squeeze in multiple guns up top and fill in your roster further down, or try and take a balanced approach.
Given the quality of mid-tier players, I will lean towards a balanced approach.
Only 87 players will tee it up. The top 50 players and ties will make the cut, or anybody within 10 strokes of the lead after 36 holes. Potentially, 60-something players could make the cut.
With a collection of well-past-their-prime former champions, and a handful amateurs in the field, you can put a line through them.
Getting nine of nine through the cut might get you a cash but if you want to take down the $5K GPP on Moneyball, you will need multiple players in the top 10, including the winner.
Keep an eye on the weather as wind is in the forecast.
Who do we like?
I want ball-strikers, ideally those who are longer off the tee, and players who can scramble well. You don’t need to be a world-class putter but gaining strokes tee-to-green is a common theme among previous winners.
Course history tends to show out here more than anywhere else on the PGA Tour due to the tricky nature of Augusta’s greens. Remember, no first-timer has won since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
This week I will toss up two leans per category and one fade.
My statistics come via Fantasy National, a useful study tool. When I am referencing a player’s past 24 rounds, that is in comparison to the field and the past 24 tracked rounds each player has completed.
$8 and $9K Range
Rory McIlroy ($9,300) – You can’t knock Rory’s combination of course history and current form. The Irishman is chasing a career grand slam and arrives at Augusta in peak condition. He has finished inside the top 10 in his past five starts at The Masters and recently won The Players Championship. From a statistical perspective, he rates out incredibly well; he is No 1 in this field for strokes gained: tee-to-green and off the tee across the past 24 rounds.
Jon Rahm ($8,000) – Rahm is among the new breed of player who is fearless and crushes the golf ball. He is third in strokes gained: off the tee in his past 24 rounds and has steadily improved in his past two outings at Augusta. Crucially, last year he shot three rounds in the 60s, which shows he can go low here.
Justin Thomas ($8,200) – The skilful American has gone off the boil in recent weeks after starting 2019 on fire. The approach game hasn’t been there lately and someone has to miss out.
Paul Casey ($7,200) – Casey is a testament to the theory that you don’t have to be an elite putter to perform well here. The Englishman won the Valspar Championship last month and arrives at a course where he has four consecutive top-15 finishes. No 1 in this field for strokes gained on par fives across the past 24 rounds.
Hideki Matsuyama ($7,000) – The Japanese tyro ranks No 1 in my overall statistical model. He’s banked four straight top-20 finishes at Augusta and his iron game is elite. This price is a steal.
Jason Day ($7,300) – Always a chance to withdraw, catch the flu, or pick up some form of ailment. Avoid the stress and leave him out.
Matt Kuchar ($6,300) – This is a chalky pick and I get that. I just can’t avoid Kuchar at this price. His current form is off the charts and despite not being the longest off the tee, he’s made nine straight cuts at The Masters. He’s sixth in this field for strokes gained on approaches from 175-200 yards, a common distance the players will face here. His tee-to-green game is immense.
Patrick Cantlay ($6,200) – Cantlay killed me last year when he missed the cut. But I am a sucker for punishment so I am going back to the well. He hits long irons nicely and has a great overall approach game.
Gary Woodland ($6,000) – He’s missed three straight cuts at Augusta and his chipping worries me. Hard pass.
Charley Hoffman ($5,400) – The Hoff is somehow a cut-price Augusta specialist. He’s never missed a cut in five appearances and has never been outside the top 30. A similar effort here would see him return value. He will likely be popular after a second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open last week.
Si Woo Kim ($5,400) – I will ride the form with the enigmatic Korean. He leads this field in strokes gained on par fours that are 450-500 yards. That’s a prevalent par four range at Augusta. Also has an elite short game.
Lucas Bjerregaard ($5,100) – The Dane made a splash at the WGC matchplay event recently but don’t do it to yourself. A first-timer that I won’t take a chance on.
I suggest that you don’t use players in this range. But…
Mike Weir ($4,800) – If you have to delve this deep in the field, the Canadian has got a few reps in this year playing on the web.com Tour. His best days are long removed but he might squeeze inside the cut.
Ian Woosnam ($4,800) – The Welshman has only made the cut twice since 2000 and only once this decade. Hard to see him changing that trend.