What: The Masters
Where: Augusta National GC, Augusta, GA
When: April 5th-Apri 8th
Defending Champion: Sergio Garcia
FedEx Cup Points and Purse: 600 and $11,000,000
Ian Poulter nailed down the win this past week at the Houston Open as he defeated a strong charge by Beau Hossler in a playoff hole. Poulter survived a near-disastrous week as he posted an opening round-73 but turned it around nicely with a 64-65-67. With the win, the 42-year-old recorded his third PGA Tour win and also gets a berth into the Masters.
Last Week’s Results
Vegas: MDF (Made cut but didn’t finish)
One of the biggest prizes in golf will be awarded this week as we have finally reached the Masters. Sergio Garcia looks to repeat as champion, something that hasn’t been done since Tiger Woods did it in 2001 and 2002. The 2018 Masters features the smallest field in more than 20 years with just 86 players qualifying.
A plethora of skills, key stats, and past performances will go into calculating a winner this week. Augusta is a course that you must value past winners at, as is the case with all of the major tournaments on Tour. Also, like most Majors, you must hold past performance at this specific tournament to a higher standard than the ‘form’ a golfer may be in lately.
Strokes gained in putting, approach-the-green, tee-to-green, and around-the-green will all be incredibly important. Greens in regulation, bogey avoidance, three-putt avoidance, par-4 scoring (eight of the ten par-4s measure 445yds or longer), and par-5 scoring. As you can see, so much goes into determining who may compete this week and makes for the surprising charges from less popular golfers in the past.
The past winners here of fantasy relevance since 2000 include Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, and Tiger Woods. Some notable runners-up during this span include Lee Westwood, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, and Justin Rose. Some notable players make their Masters debut include Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Shubhankar Sharma, Austin Cook, Patton Kizzire and Wesley Bryan.
This Week’s Picks
Phil Mickelson: Arguably has more momentum going than even Tiger Woods currently, Lefty has himself a victory and three separate top-6 finishes in his last four times out on TOUR. A three-time Masters winner in 2004, 2006 and 2010, Mickelson also has TWELVE other top-10s here. Ranks fourth on TOUR in strokes gained: approach the green, second in strokes gained: putting, and fourth in scrambling.
Justin Rose: Perfect in cuts made in 12 appearances at Augusta, Rose has finished as a runner-up twice in the last three years (lost in a playoff last year and by four strokes in 2015.) Rose ranks seventh in birdie average, 13th in strokes gained: putting, and 24th in strokes gained: off-the-tee. He has a perfect nine cuts made on the year with a win, a third-place finish and three other top-8s in five outings.
Jordan Spieth: Spieth’s putter has oddly held him back this year, something that he may be best on TOUR at just by pure skills. However, Spieth is certainly no stranger to Augusta. Although a hard course to ignite a fire under the putter at, Spieth is the guy to do so. He has four Masters starts with two T2s, a win, and a T11. That T11 could’ve easily been a top-5 also as he shot a final-round 75.
Tiger Woods: Nitpicking is at its finest this week as Tiger ranks in my second tier; simply for the fact that he hasn’t appeared here since 2015. It practically means nothing, but we need at least something to separate the tiers. Not much needs to be said about Tiger here, he’s a four-time winner with 19 of 20 cuts made. Was the Vegas-betting favorite as of a few days ago which is probably an overreaction, but no reason at all to not include him on your team this week.
Dustin Johnson: With the ability to crush the ball off the tee into the fairways from the elevated tees at Augusta, his 13th rank in driving distance will play extremely well with his 22nd rank in GIR and first-place rank in SG: off-the-green. He also ranks first in par-5 scoring. DJ had a poor showing at the Match Play two weeks ago but is six-for-six in cuts made this year with a win, a runner-up, and four top-10s. He’s as dominant as ever when he’s on.
Rory McIlroy: A two-time PGA Championship winner, and an Open Championship and U.S. Open winner. A win this week will complete the career grand slam. His win at the API nearly three weeks ago ranks him leaps and bounds higher than what it could’ve been. In nine Masters starts, Rory has seven top-25s including four top-10s highlighted by a fourth-place finish in 2015 and a T7 last year.
Justin Thomas: Two wins on the year with a runner-up and five top-10s, why is he ranked so low? I’ll go with track record. It’s just two starts here but they are a T39 and a T22. He also may cost a lot in relativity to who else you could put in your lineup. Thomas ranks eighth in driving distance and 39th in strokes gained: putting and his lowest finish on the year is a T22 back in January.
Sergio Garcia: Took him 19 tries to win his first Masters (and major) after knocking on the door with three other top-8s and 19 other top-10s across all Majors. His past three appearances on TOUR have been top-10s and he ranks T3 in par-5 scoring. It may be unfair to rank him this low, but with becoming a father, getting married, and only playing in six events this year (with a win and nothing lower than a T33) it would be one of the most monumental moments for Sergio to repeat at the Masters. I would pencil him in for a top-12 though, however.
Bubba Watson: Bubba has two very impressive wins so far this season, and a is two-time Masters winner (his seven other Masters appearances have resulted in one cut and no finishes better than T20.) He’s ranked fourth in driving distance and 16th in GIR, and even though his two wins on the year should rank him higher, the track record at the Masters outside of the wins push him down. His ‘Masters profile’ makes him a boom or bust of sorts.
Tommy Fleetwood: Hardly a sleeper on a weekly basis if you’ve been following his performance the past few months, but the ‘star-studded’ top does push him into somewhat of an afterthought. Fleetwood started with a 78-74 last year and missed the cut but will improve this year. He’s in the top-60 in both strokes gained: approach-the-green and par-5 scoring and has six top-26s in his last seven events which include a win and a fourth-place finish. Don’t forget that he’s ranked 12th on the OWGR!
Adam Hadwin: Has just one appearance at the Masters which was a T36 during last season but Hadwin has one of the most underrated all-around golf games on TOUR which could help him improve on that finish. He’s perfect in cuts in 11 starts with a T3 at the CareerBuilder and three top-10s and five top-25s and ranks 22nd in SG: approach-the-green and 21st in SG: tee-to-green. Although he’s only ranked 79th in total putting, he does come in at 17th in three-putt avoidance.
Xander Schauffele: Schauffele ranks 12th in SG: off-the-tee, eighth in going for the green percentage, and 73rd in SG: putting. Missed the cut at the Farmers back in January, but has 9/10 on the year with a T3, two top-10s, and six top-25s. More of a gut feeling pick to be completely honest.
Other Names to Consider
Since this tournament is so front-loaded with stars, here are some other names to consider that didn’t make the list in no specific order. Think of these guys as fringe second and third tier plays.
Rickie Fowler: Still looking for his first major, ranks 11th in GIR and has a Masters-best finish of T5.
Jon Rahm: Solid T27 last year in his Masters debut, T29 or better in his last four events and also won the CareerBuilder.
Jason Day: Three top-10s and two top-3s in his seven Masters starts.
Hideki Matsuyama: One MC in six appearances here, top 20 in strokes gained: approach-the-green. One of the hottest golfers when he’s ‘on.’
Matt Kuchar: Just one MC in 11 trips, four top-8s in his last six tries here with a T4 last year.
Alex Noren: Three top-3 finishes on TOUR so far this season, missed cut here last year but ranks third in par-5 scoring and 10th in strokes gained: approach the green this season.
Patrick Reed: His best finish here is only a T22, but he has rattled off three straight top-10s as of late.
Henrik Stenson: Just eight-for-twelve in cuts made here, but does have six top-25. Coming off a T6 in Houston.
Adam Scott: A whopping 16 career starts here with just two missed cuts (eight straight made.) Five career top-10s here with a win in 2013. T9 here last year.
Paul Casey: 11 trips here with three MCs. T6 or better four times and has never won a major and could be hungry.