There is one week each year that really marks the start of the golf season. No offense to West Coast Swing or the Players Championship, but the meat of the golf season kicks off in the first full week of April at the Masters. This year the Masters are starting from a track that will host a major championship four months in a row, but not even the new schedule could push the Masters out of their rightful place in first place.
From a DFS and stake point of view, predicting the Masters winner is usually the easiest of the four majors. There are trends and statistics that give an indication of who will hold their own every year. First there is the theory of the horse for the course. Certain golfers just love playing Augusta National. Check out Fred Couples who played 33 times in the Masters and made 30 cuts.
It’s also worth looking at the official golf world rankings to narrow down your choices. Fourteen of the last 20 Masters winners came from the top 20 of the OWGR and six of the last seven winners came from the top 16. The only wolf in this group was Patrick Reed in 2018, who finished 24th when donning the green jacket.
Remember, the tournament has not had a repeat winner since Tiger Woods in 2002 and has only won a single Masters contestant since 1935 (Fuzzy Zoeller 1979).
Statistically, the most recent performance on the tour is as important as the regular percentage putting strokes and greens. Also, keep an eye on the par-5 scores as the players who can dominate the par-5 Augusta Nationals have one leg on the field. (All quotas via DraftKings and DFS prices via FanDuel).
screws and nuts
Course: Augusta National Golf Club (7,475 meters, par 72)
Defending champion: Patrick Reed (-15, 273)
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, temperatures in the high 70s. Probability of rain Friday and Sunday.
Justin Rose (14/1, $ 11,800): To say Justin Rose is comfortable at Augusta National is like saying Dustin Johnson is long off the tee. It’s a bit of an understatement. Rose, who returned to # 1 in the world this week, has 11 top 25 career masters and hasn’t been in the top 25 since 2008. His latest performance at Augusta is impressive. His worst result in the last five Masters is a T14 in 2014. Remember, if Sergio Garcia hadn’t caught fire in the last six holes in 2017, Rose would have a green jacket. Rosie has the ability to handle Augusta’s fast, undulating greens. She occupies 34th place in SG putting and is number 1 on the tour in avoiding three-putt. That, combined with the pressure of the final nine on Sunday’s Masters, points to a successful week for Rose.
Dustin Johnson (9/1, $ 12,000): I know Dustin Johnson is playing a dissolve and Augusta National is built for a right to left ball flight. I hear you … but I also firmly believe that the No. 2 player in the world can pull the golf ball when asked to (No. 2, No. 5, No. 9, No. 10, No. . 13). Throw out his mysterious fall and WD in 2017 and DJ did very well in Augusta. His last three Masters have achieved top 10 placements including a T4 in 2016.
It’s scorching hot too. Aside from the Dell Match game, Johnson has toured four top 10 players in a row, including a convincing win in Mexico. DJ is obviously long off the tee, but his putting is why he wins. He is currently 13th in SG putting, 5th in three-putt avoidance and his iron game is 25th in GIR%.
If there’s anyone who can run away with the Masters, it’s a DJ.
Paul Casey (25/1, $ 10,800): Now is the time for Casey to remove his name from the list of top players in order to never win a major. At 41, Casey was playing one of the best golf games of his career. It is no coincidence that he is winning again on the tour after a lengthy drought. Casey successfully defended his Valspar title just a few weeks ago and has five top 10 careers in the Masters. His recent performance at Augusta National was ridiculously good, losing four straight top 15 finishes in 2016, including a T4. Statistically, Casey is in 20th place in GIR% and 5th in par-5 rating. If his putter warms up, as it did with Valspar and WGC-Mexico, he will be in the mix next Sunday in Augusta
Xander Schauffele (45/1, $ 10,300): Statistically, Schauffele is the only player on my list who ticks all three boxes in all major categories in the top 25. Nineteenth in SG putting, 22nd GIR%, fifth in par 5. Xander is also long enough to deal with Augusta National as he ranks 35th in driving distance. All signs point to Schauffele heading into action this week. He made the cut and finished T50 on his Masters debut a year ago. Outside of an MC at the Players Championship, he reached the top 25 in all eight of his other starts in 2019.
Charles Howell III (80/1, $ 8,600): Born in Augusta, he didn’t do particularly well in the Masters, but when it comes to CH-3 he’s just a different golfer than the guy who last played the Masters in 2012 and finished T19. This season, Howell III has taken a win at the RSM Classic, along with eight other top 20 finishes. He is long enough behind the tee (49th in driving distance) to hang in Augusta and this season is 2nd in GIR% and 14th in SG.
Bernhard Langer (350/1, 7,200 USD): At 61, Langer continued to defy fatherhood. No, he’s not a real threat to victory, but the 1985 and 1993 Masters Champion can provide a cheap back end to the lineup. He has made the cut in 25 of his 35 Masters appearances, including T38 in 2018. This season Langer has played in five events on the Champions Tour and reached the top 5 in all of them, including a win at the Oasis Championship in February.
Patrick Reed (50/1, $ 10,700): The defending champion, who is serving ribeye steak, mac and cheese at the champions dinner this week, had just lost his game. His last four starts on tour have included a brief stint at Match Play, an MC, T47 and T50. Last year in Augusta was magical for Reed, but any good vibes from his unlikely Masters win seemed to have faded.