DraftKings PGA Recommended Plays: The Masters
Four days of golf heaven. A tradition unlike any other. Whatever you want to call it, the first major of the season is finally here. There truly is no other event on the schedule that can compare to what the Masters brings to the table; years of incredible memories, loud back-nine roars on Sunday, and the notorious green jacket. Golfers can win dozens of tournaments on tour, racking up millions upon millions of dollars, and still feel like their career is missing something. A victory at Augusta is that something. The storylines this year are as compelling as ever. A collision course is set between long-time greats and new stars. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, both past-champions and the two greatest golfers of the 2000’s, have revitalized their games after going through rough periods of ineffectiveness. They will have to deal with a new breed of dominance, including Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Dustin Johnson, players who idolized them growing up. Regardless of who you want to win, or how you want the tournament to end, you’re never disappointed with the Masters. Every ending is exciting, memorable, and above all, important. It’s the most important tournament of the year, so the recommendations this week will need to be spot on.
To win at Augusta National Golf Club takes four rounds of impeccable golf. That’s why the winner is always at the top of the rankings at the end of the week when it comes to categories like fairways hit, greens in regulation, and bogey avoidance. Winning takes a perfect combination of avoiding mistakes and attacking at the right time. When a player wins at Augusta, it usually doesn’t come out of nowhere. A golfer needs to be playing their best golf, or really feel comfortable on the course. When both are true, that’s when we have a real contender. Last week’s tournament in Houston was very similar in design to Augusta, especially in the speed and formation of the greens. Before predicting who will take home the green jacket, let’s examine last week’s recommendation results from the Houston Open.
Luke List: T-24
Daniel Berger: T-18
Rafa Cabrera-Bello: MC
Charles Howell III: T-18
Sean O’Hair: T-64
A mixed bag of results, as there were some decent finishes, but ultimately not the high finishes we were looking for. List was in position for a top-10 by starting with two rounds in the 60s but stalled out on the weekend. Berger continued his solid play and cemented his role as a safe, top-20 machine. Cabrera-Bello’s early ending to his week surprised me, as it was his first missed cut all season. Howell III continued his trend of being usable pretty much 100 percent of the time in Texas or Hawaii. While the results weren’t horrible, let’s try to find a winner this week at Augusta. The star-studded field certainly provides a decent chance of that.
Justin Thomas ($10,800)
I couldn’t in my right mind leave Justin Thomas out of the article this week. His recent play has been so good that it would just seem unusual to find him outside of the top-5 in any event right now. Since winning the Honda Classic a handful of weeks ago, he’s finished 2nd (in a playoff) at Mexico and then lost in the semifinal match of the WGC Match Play Championship in Austin (finished 4th). He’s playing with as much confidence as he ever has, and although he is young, he already has major winning experience under his belt thanks to last year’s PGA Championship. The one argument against him may simply be that he has never seriously contended at Augusta. However, he has shown improvement, which is a great sign. He finished T-39 two years ago and then improved to a T-22 finish in 2017. He wasn’t nearly the golfer this time last year that he is now, and I think he’s more than capable of winning another major this week. This feels like the event that we will look back on years from now as the moment Thomas locked down without any doubt the title of best player in the world.
Tiger Woods ($10,000)
It’s hard to believe Tiger is 42 years old, but I think the reason it’s so hard to believe is that people don’t want to believe it. Woods has been the face of golf for almost two decades, and it’s difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that he’s only got so many years left. Despite all the turmoil that’s surrounded his life on and off the course for the past decade, it feels like it would be fitting for a player like Woods to go out on top, to get one last chance to taste excellence, sort of like Jack Nicklaus did 32 years ago when he was only 4 years older than Woods is now. Tiger’s recent play has been nothing but encouraging. His last three finishes include a 12th place finish at the Honda Classic, a T-2 finish at the Valspar Championship, and a T-5 finish at Bay Hill. I would lower my expectations if Woods was going into this tournament cold turkey like he has in recent comebacks, but he isn’t. He’s looked like a legitimately good player this season. Forget his name, if anyone was entering the Masters with results like that in their last three events, they’re almost certainly under consideration at the very least. Now go ahead and add the fact that he’s Tiger Woods and has won the event four times, and you should be licking your chops. There is risk playing him, we’ve come to learn this over the past several years, but if he goes out and puts on the performance that we all know he’s capable of, wouldn’t you be kicking yourself for not having Tiger Woods in your lineup at Augusta?
Phil Mickelson ($9,500)
The benefit of how many elite golfers there are in the field this week is that we get to use Phil Mickelson for a price in the $9,000s when I would be perfectly fine spending up to $11,000 on him this week. The way Phil is playing this year really has a special feeling to it. He’s playing with energy, excitement, and youthfulness. It reminds me of the Phil from 2010, or 2006, or even 2004. Those years weren’t picked randomly either, as they represent the three editions of the Masters that Lefty took a green jacket home from. Nothing can instill youth into a golfer like the feeling of playing at Augusta National. Sergio Garcia won at age 37 a year ago, Jack Nicklaus in ’86 at 46. Mickelson is 47 and would be the oldest player to ever win the Masters, but he seems like the type of player who fits that story. His worst finish in his last five events came last week in Houston, which was still a tie for 24th. His win two starts ago in Mexico is as far back as he needs to go to remind himself he’s still capable of winning at this age. On Sunday this week, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s gonna be right there.
Paul Casey ($8,800)
Just for fun, let’s play the blind resumé game. Our unnamed player has finished 19th or better in 7 of his 8 events played this year worldwide. Four of those finishes were top 10’s. One of those top 10’s was a win. This win came in his last start. Sound good so far? In his last three trips to Augusta, our unnamed player has finished T-6, T-4, 6th. If in reality this was a real test and you actually didn’t know this person’s name, you would be asking me how on earth it only costs $8,800 to use him. The only explanation is that Casey is still searching for his first major championship, but hey, so was every major champion before their first one. If there was ever a time for Casey to win one, it would probably be this week, considering the trends he has going for him. A friend of mine has said for years that Paul Casey is his favorite player. I’m sure I’ve asked him many times for his reasoning, but I don’t remember ever getting a clear answer. I think it just amounts to the idea that Casey is simply a likable guy. He plays textbook golf, each and every week. It’s satisfying to watch him play because he avoids making mistakes, and he always does the things required of him. To win a tournament like the Masters, those are exactly the types of things a player needs to be able to do.
Sleeper for Cheaper
Matt Kuchar ($7,600)
Once regarded as one of the better players in the world without a major, Kuchar’s momentum in that category has slowed a little bit as of late. His age is getting up there, now 39, and he hasn’t won an event since 2014 in Hilton Head. However, Kuchar can still putt, and at the Masters, if you can putt well for four days, you have as good a chance as any to leave with victory. Also, Kuchar has been playing well in recent weeks. Last week in Houston he finished T-8, which followed a T-9 finish at the Match Play in Austin, losing 1-up to eventual runner-up Kevin Kisner in the first knockout round. Of all the majors, Kuchar has had the most success at the Masters, which includes four finishes of T-8 or better in the last six years. Uncovering those results surprised me a little bit, which really speaks to the nature of Kuchar’s game. It isn’t flashy, it isn’t memorable, but for $7,600, it warrants using him nine times out of ten.