This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: Augusta National Golf Club (7,475 yards, par 72)
Winner: $2,070,000 and 600 FedExCup points
Many people wondered how Augusta National would look/feel/play in November versus its traditional slot in early April. All indications are that it is just as pure as always. It should even feel like spring in Augusta with temperatures averaging in the mid-70's and real chances for precipitation all four days. Wind is also not expected to be a factor, so if it stays soft Tiger Woods (1997) and Jordan Spieth's (2015) record score of 270 may be in danger. It still seems surreal thinking back to the last time the Masters was played about 19 months ago when Tiger was able to produce one of the biggest moments in sports history, winning his first major championship in 11 years and his first Green Jacket since 2005. Maybe coming back to a familiar place like Augusta is exactly what Woods needs because it has certainly been a struggle for him since the COVID-19 break.
Of course there are plenty of other storylines in the field this week. Can Rory McIlroy complete the career grand slam at long last? What on Earth does Bryson DeChambeau do for an encore after his U.S. Open triumph in September? Is Brooks Koepka ready to continue his recent major championship dominance? Can Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, or Matthew Wolff win their first major? Can Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, or Collin Morikawa win their second? Can Masters Champion's Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson find their game at a place they both have had so much success? There are endless possibilities of what we might see at the first Masters in November.
The Sunday roars will be missed, but the competition will be as fierce as ever. Hopefully in five months time when the best in the world are back for a traditional Masters, patrons will be able to have an impact on the players and the overall viewing experiencing. Nevertheless, after everything that has gone on the last several months, I think we've earned a week to relax and enjoy the best players in the world compete at the best venue in sports.
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Off-the-Tee
Augusta National is the ultimate second shot golf course. The leader in SG: Approach at the Masters in each of the last five editions has finished no worse than 3rd place. With as many undulations and slopes as these greens have, it's important not just to hit the GIR, but be able to find the correct tier to give yourself makeable birdie chances and avoid having to stress over a potential three-putt. More than anything, Augusta National rewards creativity. You will almost never find an even lie, so you have to use some feel to be able to shape shots correctly and get them feeding the right way into greens. Scrambling and short game play is always one of the biggest challenges around this course, but players may face even more questionable and uncertain lies due to the grasses at this time of year. The course should play longer overall just by being in November instead of April, but it might play even longer yet if we get the amount of rain that is projected in the forecast. The sub-air system under these greens has the ability to keep them somewhat firm amid all the moisture, meaning that the bombers that can carry the ball further will have a massive advantage because they will be trying to control short irons into these challenging par-4's versus mid-to-long irons for the majority of the field due to limited rollout. That all being said, one factor that can't go overlooked at Augusta is experience. There are so many subtleties that are learned over time at this course, which is a big reason why we see guys like Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer still show up on leaderboards every year. You don't have to play perfect to win here, but you have to do everything well.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($11,700)
Big Spain is going to get him one of these majors sooner rather than later. As just fourth highest in salary this week, I think he has the best value among the favorites coming off a runner-up in his last start a few weeks ago at Sherwood. This will only be Rahm's fourth start at Augusta, but he has posted a fourth place and a T9 the last two years. I believe he has fewer holes in his game than any other player on Tour.
Brooks Koepka ($11,300)
I've been fading Koepka for months now as he has battled through injuries, but after seeing him post a T5 in Houston and watching some of his interviews, the four-time major champion is back. Koepka had one of the best putting performances of his career a week ago, and his power is still there to attack a course that should play longer than usual. It's not complicated. It's a major. Put your confidence in Koepka.
Tony Finau ($10,400)
Finau has been as good as anyone not named Koepka over the last few years at majors. He has seven top-10 finishes in the last three years at major championships, including a T10 and a T5 the last two years at Augusta National. The course playing longer will play into Finau's hands. The Utah native has posted eight top-25's in his last 10 starts overall and ranks fourth in scoring average this season.
Matthew Wolff ($10,300)
It doesn't make sense to pick a first-timer at Augusta National, but this isn't any first-timer. This is one of the most talented players we've seen come out of the college ranks this century. Wolff has played in two majors, finishing T4 at the PGA Championship and then turning in a runner-up at the U.S. Open back in September. I think the course playing slightly different in November will be to his benefit having never seen the course before. There's too much upside here to come off a price this generous.
Longer Shots with Value
Justin Rose ($9,700)
Many forget that the last time we played the Masters Rose was the No. 2 player in the world and the favorite among many people due to his incredible record at Augusta National. The Englishman is the event's all-time money leader among players without a win with 11 top-25's in 14 career starts. That includes runner-up's in both 2015 and 2017. Rose's recent form certainly isn't what you would expect, but he is coming off a top-20 in his last start at Sherwood and his short game/putting remains very strong.
Louis Oosthuizen ($9,600)
The South African has missed just one cut since the restart, including posting top-25's in five of his last seven starts. That good play was highlighted by a solo third place finish at the U.S. Open back in September. Oosthuizen is hitting it as far as he ever has and is 31st in SG: Putting. He was inconsistent early in his career at Augusta, but lately he has been as steady as anyone with five top-30's in his last six starts.
Lee Westwood ($9,200)
Westwood's game has been revived this summer, notching six top-20's in his last eight starts overall. I was on his train last week in Houston and it didn't work out. However, I can't ignore his success at Augusta National. Westwood owns seven top-20's in his last eight starts, including a trio of top-three's. The putter is the strength of his game now, but he still can be that consistent fairway and green finding machine.
Cameron Smith ($8,700)
After a mid-season lull over the summer, Smith has quietly turned it around and is playing some great golf. He has six top-25 finishes in his last seven starts, including a T4 in his last start at the Zozo Championship. Smith's putter has been excellent this season, ranking top-20 in SG: Putting and three-putt avoidance. He was also top-10 in FIR's, GIR's, and scrambling in his last start. Smith finished T5 here back in 2018.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
With Augusta being such a hard course to learn how to play effectively, but this being the first Masters in November when the course will play longer, I think the optimal strategy will to construct your lineup with a mix of youth and experience. You want your youth to be able give you that firepower on a course that will play soft, but you also want that experience because Augusta National is one of those courses veterans can come right in and be competitive regardless of form. Looking at the salaries this week, I found the field to be surprisingly shallow for a major. Now a lot of that is because there is only around 90 players every year and a handful are old past champion's that only play the Masters or young amateurs. That all being said, I don't think you'll want to find yourself going too far below $8,500. To me most of the value lies between $9,000-$10,500 this week.