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
Not only is the Masters the biggest golf tournament of the year, it's also one of the biggest events in sports. For many people, this is the only golf tournament they will watch all year. This is the one course where both hardcore and casual golf fans know all the holes. Each one is so memorable and presents an entirely different challenge.
This will be the first – and likely only – season that includes two Masters. It was just five months ago that Dustin Johnson finally broke through for his long-awaited second major championship, taking home the title at Augusta after the event was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was certainly nice to see the world's best tee it up at the most iconic golf course in the world back in November, some things just didn't feel quite right. This week we are back to that spring-time tradition we all know and love, and maybe more importantly, there will be patrons on the grounds. The roars at Augusta are unlike any other. Players will tell you when they hear them that they know what hole, what happened, and who it was instantly. Early reports from a number of the golfers who have seen the course in recent weeks say it's as firm as they have ever seen at Augusta National. That's really not that surprising at all, considering DJ set the tournament scoring record at 20-under-par in his victory.
Quite possibly the biggest storyline coming into the week is Jordan Spieth, who picked up his first win since the 2017 Open Championship last week at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan's struggles have been well-documented, but he has looked like the Spieth of old in 2021. No player in Masters history has had as strong a start to his career at Augusta National as Spieth, and that's a big reason why he has shot all the way up to second on the odds chart despite being ranked only 38th in the OWGR. Rory McIlroy, seeking both a trip back into the winner's circle and the Career Grand Slam, remains another of the top storylines. Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, and Justin Thomas are all top-5 in the world, all won on the recent Florida Swing, and are all looking for their first green jacket as well. Last but not least, we will get a glimpse of "Major Brooks," as Brooks Koepka will tee it up despite undergoing knee surgery less than a month ago.
Tiger Woods will unfortunately be unable to defend his spring Masters win back in April of 2019, as he continues to recover from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in late February. After competing in 19 straight Masters from 1995-2013, Woods has now missed four of the last eight Masters Tournaments.
With all the talk about how firm Augusta National is playing, the forecast calls for a decent chance of precipitation in all four rounds. Even with sub-air systems under the greens, this would definitely change how players attack this course. Winds should be moderate at most throughout the tournament, so overall, the conditions should be favorable for scoring.
2020 – Dustin Johnson
2019 – Tiger Woods
2018 – Patrick Reed
2017 – Sergio Garcia
2016 – Danny Willett
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – Bubba Watson
2013 – Adam Scott
2012 – Bubba Watson
2011 – Charl Schwartzel
2010 – Phil Mickelson
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Putting
Augusta National is a course where artistry and creativity is rewarded. It's almost impossible to find a flat lie in the fairways, and the greens are as undulating as any on Tour. Knowing where to miss the ball based on where the hole is located is essential to success, especially if the course ends up playing firm. This is one of the few major championship courses where you can get away with spraying the ball a bit. The track allows players the ability to recover from poor drives if they can pull off the shot, instead of immediately punishing them with five inches of rough like some other major championship setups. Augusta National is no doubt a second-shot golf course. Players need to be able to shape balls both directions coming into the greens off all different types of lies. That being said, SG: Approach and GIR percentage numbers deserve the most focu when looking at the stats. If the course plays firm, that will naturally bring the GIR numbers down and make scrambling all the more challenging. Augusta National does not release the Stimpmeter numbers they use, but best believe it's a slick as anywhere, especially going downhill. With no green books allowed, that makes putting here far more about experience and feel and less about statistics. Length obviously helps, but contrary to some opinions, you can't overpower Augusta National. There's just too much touch and creativity involved.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas ($11,800)
This will be Thomas' sixth start at Augusta National, and he has gotten better every year. 2021 just might be the year he final puts everything together. Thomas is coming off a T4 back in November here. He is just a few weeks removed from a dominant weekend performance at The PLAYERS Championship that helped him win golf's "fifth major." Thomas ranks third this season in SG: Approach, 14th in SG: Around-the-Green, fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green, first in putts per GIR and first in birdie percentage.
Patrick Cantlay ($11,100)
Cantlay is one of – if not the most – complete players on Tour across the board. He ranks inside the top 55 in all strokes gained categories. The UCLA product is sixth in SG: Total and fourth in birdie average. Cantlay finished top-20 in seven of his last eight starts. He was defeated in the group stage of the Match Play event in his last appearance despite ranking second in SG: Total through the three round-robin matchups. Cantlay is starting to figure out Augusta National, recording finishes of T9 and T17 in his last two starts. Don't forget, he found himself in contention late on Sunday when Woods won two years ago.
Jordan Spieth ($10,900)
I mean, you had to know this was coming, right? Spieth is without question the best value in the field this week with salaries coming out prior to his win at the Valero Texas Open. Most places you look, only Dustin Johnson has better odds than Spieth this week. The Texan ranks just 10th in salary coming into a course tailor made for his creativity. Many will say his putting has been his greatest attribute throughout his career, but when Spieth was a top-five player in the world it was really his iron play that was the biggest reason for his success. The 2015 Masters Champion has six top-15 finishes in his last seven starts and improved approach game work is the biggest reason for that strong play.
Webb Simpson ($10,500)
Simpson did not record a top-25 finish in any of his first six starts at Augusta National, but over his last three trips he has gone T20-T5-T10. Simpson has not been quite as extraordinary as he was last season, but he is still 10-for-11 with four top-10's and seven top-20's. The Wake Forest product ranks top-20 this season in SG: Around-the-Green, SG: Putting, SG: Total, driving accuracy, GIR percentage, and scrambling. Pretty solid value here for a player this complete.
Longer Shots with Value
Paul Casey ($9,900)
The Englishman has been so solid yet again this season at age 43. He failed to advance out of the group stage in his last start in Austin, but that was his only finish outside the top-10 in 2021. Casey ranks 17th in SG: Approach, 18th in SG: Tee-to-Green, and 13th in scrambling. He has always been great throughout his career at Augusta National with eight top-20 finishes in 14 starts.
Will Zalatoris ($9,200)
Listen rookies are usually ones to stay away from at Augusta National, but Zalatoris has been exceptional this season. He has only missed one cut in 14 starts to go along with five top-10's and 10 top-25's. Zalatoris is such a gifted ball-striker, as he ranks fifth in SG: Approach, fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green, and 12th in SG: Total. If you had any doubt that the 24-year-old couldn't handle the big stage, well he finished T6 in his first major championship start as a professional last September at the U.S. Open.
Corey Conners ($8,900)
Conners continues to play well, having recording his 10th top-25 finish of the season last week in San Antonio. Prior to that he was third at Bay Hill and seventh at TPC Sawgrass. The Canadian is the perfect ball-striker for Augusta National at a bargain price. He ranks top-15 on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, driving accuracy, and GIR percentage this season. Conners will get his fourth look at Augusta this week and already scored a top-10 here back in November.
Ryan Palmer ($8,000)
With the Masters being the shallowest field of the four major championships, I was a bit surprised to see a player that has been as consistent as Palmer this season sitting at just $8,000. The Texan would be a great option to round out a roster with, as he ranks top-60 this season in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Putting, and SG: Tee-to-Green. He is also 16th in GIR percentage, 23rd in scrambling, and ninth in birdie average. Palmer has finished top-20 in each of his last three starts.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
Your approach shots into the greens will determine more about where you will finish than any other shot you will take around Augusta National. As you'll notice, all of the players I've highlighted are very strong in that area. Scrambling and putting will play a factor as well of course, but if it plays this firm then you will only be able to get away with poor shots into the greens for so long before the bogeys and other start to pile up. There's a lot of strong options at the top this week obviously, but there's a few I will be staying away from. DeChambeau is first on Tour in SG: Total, but Augusta National will require a lot more touch and finesse if it plays this firm. He has yet to finish top-20 here after four career starts and is 193rd in proximity to the hole. I also don't trust that Koepka is 100 percent yet, so I think it's best to look elsewhere especially for a salary of $11,600. Lastly, I think despite his gaudy record at Augusta National, McIlroy is a player to pass on this week. The 31-year-old is fighting through some swing changes that he's admitted to and has really struggled this season approaching the greens, ranking outside the top-100 in GIR percentage and proximity to the hole. Only the low 50 and ties after the first 36 holes with advance to the weekend, so getting all six of your players through will be quite the accomplishment.