The First Tee at The Masters (Augusta National) Milly Maker Edition
I will keep the intro short in order to get into the meat of my favorite event of the year, The Masters! Journeyman pro Jim Herman—who happens to be one of my favorite veterans—broke through for his first win at the Shell Houston Open. The event was his first win in over 100 tournaments on the PGA Tour, continuing the trend of first time winners this season. Golf is positioned very well with so many exciting players at the top, but the lack of Tiger-like domination has also given hope to the veterans who've kicked their way around mini-tours and grinded for years on the PGA Tour. Herman is a great story, and his humble attitude and excitement make him a very deserving champion. Even more so when you consider that Herman outlasted stars like Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Ricky Fowler and upstarts like Jaime Lovemark and Russell Henley. With his win, Herman finds his way into the most prestigious event in golf, The Masters, a goal that seemed miles away as of four days ago.
Augusta National is the most visually appealing golf course I've ever come across. It doesn't have the breathtaking views of Pebble Beach, or the history of St. Andrews. What it does have is the lush, perfectly manicured tees and fairways, and the most famous greens in the world. And what it doesn't have is rough. To get ready for his first Masters appearance, Tiger Woods famously practiced on the hard wood basketball court at his alma mater, Stanford. They are that fast. Over the years there have been a variety of ways to win at Augusta, but I cannot remember a player putting sub-par and winning. You can hit a ton of greens and make the cut, maybe even throw up a top 10, but you cannot compete unless you are putting well. Distance control is paramount on Augusta's greens, which is the main reason why Jordan Spieth sits atop my rankings. Metrics and stats will show that Spieth is not putting nearly as efficiently as he did last year, but you cannot forget he is an absolute wizard with the putter and I expect him to turn it on and light up the Augusta greens. Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson can easily have eagle putts on all four par 5's at Augusta, so there is a distinct advantage in having length this week. On the flipside, guys like Zach Johnson and Mike Weir won the green jacket by carving up the par 5's with their wedges, so you cannot count out some of the shorter hitters.
Augusta National was conceived and designed by Bobby Jones, with Allister MacKenzie partnering on the architectural side. It opened for play in 1933 and has since been named the #1 course in the world by several publications, and remains a top 10 course year in and year out. The design is so interesting because there is really no rough, which often tempts players into being super aggressive off the tee. As Bubba has shown, that approach can work if you are dialed in. Make no mistake though, there is troubling lurking everywhere at Augusta. The course plays firm and fast, and the key is to set up the proper angles with your drive. Distance control with the irons will play a big part in deciding the winner this week, and that is because the teeth of Augusta comes in the form of their undulating and glass like greens. The greens slant and slope in different directions, and if you have the greens mapped well, you can feed a lot of approach shots off the slopes. If you don't hit the right quadrant though, watch out, as we've all seen balls come up short of the pin and roll back 30 yards into the fairway. Phil Mickelson and his caddie (Bones) are the best at mapping the course, so he is someone I will have heavy exposure to. I've learned my lesson with Phil, when it comes to the Masters, he will be in the hunt on the weekend and could absolutely win the tournament.
If you are playing the DraftKings Milly Maker, there are a couple of strategies to employ to allow your team the possibility to be unique. When the tournament has 220,000 entrants, and there are only 90 players, there will be a high percentage of overlap in rosters. There are two ways to go about building a unique roster. The first is leaving money on the table, meaning you don't max out your salary. The masses will always try and max out their salary, so this is a good strategy. How much you leave on the table is up to you, but I've left as much as $400, but the key is to do it without sacrificing upside. Instead of ranking my top PP$ guys, I've gone through each tier and picked out the best PP$ options at each level.
Jordan Spieth: Some may question his current form, but I have a deep respect for Spieth and his approach to major championships. He is a student of the game, and you can count on him bringing his A-Game this week. In his first Masters, he had the lead on the back nine but couldn't close out Bubba Watson. In 2015, he came back and won in historic fashion while capturing his first green jacket. The course sets up very well for him from a strategic standpoint, as he understands what pins to attack, and even more importantly, he knows where to “not" miss the ball. He doesn't have the length to mash the par 5's like Bubba, Rory or DJ, but he's not short either, so he'll have some eagle putts. He has the game, the maturity and the experience to win back-to-back Masters. I will have my most exposure to Spieth.
Jason Day: Current world #1, Day finally got over the hump last year and captured the first major of his career (PGA Championship). On paper, Augusta National should set up well for Day. He is super long off the tee, is a fantastic ball-striker and has stepped up his putting to the point where he is now one of the best putters on Tour. Last year, Day made 612 of 612 putts inside three feet…that is absolutely insane. His course history proves he can compete, as Day has finished 2nd and 3rd at the Masters over his career. His game is on point, he can play free and his salary is very enticing. PP$ wise, Day is neck and neck with Spieth.
Adam Scott: Peaking at the right time, Scott comes into the Masters in top form. Having won back to back on the Florida Swing, Scott showcased his world class ball-striking, a skill that goes a long way at Augusta. Scott already has a green jacket to his name, as well as a 2nd place finish at the Masters, so he is more than capable of winning. His putting has come a long way since he ditched the anchored stroke, which has allowed him to capitalize on his approach shots. I like Spieth to win but Day and Scott are the guys I expect Spieth to be neck and neck with. Scott is just too good in the ball-striking department, he should lead the tournament in GIR %.
Rory McIlroy: I like Rory better at US Open and British Open courses, but you can never count him out. He's had his chances at Augusta but couldn't close it out on Sunday, and he certainly has his demons to conquer at The Masters. I look at it like this, he's won majors before, he's not scared of the moment and he has extra incentive now that he is chasing Spieth and Day in the world rankings. When he puts it all together, he's the most talented player in the game. I won't have heavy exposure, but 10% seems about right.
Bubba Watson: Bubba stood out as the best PP$ option considering he's already won two green jackets and has played fantastic golf in 2016. He knows how to get around Augusta, and with his creativity and length, he can give himself a huge advantage, especially on the par 5's. Other than a bad sinus infection—for which he is getting better and should be at full strength by Thursday—things are looking very good for Bubba. He has a tendency to come up and out of putts sometimes, but I don't think that will be a problem for him this week. He's stated that Augusta National is his favorite course, which goes a long way in understanding his motivation. At $11,400, he represents the bottom of the top tier, but he is without a doubt one of the best values on the board.
Part 2 coming Wednesday…