The Masters April 6th-9th
Since this is the biggest and most exciting tournament of the year, I understand if you want to skip ahead to talk of the upcoming week. Scroll down about three paragraphs to the bold font. If not, that is cool too! I need to rant about last week for a minute.
Wow. Some days you’re the dog, some days the bear eats you, I believe the saying goes. Anyways, that bear ate the shit out of me. The night before the start of the Shell Houston Open, the wind was shaping up to be a massive split in favor of the Thursday late/Friday early tee time stack. Like a seven to ten MPH difference from the AM/PM wave. Soooo, I moved almost all of my exposure to the preferred tee time. It worked from a strategy personal standpoint anyway, as a number of guys I was looking to fade were starting Thursday morning. I’m on the west coast, so after staying up until 3:30 AM over here for the start to make sure to check for late news, I woke up to find the tournament in full swing. And I was pleasantly surprised, with mediocre starts from Rahm and Phil, who I was making a calculated fade on. Rickie, oh well, there seemed to be plenty of time to get it back, and MAN was I stoked for this huuuuuge advantage. And then…….
MUD BALLMUDBALLMUDBALLMUDBALLMUD BALLMUDBALLMUDBALLMUDBALL
…..What the $&!* is a mud ball?!?
Shout out to #teamRealGolf in Slack Chat for explaining some of these random rules to me, but it turns out the conditions were SO bad in the morning that players were often landing their balls in actual standing water, thus being awarded free relief (pick it up and drop it in a better lie, seriously?!). By the afternoon the course had dried out to the point that they were landing in globs of mud, which they then had to shoot out of. Holler at you later, approach game for basically all of my players. Anyway that was an epically rough week, which I will be happy to forget with some MASTERS action.
Masters talk starts here:
We now move to the famed Augusta National Golf Club, America’s favorite historically racist and sexist institution! Just kidding, America has a ton of historically racist and sexist institutions, but I can’t say I am interested in creating some sort of power rankings. This is golf’s biggest event, and the field is a who’s who of today’s best with a smattering of legends that you will want to cross off your list. I am of the mind that last week’s unique conditions make the results rather inscrutable, which may make for some nice buying opportunities on those that got stuck in the mud.
The course at Augusta is well known, a long par 72 with little to no rough, a plethora of trees, and the fastest greens we will see. It is tailor made for the modern bomber, and scoring can be plentiful when the wind is agreeable. Americans have dominated over the years, but I think that has more to do with the American skill set leaning more towards length. Last year’s swirling winds leveled that playing field, with a number of international players, headed by winner Danny Willett, taking advantage of the tough conditions. Early weather reads have me leaning towards it playing that way again, at least for the first couple of days.
More than any other course, Augusta rewards familiarity. There are just some really strange angles, and with the greens so quick and unforgiving, one mistake shot can escalate quickly. That said, this cut is one of the easier ones to make (top 50 + ties of a field of 94, more than that if no one runs away with it as anyone within 10 strokes of the lead advances, 20 of these guys are drawing dead), so I will not mind chasing fantasy scoring despite the reputation. We are trying to score points, not get all of our guys in silly-ass jackets. This also applies to the popular narrative about avoiding first time players, as one hasn’t WON here in some arbitrary amount of time. Day, Spieth, Casey, Scott, Rory, and Berger have all top 10ed in debuts here. A top 10 at the right price is 100% going to be on the winning milly team.
With all that said, for the one time of the entire year, I will actually weight course history in my model, because knowledge of the course I believe to be important and it doesn’t really have any quantifiable measure.
This is technically poor statistical work. I prefer to fit a player’s skills to what I expect them to take for shots to use for predictive analysis, and that often correlates with course history. It just doesn’t mean that past results are a cause of future performance. But not all 160 yard approach shots are created equal, and nowhere is that more true than here. If that sounded difficult for me to get out, it was. Sigh.
Length/Fairways: A longer course with very little rough. We want to be closer to the pin here, and aside from some fairway bunkers (or trees if you go full Phil), not much will get in the way. I will take all the distance I can get. More rain than usual looks primed to make it play even longer.
Greens: The quickest greens around. This is why Spieth has always done so well here, as his uncanny ability to rain birdies from long range is unparalleled. This also can lead to improperly hit iron shots bouncing well past their target, so some short game will be necessary. I’d rather play dudes with the approach game to avoid the scrambling situations, as birdies come from sticking the shot in the first place. But misses are going to happen, and we would prefer to avoid big numbers. The short game is more important the more expensive your player is, as you are also banking on a fair amount of finishing points from your top studs. Luckily, the reason most of them are top studs has to do with their lack of weaknesses.
Weather: It is currently Tuesday morning, so hard to make definitive statements. BUT right now it looks really windy the first few days, with much calmer conditions on the weekend. More wind will mean less scoring, but I am probably going to be inclined to go for it anyway and hope my guys can take advantage of the weekend. If it looks like a tee time may have an advantage I always recommend going for it, and in GPPs it can make sense to stack both times in hopes of something crazy happening. Stay tuned.
OH AND BREAKING NEWS, DK FINALLY OFFERING LATE SLATE PGA. I am stoked for this. In sports that only happen once a week I am always in favor of playing more slates in order to ease the sting of variance. Check with us in Slack as I’m sure we will have some ideas come Friday afternoon.
On to the golfers:
Dustin Johnson-11.3/Rory McIlroy-10.6: These are simply the best two players in the world and I will have at least one in almost every lineup I make. They are the best at driving the ball, both are incredible with the irons (slight edge to Rory here), and Dustin has been rolling the putter like Day did when he went on his tear the last couple years. Dustin is the cash play while Rory’s more recent blowup holes make him the GPP guy, but either could win this by five strokes and I think they are the two best bets to do that.
Jordan Spieth-11.5, risky fade of the week: Risky fades don’t get much scarier than this one, as his track record at Augusta is insane (2-1-2). However, with his short game regressing, he is really being exposed for his lack of distance. I also am not buying the idea that he will be low owned. The MC last week may dock him a little bit, but he came into Augusta with bad form last year and no one played him, and I feel like we all made a note to never do that again. Well here I am, ignoring my own note. Can’t wait until I’m pulling my hair out about it on Sunday! But real talk, I think his ownership will rival that of Deej and Rory, and they are just better bets at better prices. Please let Jordan lose his rabbit’s foot or whatever. Not a full fade, but definitely underweight.
I am really liking some GPP flyers on Jason Day-10.2 and Hideki Matsuyama-9.9: These are both class players that have struggled a bit recently, but both have success here and the games to tear up the course. It sounds like Day came out of the gate struggling because of mechanical tweaks he made to ease the pain in his back, and he has had some time to adjust. Do what you will with the mom stuff, I have sympathy and yet I can’t quantify it. Hideki is unflappable, and I don’t think a few mediocre tournaments will change his approach at all. Everyone loved that approach a month ago.
Jon Rahm-8.6: This is the no brainer play of the week, and I really hope his ownership goes from the 30 it should be to 20-22 based on the debutante angle. Already a top 5 player off the tee with an unbelievable short game. The second shots can be trouble but that is priced in. I think it’s a mistake to not play him in cash games.
Adam Scott-8.8: One of the don’t-worry-too-much-about-last-week guys. Got the bad draw, mudballbudbalalmudball, and then three-putt from five feet on his back nine Friday to MC. Too good of a player; he is crazy long and crazy straight off the tee, with ridiculous iron prowess.
Sergio Garcia-8.3/Paul Casey -7.8: Similar players to Scott without the bad result last week. Both with plenty of distance (Casey not quite there but close), a true drive (Sergio not quite there but close), and very nice iron work from all over the course. Both can break your heart with the short putts (both just as good as Scott!). The “Sergio can’t win” narrative is strong, take advantage of it. Casey is my number #1 value.
J.B. Holmes!!!-7.1: I didn’t really play him much anyway because of the price, but when mid Friday afternoon it became pretty clear I was out of ANY money last week, I started rooting for my man to miss and hopefully lower ownership a little for this week. Yes, I knew by Friday afternoon that I was totally done, I thought we weren’t talking about last week anymore. Anyway, J.B. was definitely a mudball victim, and one who can and has crushed this course. A number of bombers gain a relative edge when the wind picks up, and this is one of them. I’m all over this in both cash and GPP.
Daniel Berger-7.3: Berger is the sort of prototypical American bomber that should be able to have great success here. His 10th place finish in his first time out last year is encouraging. The short game for Berger can be a lot of trouble, but if he is finding greens consistently I think he can crush.
Adam Hadwin-6.9: To be honest this dude won’t pop for me as he doesn’t have much distance and isn’t really gaining a ton on the field with the irons. But if anyone is going to putt like a god all weekend, well, we’ve seen him do it for 3 straight months. I only played him once and he won the tournament so I am a little biased. I doubt it, but there is a possibility he gets somewhat discounted due to the debutante narrative.
Kevin Kisner-6.9: This is Hadwin when he finally regresses to just a very good putter, but with a decent bag of irons. Very solid cash play.
Remember, there are few (if any) traditions like this from what I understand, have a good time!
Go and get it everybody.
Find me on Twitter @andrewmbarron or in the FanVice Premium Slack @hotmajik if you wanna talk strat/make jokes/argue