Defending Champ: Danny Willet
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The Masters Field
95 Players | Top 50 & Those Within 10 Strokes of the Leader Make the Cut
With the slew of near-octogenarians and worldwide amateurs receiving invites to Augusta, The Masters actually boasts the weakest field of the Majors. If you win The Masters, you get to play for life; this leads to the annual traditional of seeing Larry Mize on the Leaderboard after two holes and remembering he’s still alive. Now, don’t take it like I’m besmearing the first Major. The Masters is my single-favorite sporting event of the year, but with just a shade over 90 players in the field, 25(ish) of whom have no chance to win, you’ll find tournaments with more depth in many places outside of Augusta, Georgia. Those won’t bestow the winner athletics’ highest sartorial honor however.
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All 50 of the world’s top ranked players are in the field. They’ll be joined by the best five amateurs form around the globe, most of the PGA tournament winners from the last 12 months, and about a dozen former champs who reside primarily on the Champions Tour. Tiger got an invite, but the doctor said he needs a backiatomy, so he’s sitting this one out.
The Masters Trends
Lets try out an experiment. Not an experiment in FEAR, like Monkey Shines, but one where we can narrow down the list of potential winners based off historic Masters trends. Now, trends only exist until they don’t anymore, especially ones set within arbitrary perimeters. However, golf picks are pretty arbitrary to begin with, so let’s have some fun with it.
A debutant hasn’t won The Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. He remains the lone first time winner since 1935. Also, an Amateur has never won The Masters
Eliminated: Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, Adam Hadwin, Tommy Fleetwood, Daniel Summerhays, Alex Noren, William McGirt, Jeung-Hun Wang, Hudson Swafford, Curtis Luck, Mackenzie Hughes, Si-Woo Kim, Brad Dalke, Brian Stuard, Billy Hurley III, Scott Gregory, Toto Gana, and Stewart Hagestad.
No winner has repeated since Tiger Woods in 2001/2002
Eliminated: Danny Willet
Jack Nicklaus is the oldest player to win the Green Jacket at 46 year, 82 days old.
Eliminated: Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Angel Cabrera, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer, Rod Pampling, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam, Mike Weir, Larry Mize, Sandy Lyle, and Mark O’Meara.
The last six Masters winners have at least two Top 10 finishes in that calendar year.
Eliminated: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Branden Grace, Zach Johnson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Daniel Berger, Bill Haas, Emiliano Grillo, Francesco Molinari, JB Holmes, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman, Shane Lowry, Russell Knox, Byeong-Hun An, Ryan Moore, Soren Kjeldsen, Andy Sullivan, Jason Dufner, Chris Wood, Webb Simpson, Kevin Chappell, Scott Piercy, James Hahn, Jhonattan Vegas, Roberto Castro, Sean O’Hair, Yuta Ikeda, and Trevor Immelman.
The last 19 Masters winners have both played in the event and made the cut the year previous. Tiger Woods won in 1997 and Missed the cut in 1996.
Eliminated: Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, Ross Fisher, Brendan Steele, Pat Perez, Russell Henley, and Hideto Tanihara.
Of the past seven Masters winners, only Jordan Spieth had missed a cut in that calendar year. (Minimum three starts).
Eliminated: Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas, Brandt Snedeker,
The past three Masters winners have all had a win in that calendar year. (Bubba; 2014 Northern Trust, Spieth; 2015 Valspar, Willett, Omega Dubai)
Eliminated: Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Kisner, Martin Kaymer, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Bernd Wiesberger, Charley Hoffman
The past seven winners have made the cut in their last start before The Masters. Angel Cabrera missed the cut at the Shell Houston Open in 2009.
Eliminated: Jordan Spieth
The world’s number one player hasn’t won since Tiger in 2005.
Eliminated: Dustin Johnson
That leaves, at least according to the trends…
2017 Masters Winner: Hideki Matsuyama
The Masters Key Stats
The Masters Course
Augusta National | 7,435 Yards | Par 72
Even the most causal golf observers are plenty familiar with Augusta National. The pine straw, the artery-clogging menu (At discount prices!), overwhelming pretentiousness, and not-so-subtle racism all come flooding back from our memories the moment Jim Nantz reminds us that were all his friends. You’ll probably be expecting Azaleas too, but it appears like they’d bloomed early. Happens to the best of us from time to time.
Since the Tiger Era began, and the course was altered so he wouldn’t just win by 20 strokes every time, the recipe for success at Augusta hasn’t really changed. The only outlier years we’ve experienced were 2016 and 2007, and brutal weather was to blame for that. With gusting winds absent from this year’s forecast, expect a return to the bomber-friendly, high ball hitting layout, which rewards players that can really work the ball right-to-left. To oversimplify the blueprint, score as much as possible on the four easy Par 5s, and have a short game sharp enough to bail you out of approaches miscues. The greens are firm and lighting quick, meaning, those strokes gained around the green which set up easy par putts, is essential. Ideally, players would just bomb it, stick the approach, and generate as many birdie tries as possible. But, even the best in the world can’t make that happen every hole; short games will end up being the difference between a Green Jacket and a lousy $900,000 second place payday.
Of course, birdies are going to be made on the Par 3s and 4s, but the four easiest holes across the grounds are the longest ones. Jordan Spieth has proven it’s not a requirement to be a borderline long-drive champion, but it certainly does help. Any righty who can keep his distance with a draw to a lefty with who can bomb a cut around a few doglegs is at a significant advantage, just ask Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
Outside of the physical skill it takes to earn the Green Jacket, knowledge of the greens and optimal placements to attack each hole cannot be overstated. While he hasn’t had a legitimate chance of winning in decades, there’s a reason Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer keep getting through to the weekend. You know when you get in an Uber, and the driver fires up the directions, and treats them as gospel, and you’re sitting in the back, avoiding conversation at all costs, but know all the shortcuts to avoid traffic? That’s what the veterans have at Augusta. They have the cheat code. So, when you look at the experience and consistent results at the Masters, and apply it to players at their peak, you have the quickest route to finding the winner, no matter what the WAZE app says.
The Masters Picks (Yahoo! Game)
NOTE: Dustin Johnson has injury his back and is questionable to make his tee time Thursday. (Full Dustin Johnson Injury analysis)
Rory McIlroy & Louis Oosthuizen – I expect most Fantasy Golfers to stack Rory and DJ together in this grouping, and, frankly, I don’t blame them. I’ll lean a bit contrarian and pair Louis with Rory, though. The 2012 playoff loser has made three straight Masters cuts, and 17 in a row entering play. The South African has Top 30 ranks in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green, Off-the-Tee, and Tee-to-Green, and should see a boost in his average putting on the speedier Bentgrass greens.
Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, & Kevin Kisner – Between Spieth, Hideki, and Rose, they have seven Top 10s and a victory the past three years at The Masters. (For the record, Spieth is my pick to win). Each excel in the key stats, and have the overall form on the year I’m targeting. Weirdly, Kisner does too. Kiz has three Top 10s in seven 2017 starts, and is one a handful of players in the field to sit Top 10 in gaining strokes tee-to-green and on approaches, while remaining Top 30 around the green. Plus, if you look at where Kisner has historically played his best golf, you’d simply have to circle the southeastern United States. Not shocking a guy from South Carolina has this grass type figured out.
Sergio Garcia & Tyrrell Hatton – Sergio, already with a win in 2017, has everything at Augusta figured out, expect one element: The flat stick. Statistically, and historically (Garcia’s made seven of his past eight cuts at The Masters), he rates out perfectly. But he JUST. CAN’T. PUTT. For the year, he’s 191st on the greens. However putting is the most fickle part of any golfer’s game. I’ve witnessed JB Holmes lead a tournament in putting in the past, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility Sergio can hover around field average. That’s really all it’s going to take too, because he gets to the green at an elite level, and that part of a golfer’s game is far more predictable. Sergio’s going to give himself beaucoup birdie looks, if he can start converting them at a slightly higher rate than usual, he’s going to be all over TV Sunday afternoon. And if he is, expect many-a-montage featuring his decades worth of Major collapses… Do I think Hatton is going to win his maiden Masters voyage? No. Doesn’t mean he won’t fare well, though. The masses are all going to gravitate towards first-timer Jon Rahm in this range, so grabbing a close-to-equivalent Hatton at far less ownership is the strategic Fantasy decision. The Brit enters in scorching form (48/4/10/4/3), while leading the PGA TOUR in putting, and sitting Top 20 in Tee-to-Green (19th), Approach (6th), Off-The-Tee (14th), and Par 4 scoring average (9th).
The Pat Mayo Hour covers the entire scope of the Fantasy sports landscape from Football to Reality TV, daily and yearly leagues and everything in between. You can watch the Pat Mayo Hour every weekday at 3:00pm EST, 8:00pm EST and Midnight on the FNTSY Sports Network Television channel or on your Apple TV, Xbox, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. If you have a Fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at PatMayoHour@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show