Over the years, I’ve written and said that my primary motivation to compete in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and other games hosted on this website is as a placebo; that is, I’ll roster who I think is chalk (based on my published material) and you play against me.
It’s not for all gamers, of course, but I also won’t deny that my allegiance is to you alone. As a competitor in the PGA TOUR Experts league, I want to come out on top. Who wouldn’t?
That’s easier said than done with a doyen like Sean Martin in another corner of the ring. As many of you are aware, I’m a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan but I live in the market of the Arizona Diamondbacks, so I have a constant feel for what it’s like for the local MLB team to wake up every morning in the same division as the Los Angeles Dodgers for which Sean happens to be a fan. That’s how it can feel looking at the updated standings in the Expert Picks most weeks.
Sean has made it look easy, so he’s been like a placebo for me, but not until the Valero Texas Open did I finally get around him. In fact, the combination of my fantastic week and his forgettable performance show how much ground can be gain and lost in one week, even in the upper reaches of the overall standings.
The moral of the matter isn’t that I’ve passed him – although I wouldn’t mind an audio recap with Vin Scully narrating – but how it’s happened.
Sean has been a formidable front-runner and league champion multiple times over, so I’ve tried a variety of methods to get by him. Before the shutdown of 2020, he was a fixture inside the top 50 of the league, so I committed to a long-range plan of building most rosters around his selections. This is where I don’t want you to lose sight as to why. Because I’m less concerned with my overall league finish – honest – I wanted to use my process as a test over time against a constant.
It failed uncategorically. I believed in my selections but Sean didn’t budge. His margin kept increasing until he finished me.
This season, after another solid start, I gave way to Sean yet again early in Segment 2. However, I switched gears (because I don’t believe in insanity) and committed to just playing my own ball. I haven’t looked at his lineup most of the time until after the pick deadline. My process to determine who I roster hasn’t changed in a vacuum, so comparing last year’s fade to this season’s hang-with-him and sudden surge is as apples-to-apples as it gets.
I will remain committed to this philosophy for the remainder of the season. Even though I tip my hand with strategy and all of us publicize our rosters in Expert Picks on Tuesdays, it hasn’t negatively influenced my performance. Now if only I could convince Sean to chase me how I chased him a year ago.
This week’s Masters is the second of the pair of tournaments in Segment 3 without shot-level measurements, so only actual scoring and bonus points applied to overall finish will be contributing. So, don’t be confused when you encounter shot-level measurements during the tournament. Augusta National operates its own lasered data, but it’s not in conjunction with ShotLink, which the TOUR owns and operates.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Masters (in alphabetical order):
Patrick Cantlay (+2000)
Dustin Johnson (+900)
Rory McIlroy (+1800)
Jon Rahm (+1100)
Jordan Spieth (+1100)
Justin Thomas (+1100)
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Daniel Berger; Bryson DeChambeau; Tony Finau; Patrick Reed; Xander Schauffele; Adam Scott; Cameron Smith
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Daniel Berger (+3300) … Arguably first in the line of the 88 in the field who couldn’t wait for the 2021 Masters to get here. He didn’t qualify for the 2020 edition because he didn’t ignite soon enough despite three progressively better top 10s in advance of the three-month hiatus. He then won the first event when play resumed and again at Pebble Beach in February. An array of leaderboard appearances complement the conversions and his combination of analytics with a penchant for bermudagrass is all we want. This is his fourth start and although he didn’t appear in the Power Rankings proper, he projected to improve upon a personal-best T10 in his debut in 2016.
Lee Westwood (+4000) … He’s in as good a place as he’s ever been to break through in a major. With consecutive runner-up finishes at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass, and a strong showing in the Group Stage of the Match Play, he’s 20th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s also two weeks shy of his 48th birthday (April 24). A spry Jack Nicklaus remains the oldest to capture a Green Jacket at the age of 46 in 1986, but he won 18 professional majors. The pressure to perform was entirely different for him than it is for the Brit. All that said, Westwood still a smart play in every format, including a One & Done.
Joaquin Niemann (+5000) … A positive COVID-19 test result thwarted his second appearance in November, but he hasn’t taken his foot off the gas. The top-25 machine fills every box to earn our confidence at Augusta National, except experience. Ease into him, but let him be the tiebreaker among the hopeful.
Matt Kuchar (+8000) … The former staple of almost every Power Rankings has fallen into disrepair as my man-crush. It was a great run but I still won’t turn the other way when he makes sense. Well, he makes sense at Augusta National and right now. Preceded a T12 at the Valero with a third-place finish at the Match Play.
Jason Day (+5000) … I believe. That sums up my faith in the Aussie for whom a sellable correlation can be made between sites he loves and positive results. Three top fives and a T10 in 10 appearances at the Masters. If he was playing better of late, everyone would be on him, so there’s the relative value.
Tommy Fleetwood (+5000) … Slower to get going in the U.S. this season but the pieces are falling into place with a T10 at Bay Hill and a quarterfinals run at the Match Play in the last month. Projects to add another top 20 at Augusta National. He has two in four appearances.
C.T. Pan (+25000) … We may never know if an easier Augusta National in November contributed to impressive debuts that included his T7, but he’ll never have to give back that experience gained. Rested since a T3 at PGA National, you can’t rule out converging trends, but they’re not so much trends as they are singularly coincidental results that lift the expectation. In other words, they are small sample sizes, but both are better than the alternatives. Cheap complement.
Odds sourced on Tuesday, April 6 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Hideki Matsuyama (+4000) … The narrative hasn’t changed. Inconsistent putting continues to preclude him from putting four rounds together. Counterintuitively, he’s benefited by a small field and enormous experience at Augusta National, so that positions him as a contrarian, but a top 20 would be a bonus.
Tyrrell Hatton (+4000) … Misfiring enough to warrant a pass. Also just 2-for-4 without a top 40. As he’s built his résumé, his success has leaned heavily into the direction of the setups of the other three majors, so he’ll reemerge as a chip later and often.
Gary Woodland (+10000) … He was in the parade of where-have-you-beens at TPC San Antonio where his T6 rubbed elbows with Matt Wallace (3rd), Lucas Glover (4th), Anirban Lahiri (5th) and Brandt Snedeker (T6). Among them, only Glover (T19, Honda) was angling upward in the last two months. The recently injured Woodland remains radioactive in all fantasy formats, but he’s an easy pass at the Masters specifically with only one payday (T32, 2019) in his last four trips.
Viktor Hovland (+3300) … This is in respect to the fact that this is just his second appearance and first as a professional. Respect the learning curve at Augusta National. Even if he arrived with consistently strong form, the advice would be to invest in the chalk, but he isn’t that, either. Allow him to file this one away alone.
Will Zalatoris (+6600) … This might be the last time for some time that he’ll get dropped into this section. As noted elsewhere in my preview material, he’s a first-timer, so there’s just no reason to consider him with passion. A top 25 would be phenomenal despite his gloss.
Robert MacIntyre (+15000) … Needs a solo seventh to achieve Special Temporary Membership and he’s a lefty on a track that has rewarded many, but he’s also making his debut.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Brooks Koepka … He’s No. 14 in my Power Rankings, but after having surgery on his right knee just a month ago, and having not played since a T2 at The Concession on the last day of February, he’s a risk for an investment beyond a complementary role. If you can’t resist or if you’re chasing in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, his firepower is worth the reach to open on your bench.
Justin Rose … Out since walking off Bay Hill during his third round of the API a month ago. He cited a sore lower back. He hasn’t been a regular at the Match Play, so it wasn’t surprising to see him sit it out. The rest can be only a good thing as he makes his 16th appearance at the Masters. Two runner-up finishes among a dozen top 25s is enough reason to slip him into DFS lineups. Sharks will play the perception of the injured golfer, especially the Englishman who doesn’t miss most cuts.
Tiger Woods … The five-time Masters champ remains sidelined indefinitely since suffering serious injuries in an automobile crash on Feb. 23.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Valero Texas Open
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Jordan Spieth Win
2 Corey Conners T14
3 Ryan Palmer T17
4 Matt Kuchar T12
5 Charley Hoffman 2nd
6 Scottie Scheffler T54
7 Zach Johnson MC
8 Chris Kirk T6
9 Tony Finau MC
10 Brendan Steele 77th
11 Si Woo Kim T23
12 Abraham Ancer T23
13 Graeme McDowell T54
14 Sam Ryder MC
15 Branden Grace T23
Wild Card Hideki Matsuyama T30
SLEEPERS RECAP – Valero Texas Open
Austin Eckroat MC
David Hearn MC
Denny McCarthy T34
Cameron Tringale T9
Aaron Wise T44
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
April 6 … Josh Teater (42)
April 7 … Robert Streb (34); Joseph Bramlett (33); Daniel Berger (28)
April 8 … none
April 9 … none
April 10 … none
April 11 … none
April 12 … Russell Henley (32); Matt Wallace (31)
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