Hello, fantasy-golf friends. Welcome to another expanded power rankings for the year’s first major, the Masters.
This year’s field at Augusta National will be just 86 players, the smallest in more than 20 years. But this Masters will also be one of the most anticipated in recent memory. Tiger Woods is back, and is the betting favorite. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have won recently, and McIlroy is looking to become the first player to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National. Bubba Watson has won twice this year. Justin Thomas has two wins this season, as well, and is coming off a Player of the Year campaign last season. Defending champ Sergio Garcia became a father for the first time earlier this month. The list of intriguing storylines goes on.
As for fantasy angles, there is the belief that Augusta National, at more than 7,400 yards, is a bombers’ course, and that’s mostly true. However, second shots are arguably more important, even though the Tour’s driving-distance leaders can give themselves shorter clubs into greens that yield very small landing areas for those looking to hit it close.
Therefore, I’m placing a high importance on strokes gained: approach-the-green (SGATG) and greens in regulation percentage (GIR; though this stat is sometimes misleading) this week. Other stats I’m looking at: strokes gained: putting (SGP), bogey avoidance and par-5 scoring.
Without further delay, here are my top 50 fantasy-golf options for the 2018 Masters Tournament:
1. Justin Rose: Hasn’t missed a cut in 12 career trips to Augusta National. Lost in a playoff last year to Sergio Garcia, his second runner-up showing in the past three Masters. He owns five top-10s among 10 top-25 finishes here. Coming off a third-place finish at Bay Hill and T-5 at Valspar. Ranks fifth in SGP, 14th in bogey avoidance and T-20 in driving distance. I firmly believe that this is his year.
2. Phil Mickelson: Playing some great golf with a win and three other top-6 finishes in his last four stroke-play starts entering Houston. Owner of three Masters titles (2004, ’06, ’10) and 12 other top-10s finishes at Augusta National. Has missed two of his last four cuts here, but looked solid in a T-22 showing last year. Ranks second in SGP, fourth in SGATG, 12th in par-5 scoring and 17th in bogey avoidance.
3. Tiger Woods: The four-time Masters champion has made 20 career Masters starts and missed just one cut – and that came as an amateur in 1996. In addition to his four wins, Woods has nine finishes or T-8 or better here. He’s in much better shape health-wise than he was in 2015, when he was T-17, and enters this year having finished 12th, T-2 and T-5 in his last three Tour starts. Ranks 14th in SGP and 15th in SGATG.
4. Justin Thomas: Yes, he’s won twice this season, but more impressively he hasn’t finished worse than T-22 in 10 starts. His last three Tour finishes look like this – fourth, second, win. Has begun his Masters career with finishes of T-39 and T-22, so he’s due for a breakout. Ranks T-5 in par-5 scoring, T-6 in SGATG, eighth in bogey avoidance, eighth in driving distance, T-19 in GIR and 39th in SGP.
5. Jordan Spieth: Has just one top-10 since Kapalua and has been struggling with the putter (172nd in SGP), but he had either won or finished second in his first three Masters starts before a T-11 last year. The 2015 champ had a chance to win last year, too, before a final-round 75. Ranks fifth in bogey avoidance, T-20 in par-5 scoring, T-24 in GIR and T-25 in SGATG.
6. Rory McIlroy: A month ago he wouldn’t have been ranked here, but that was before his impressive victory two weeks ago at Bay Hill. Since that final-round 80 dropped him from the lead to T-15 at the 2011 Masters, McIlroy has cracked the top 25 in five of six Masters starts, including posting four straight top-10s entering this year. Ranks sixth in driving distance and 24th in SGP. Can achieve the career Grand Slam with a win.
7. Dustin Johnson: The World No. 1 struggled at the WGC-Dell Match Play, but prior to that had a dominating win at Kapalua and six other top-16s to his credit this season. Was T-30 or worse in his first three Masters starts, but had gone T-6, T-4 in last two before withdrawing last year because of a freak back injury. Leads Tour in par-5 scoring average, and ranks second in bogey avoidance, 13th in driving distance, 15th in SGP and 22nd in GIR.
8. Sergio Garcia: Won his first green jacket – and major – in his 19th Masters start last year. Before that he had posted just three top-10s here with five MCs. He recently became a father and he’s been happy on the course, too, with three straight top-10s on Tour. Leads the Tour in SGATG, and ranks T-3 in par-5 scoring and 30th in GIR. He probably won’t repeat, but a top-10 is very possible.
9. Bubba Watson: I’m not quite on the Bubba Hype Train. Other than his two wins at Augusta National (2012, ’14), he has just one finish better than T-37 in seven starts. That being said, he’s looked great in wins at the Match Play and Genesis Open. Ranks fourth in driving distance, 16th in GIR and 22nd in bogey avoidance.
10. Paul Casey: In 11 career Masters starts, he has just three MCs and has finished T-6 or better four times, including in each of the past three years. Has a win, at Valspar, and seven other top-20s in his last nine worldwide starts. Ranks eighth on Tour in SGATG, 15th in GIR, 16th in bogey avoidance and T-20 in par-5 scoring. Only thing holding him back is the fact that he hasn’t won a major before.
11. Rickie Fowler: Take out his 80-73 and MC in 2016 and he’s been strong at Augusta National of late with three top-12 finishes since 2014, when he shared fifth and shot 67 in the third round. Had two MCs in four starts before regaining some momentum with a T-14 at Bay Hill. Ranks sixth in bogey avoidance, T-11 in GIR and 12th in SGATG.
12. Jason Day: Started his season with pair of T-11s in Asia, a win at Torrey Pines and T-2 at Pebble Beach, but recently failed to get out of his group at Match Play. Overcame 74-76 start to finish T-22 last year and also boasts three top-10s, including a pair of top-3s, in his seven career Masters starts. Ranks first in SGP and 10th in driving distance, but is 185th in SGATG.
13. Alex Noren: Went 74-78 to miss the cut in his Masters debut last year, but I really like him this year. He was third at the Match Play, his third top-3 finish on Tour this year. Ranks T-3 in par-5 scoring, 10th on Tour in SGATG, T-20 in SGP and 25th in bogey avoidance.
14. Jon Rahm: Had a solid Masters debut last year, tying for 27th. But he hasn’t cracked the top 10 on Tour since winning the CareerBuilder Challenge, though I’ll point out that he’s been T-29 or better in the four stroke-play events during that span. Ranks 32nd in SGP and 37th in GIR, but I’m a tad worried about him ranking 137th in SGATG.
15. Matt Kuchar: Has missed just one cut in 11 career Masters starts. His T-4 here last year was his fourth top-8 finish in his past six trips to Augusta. Had been top-25-less in four starts since T-5 in Phoenix until making the Round of 16 at Match Play. Ranks 27th in bogey avoidance and 35th in SGP.
16. Hideki Matsuyama: Has missed just one cut in six trips to Augusta and has gone fifth, T-7, 11th in the past three Masters. The wrist is a slight concern, but Matsuyama has been able to play two events since returning from injury, even if he didn’t finish well – T-49, T-36. Ranks 18th in bogey avoidance and 20th in SGATG.
17. Brian Harman: Shot 76-72 to miss the cut in his Masters debut, in 2015. But I like his toughness and it’s no surprise he leads the Tour in top-5s this season with five. Ranks second in GIR, eighth in SGP, ninth in bogey avoidance and T-20 in par-5 scoring. And he’s not that short off the tee.
18. Rafael Cabrera Bello: Was a popular sleeper last year after a T-17 in his debut in 2016, but he shot 75-77 to miss the cut. Has been solid but not great this year, though shined in Mexico with a T-3 finish. Ranks second in SGATG, sixth in GIR, 21st in bogey avoidance and T-24 in par-5 scoring.
19. Adam Scott: In 16 career Masters starts, he has missed just two cuts – none since 2009. His 2013 victory is among five career top-10s for Scott at Augusta National, as is his T-9 here last year. However, he has no top-10s since Memphis last summer, though his T-13 at Honda and T-16 at Valspar showed promise. Ranks 16th in SGATG, 18th in GIR and T-20 in driving distance, but is 195th in SGP.
20. Tommy Fleetwood: Shot 78-74 to miss the cut in his Masters debut last year, but he’ll do much better with his second chance. Kicked off 2018 with win in Abu Dhabi and has been T-26 or better five times in six starts since, including fourth at Honda. Ranks T-24 in par-5 scoring and 59th in SGATG.
21. Kevin Chappell: Perfect in two tries so far at Augusta National, including a T-7 showing last year that was capped with a 68. Has played nicely this season with six top-21 finishes, including three top-10s since CareerBuilder. Ranks T-13 in par-5 scoring, 19th in driving distance, 23rd in bogey avoidance and 27th in SGATG.
22. Brendan Steele: Played the Masters for the first time in five years last year and was T-27 thanks to a closing 69. Has five top-20s since winning Safeway last fall. Ranks seventh in GIR, 14th in driving distance, T-19 in bogey avoidance, T-24 in par-5 scoring and 35th in SGATG.
23. Daniel Berger: Tied for 10th in his Masters debut, in 2016, and then capped a T-27 performance last year with his first round in the 60s at Augusta National, a 69. T-14 or better four times on Tour this year. Ranks 29th in SGP. Have a gut feeling about Berger this week.
24. Patrick Reed: The former Augusta State star shot 76-77 to miss the cut last year. His best finish in four Masters starts is T-22, in 2015. But he’s been playing some great golf with three straight top-10s, including a T-2 at Valspar. Ranks 45th in SGATG.
25. Pat Perez: Had gone eight straight rounds to begin his Masters without shooting par or better until firing 70-71 on the weekend last year to finish T-18. Ranks fourth in GIR, T-7 in par-5 scoring, 24th in bogey avoidance, 38th in SGP and 48th in SGATG. His best finish since a T-4 at Kapalua is a T-20 in Mexico, though.
26. Henrik Stenson: His MC last year here was his fourth in 12 career Masters starts. He has no top-10s in his Masters career but does have six top-25s. Has finished eighth or better three times in last five worldwide starts.
27. Adam Hadwin: Was T-36 in Masters debut last year and enters this year with four straight finishes of T-17 or better on Tour, three of those in the top 12. Ranks 23rd in SGATG and T-28 in GIR, and we all know he can get hot with the putter.
28. Tony Finau: This will be his first trip to Augusta National, but he has the length and tee-to-green skill to really shine in his debut. Hasn’t done much since T-2 at Riviera, though. Tour’s leader in driving distance ranks 13th in SGATG, T-24 in par-5 scoring and 31st in GIR.
29. Bryson DeChambeau: This will be his first pro start at Augusta National. He was the low amateur in 2016, when he finished T-21 and posted three rounds of 72. Coming off a runner-up at API. Ranks second in par-5 scoring, 26th in GIR and 33rd in SGATG.
30. Patrick Cantlay: This will be his first trip to Augusta National since he was low amateur and tied for 47th in his debut, in 2012. Ranks T-7 in par-5 scoring, 21st in GIR and T-53 in SGATG. Another gut feeling here.
31. Charley Hoffman: In four career Masters appearances, his worst finish is T-29. He was T-9 in 2015 and shot 65 in the first round here last year en route to a T-22 finish. Has either missed the weekend or finished outside the top 25 six times in eight starts since runner-up at Hero, though he looked better in T-14 at API. Ranks 38th in SGATG.
32. Zach Johnson: Since winning the green jacket in 2007, he has finished in the top 10 only once, a T-9 in 2015, and missed five cuts. But he’s been pretty steady this season with seven finished of T-26 or better in nine starts. Ranks T-3 in bogey avoidance, ninth in SGATG, T-13 in par-5 scoring and 32nd in GIR.
33. Cameron Smith: Shot 74-73 to begin his Masters debut in 2016 before carding a third-round 82 and finishing T-55. Made the quarterfinals of Match Play and has 10 top-20s in his last 13 worldwide starts. Ranks 13th in bogey avoidance and 51st in SGATG.
34. Xander Schauffele: Making Masters debut, but won twice on Tour last season and is on a current run of four straight finishes of T-19 or better. Ranks T-13 in par-5 scoring.
35. Ryan Moore: His T-9 last year was his fourth top-15 finish in nine Masters starts. Also has three top-10s in last six Tour starts, including T-5 at Bay Hill.
36. Thomas Pieters: Lived up to the hype in his Masters debut last year, shooting a pair of 68s and tying for fourth. He has just two top-10s worldwide since, though. Tied for 25th on Tour in SGATG.
37. Webb Simpson: His MC last year was his third in six career trips to Augusta. His best finish at the Masters is a T-28, in 2015. But he does have three top-8s this year. Ranks T-3 in bogey avoidance, 10th in bogey avoidance, 11th in SGP and 30th in SGATG. So he checks the boxes statistically.
38. Louis Oosthuizen: Since finishing runner-up to Bubba Watson in 2012, Oosthuizen has made four of five cuts but hasn’t finished better than T-15. Made Round of 16 at Match Play and has four top-30s in his last five worldwide starts. Ranks 202nd in GIR and 181st in SGP.
39. Francesco Molinari: Has made four of six Masters cuts in his career, but his best finish is still the T-19 he posted in 2012. Has finished T-26 or better in three straight Tour starts. Ranks 27th in GIR but 116th in SGATG.
40. Tyrrell Hatton: Fell woefully short of expectations in his Masters debut last year, shooting 80-78 to miss the cut despite being in great form. He’s playing well again this year with 12 top-20s in his last 14 starts, including two wins last fall and two thirds this year. Ranks sixth in SGP, 32nd in bogey avoidance, but also is 188th in SGATG and 161st in GIR.
41. Marc Leishman: Was T-4 here in 2013, but in his other four Masters starts he’s missed three cuts and hasn’t finished better than T-43. T-7 at Bay Hill, T-8 at Farmers and T-7 at Kapalua were bright spots, but he’s also finished outside the top 30 four times in his last seven starts. Ranks 37th in SGATG.
42. Gary Woodland: Has only made it to Sunday twice in five career Masters starts, but he finished T-26 or better on each of those Sundays. Hasn’t finished better than T-29 in five starts since winning in Phoenix. Ranks third in GIR, ninth in driving distance, 33rd in SGP and 39th in SGATG.
43. Kyle Stanley: Making first Masters appearance since his debut in 2012, when he shot 75-76 to miss the cut. Ranks fifth in GIR but 119th in SGATG. Is trending upward, though – T-25, T-14, T-5 in last three Tour starts.
44. Kevin Kisner: Aiken, S.C., native has gone T-37, T-43 in two trips to Augusta National. Ranks 10th in SGP, but T-177 in driving distance and 167th in SGATG. Also was scared by the ballstriking display he showed in the Match Play final.
45. Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The big Thai was T-15 in his Masters debut, in 2016. That year he shot 77 in the third round before closing with 70. Not many golfers can say they have two wins and two other top-5s in their last six worldwide starts. Ranks 34th in SGP, 155th in SGATG and 194th in bogey avoidance.
46. Russell Henley: Has gotten better here every year, making his last three cuts and tying for 11th last year a week after winning in Houston. But he’s posted just three top-25s this season. Ranks 31st in SGATG.
47. Branden Grace: Has missed the weekend three times in five attempts in his Masters career with a best finish of T-18, in 2013. Did close with weekend rounds of 71-70 to share 27th last year. Solid but not great of late with 13 straight finishes inside the top 40, including a win, runner-up and five other top-20s. Ranks seventh in SGP and 121st in SGATG.
48. Chez Reavie: Has yet to play a weekend in Augusta in three tries, most recently in 2012 when he shot 79-74. Has been T-52 or worse three times in four starts since posting back-to-back runner-up finishes. Ranks seventh in bogey avoidance, 13th in GIR and 18th in SGATG.
49. Charl Schwartzel: The 2011 Masters champ had cracked the top 25 just once in five tries since his win before finishing solo third last year. Also has just one finish better than T-36 in six starts this year. Ranks 160th in SGATG and 194th in GIR.
50. Jimmy Walker: Yet to miss a cut in four Masters starts, a record that includes a T-8 in 2014 and T-18 last year. Started to turn a corner after struggling with Lyme disease with T-8 at Pebble Beach, but hasn’t cracked top 25 in four starts since. Ranks 195th in bogey avoidance and 201st in GIR. But he could be a deep sleeper.
Just missed: Joaquin Niemann, Haotong Li, Dylan Frittelli
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