While many fans are riding with Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and the other favorites, part of the fun for Masters week is backing a darkhorse golfer then watching their name rise up the leaderboard. Reading Golf World's interviews with anonymous golfers, caddies and others from the golf industry shows just how many different key factors people look for at Augusta. There's no magic formula for figuring out who will come out of nowhere to contend on Sunday this year, but there are certain indicators that can help you circle a few golfers to watch. Whether you are looking for great betting picks or a sleeper for your DFS lineup, our picks have you covered.
Every sleeper we explore will have their deficiencies, if they didn't they would not offer any value as the price tag would be much higher. What each sleeper has in common is sharing a few traits that have proven to be successful over the years at Augusta. Golf.com's Mark Broadie outlined the following key factors to consider when evaluating a player's Masters chances: form (how well the player is currently playing), fit (how the golfer's strengths match up with the course) and intangibles (the ability to play four days of consistent golf).
Here's how Broadie considers form (i.e. the recent play of a golfer) heading into the Masters.
"The first is long-term past scoring performance—results, say, from the previous couple of years," Broadie writes. "The second is recent performance—results from the past month or two. The third is the player's documented ability to go low in four rounds, since winning requires an exceptional and sustained performance over an entire tournament."
Very few of our sleepers will possess all three of these traits, but each have one or two of these qualities outlined. Some have performed well at Augusta in the past, but have not played particularly well as of late. Others do not have much experience playing at the Masters, but have demonstrated the kind of sustained success needed to play well this week.
While the famous saying goes "drive for show and putt for dough," it may not be as true at Augusta as you may think. FiveThirtyEight's Todd Schneider shows the opposite is true at the Masters.
"There’s an old golf adage, attributed to four-time major winner Bobby Locke (who was renowned for his putting ability), that you 'drive for show and putt for dough,'" Schneider writes. "In other words, even though long shots are flashy and crowd-pleasing, putting is what wins tournaments. But the data makes clear that the top players gain more strokes from their long games than from their short games...Most great players gain the majority of their strokes with their full-swing shots. By comparison, putts and shots around the green make up a comparatively small amount of their strokes gained in a given round."
Broadie's research also found that the need to be a brilliant putter at Augusta could be overstated.
"For example, Augusta's greens are notoriously slick and undulating, so a premium should be placed on putting skill, right?" Broadie explains. "Not right. Putting is a valuable skill on every course. The real question is, is better putting worth relatively more at Augusta than at a typical PGA Tour course? Augusta's greens are more difficult to putt than average, but a closer examination yields surprises. Inside of seven feet, players sink more putts at Augusta than elsewhere. Those immaculately conditioned greens are most likely the explanation. Outside of seven feet, the green speed and slope leads to more putts."
To be clear, to do well at Augusta golfers will need to put well, but many top Masters performers have not entered the tournament as a great putter.
Be sure to check out my top DraftKings lineup picks heading into the Masters. Click the next arrow or directly on the player's name below for our 2018 Masters sleeper picks. Golfers are ranked in order of their chances to succeed this year at Augusta.