Fantasy Golf Preview: The Masters


Get the TV on standby and your local takeaway on speed dial. Masters week is finally here, which also means the start of Fantasy Golf for a sixth season.

We've revamped the format and secured another set of top prizes, including trips to Mallorca, Sicily, La Manga and Belek. Excited? You should be. The team of the month will also win a prize, so there's even more to play for this year.

There's still time to register your team before the start of the first game week, but you've only got until 5pm on Wednesday to do so. You can still sign up at any point during the season, but you risk missing out on the first of nine 'bonus' tournaments that will add 50% extra points to your score.

Changes to the format mean you now need to select a team of 10 players from a budget of £100 million. Unlimited transfers are also a thing of the past. Instead, you will receive an allocation of just five transfers for each week of the season, so you need to pick wisely.

Easier said than done, considering the list of favourites to slip on this year's green jacket is now longer than Adam Scott's old broomstick putter. With seven majors between them, the smart money is on one of golf's 'Big Three' – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy – to sink the winning putt come Sunday.

Of the trio, Day perhaps looks best placed to justify his top billing and become only the third man after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to taste Masters success on the back of two consecutive wins. His victory at the WGC-Dell Match Play came despite suffering back spasms and if he can shake off a bout of flu which has hindered his preparations since, this could be the year he finally conquers Augusta after a couple of near misses.

McIlroy is also searching for his maiden green jacket, but with the added incentive of joining an elite group of players to complete the grand slam. The Irishman has struggled to recapture his major-winning form since returning from injury in August and is the only player in the world's top six not to have won a tournament this year. Top-four finishes in his last three starts have hinted at a mini resurgence, but his chances will likely rest on being able to reign in his attacking instincts. Only last month, the four-time major champion recorded six double bogeys at Bay Hill during the Arnold Palmer Invitational – the most he's ever recorded during a PGA Tour event.

Like McIlroy, Spieth has also endured a frustrating time recently and relinquished his world number one spot to Day last month. Four top 20 finishes may suggest otherwise, but last year's 'Master' has gone off the boil slightly since trouncing the field at the Tournament of Champions in January. Returning to the scene of his maiden major win couldn't have come at a better time. Records fell like confetti last year and while logic dictates that he can't repeat the feat again, golf has a habit of breaking convention. It's worth pointing out, too, that in his two appearances to date, Spieth finished second and first and has never shot anything worse than level par.

Of course, you can make cases for all three players this week but at £15m each, is it really worth risking nearly half your budget on three marquee names? Rather than employing a top-heavy approach, we've whittled the Masters field down and identified five 'better value' options who should be considered the first names on your team sheet.

Adam Scott Masters champion 2013

Adam Scott – The Aussie appears to be a man transformed. He's ditched the long putter and bounced back from a winless 2015 to record back-to-back victories at the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship. At £14m, he's only slightly cheaper than the world's top three players. But to borrow a popular slogan, every little helps. This week, the world number seven has got his trusty lieutenant Steve Williams on his bag again and past performances suggest we can expect to see Scott's name at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. He's finished inside the top 20 in five of his last six Masters appearances and unlike Day and McIlroy, he knows what it takes to win around Augusta.

Louis Oosthuizen – The 2010 Open champion has history at Augusta, becoming only the fourth man in history to record an albatross in 2012, before losing a sudden death play-off to Bubba Watson that very same year. Since then, the world number 11 has become golf's nearly man, finishing runner-up at the US Open and Open Championship last year and losing out to Jason Day in the final of the WGC-Dell Match Play last month. Nevertheless, he enters this week off the back of five top-15 finishes in his last six starts, including a win at the Perth International, and certainly justifies his £13m price tag. A missed cut in Houston curtailed his momentum slightly, but he definitely has the attributes to break into the world's top 10 very soon.

Phil Mickelson – Without a victory since the Open in 2013, surely it's only a matter of time before the popular American rolls back the years and adds to his trophy haul. It may be asking a lot to end his barren streak this week, but experience counts for a lot at Augusta and Mickelson has that in abundance with 23 appearances to his name. The course certainly suits his eye, as his victories in 2004, 2006 and 2010 testify, and a strong showing at the Houston Open will give him some much-needed confidence as he heads down Magnolia Lane. Well worth considering at £13.5m!

Marc Leishman – The Australian is one of the most underrated players on Tour and has a habit of performing strongly in at least one major every year. He will be extra motivated this week, too, after withdrawing from last year's event to be with his wife Audrey, who nearly died from toxic shock syndrome. His results so far this season have been mixed, but a play-off defeat at the Open last year proves he can mix it on the biggest stage. More importantly, he doesn't break the bank at £12.5m.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – A snip at £9.5m, the Spaniard has the potential to become a mainstay in your team throughout the season. He's had a stellar start to the year with  second-place finishes at the Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic, plus three top-15 finishes in as many appearances on the PGA Tour. He may have snagged his first Masters invite at the 11th hour but judging by his performance at the Houston Open, he appears to be peaking at just the right time. He hit 17 greens in regulation on Sunday and recorded a solitary bogey in his closing 54 holes. Certainly one to watch.

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