No question, interest in golf has been sagging in recent years in the United States and beyond. Yet the Daily Fantasy Sports golf vertical appears headed in another direction.
Ten days away from the first round of the U.S. Open, the second of professional golf’s four annual major championships, and it appears DFS golf is picking up steam.
DraftKings has positioned itself as the market leader in golf, raking in 70,000 entries and more than $3 million in entry fees in April for its Millionaire Maker contest for the Masters, which exceeded expectations.
Of course, DraftKings is hosting another Millionaire Maker for next week’s U.S. Open, and it has upped its prize pool from $2.2. million for the Masters to $2.5 million. This comes in addition to DraftKings’ weekly games for regular PGA Tour events, where prize pools reach $250,000.
Though no overarching deals have been struck with the PGA Tour yet, DFS’ number two clearly sees room for growth in golf.
Golf was the first vertical outside the North America’s four major team sports that DraftKings offered as part of its Millionaire Maker series of contests, Femi Wasserman, vice president of DraftKings, told Legal Sports Report.
In addition, DraftKings inked a deal in March with the Tiger Woods Foundation, becoming the “Official Daily Fantasy Sports Partner” for the Quicken Loans National and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
As part of those deals, DraftKings is also awarding VIP packages that include a chance to be paired with a PGA Tour player in the Quicken Loans National Pro Am.
A full list of DFS partnerships can be found here.
Who is involved?
Part of why golf has been successful for DraftKings is the simplicity of the game itself, Wasserman said. Truth be told, a well-performing golfer is often easier to quantify than in team sports. In other words, golfers who play well tend to score well.
However, the rules of the game differ at each site that offers golf.
In DraftKings’ game, players start with a $50,000 salary cap and must draft six golfers from a given tournament’s pool. Winners are based on the total fantasy points scored across the lineup over the four-round tournament.
DraftDay and Victiv, which is offering a $75,000 U.S. Open game, have also joined the golf vertical, as have smaller sites such as FantasyFeud.
And like DraftKings, each rely on simple (though different) scoring systems called “bonus scoring,” where the sites assign a point value for hole score, a round’s finish, and the overall finish in the tournament.
Victiv players draft seven golfers, counting only the top five scorers at tournament’s end. Like DraftKings’, DraftDay requires players to draft six golfers for each tournament, but the point values for each hole differ.
Why the disparity?
As Victiv noted in January:
“In the case of Yahoo!’s season-long (fantasy) golf, the only points awarded are for the real world outcomes of tournaments.
For this reason, and because ‘points for a win’ scoring is just plain boring, DFS sites had to come up with another way to score fantasy golf.”
It is interesting to note that FanDuel, DFS’ number one site, has yet to show much interest in golf.
Simple as the scoring might be, information is still crucial for long-term success. Fortunately, the support ecosystem for golf is growing rapidly. Wasserman told Legal Sports Report that DraftKings has deals in place with more than 50 sites for DFS golf.
Large fantasy sports sites such as Rotowire support golf, though it is important to note that not every major site is involved with this vertical. Surprisingly robust golf-specific sites such as The Fantasy Golfer have also emerged since the birth of DFS golf.
Compared with the major team sports, DFS golf is still in its infancy. But that might not last for much longer.