Inside DraftKings’ $2.5 Million U.S. Open Bet On Fantasy Golf Fans

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DraftKings golf Millionaire Maker

One success seems to have led to another in daily fantasy sports’ growing golf vertical.

With just days before the first round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course near Seattle, the DraftKings U.S. Open Millionaire Maker is rapidly gaining steam with nearly 80,000 entries as of Tuesday morning.

The $2.5 million Millionaire Maker, which follows DraftKings’ $2.2 million Masters Millionaire Maker in April, is capped at a touch more than 143,000 entries. That is up from the 125,000 entries DraftKings’ took in for the Masters, and that sold out hours before the first round.

So far the U.S. Open Millionaire Maker looks like a probable sellout, too, further buoying DraftKings’ decision to “invest heavily” in DFS golf.

“Selling out the Masters Millionaire Maker hours early was certainly a sign that our players appreciated our efforts to go big (in golf),” Matt Kalish, DraftKings CRO and co-founder, told Legal Sports Report.

“Since the Masters, our golf contests continue to exceed our expectations with both new users joining contests and engagement from our existing user base. With this strong momentum, we increased the prize pool of our headline U.S. Open Millionaire Maker event this week by $300,000, which will support over 140,000 entries from players.”

“So far, it looks to be another successful event,” he said.

How the Millionaire Maker works

Anyone can join the contest for $20. But entry can also be gained through satellite and qualifier events.

Once in, players draft six golfers and must keep to the $50,000 salary cap. Tournament favorite Rory McIlroy is going for $13,000, with Masters champ Jordan Spieth slightly less expensive at $12,600. The four least expensive players in the pool cost $5,100.

The scoring is simple. All six golfers accumulate points through a combination of per-hole scoring (+20 points for a double eagle down to -1 point for any score worse than double bogey), tournament finish, as well as bonus points for accomplishments such as a streak of three birdies or more or a bogey-free round.

Of the 143,000 entries, 29,420 will win money back. And the reward for placing high is unquestionable.

Golf is the first sport other than professional football, basketball and baseball that DraftKings felt a Millionaire Maker contest would be successful. After all, golf’s four major championships draw enthusiasm that rivals North America’s major team sports, Kalish said.

That is precisely the reason why DraftKings’ golf strategy centers on golf’s most important tournaments.

“Majors are truly some of the most thrilling events in all of sports and we have seen incredible growth in consumer engagement when those events come around,” Kalish added.

Can golf eventually rival the team sports?

DraftKings’ Millionaire Maker contests have been huge, with a combined guaranteed prize pool of $4.7 million for the Masters and the U.S. Open.

By comparison to North America’s major team sports, though, DFS golf is still relatively small in terms of entrants and guaranteed payouts, particularly for regular PGA Tour events. The NFL in particular draws huge numbers for industry leaders FanDuel and DraftKings. And DraftKings is offering a $4 million Fantasy Baseball World Championship in a qualifier-only game next month.

Still, DraftKings believes golf will continue to grow as a vertical.

“(Golf’s majors) are a spectacle that inspire incredible passion among our DraftKings community, which is a big part of why golf is growing so quickly,” Kalish said.

“As to whether it can rival the NBA or MLB, that remains to be seen. But the momentum for daily fantasy golf games continues to build because it attracts a loyal following in the community.”

More in the future?

DraftKings’ has yet to announce a Millionaire Maker game for either the British Open (July 16-19) or the PGA Championship (Aug. 13-16), golf’s final two majors this year.

Given the success of the Masters and the apparent success of the U.S. Open, it might be safe to assume that similar Millionaire Maker contests are on the way. But so far, DraftKings has yet to commit.

“We are still evaluating our specific plans for those two events,” Kalish said. “As always, our goal is to ‘wow’ our players and to provide games that will get our community excited.”