Will DraftKings Fantasy Golf Winners Soon Make More Than Actual Golfers?

Written By Dustin Gouker on June 23, 2015

The U.S. Open wrapped up on Sunday with a dramatic finish that gave 21-year-old Jordan Spieth his second major golf tournament victory this year.

For that feat — winning what many consider the toughest tournament in golf — he earned $1.8mm.

Fantasy golf approaching real golf

Meanwhile, a player in DraftKings’ $2.5mm Millionaire Maker contest based on the U.S. Open — named “carlbassewitz” — won a million dollars.

That daily fantasy sports player moved into that position when a real-life golfer — Dustin Johnson — three-putted on the 18th green, taking away a chance at a victory or a playoff for Johnson.

That meant the difference of $900,000 for the player with the screen name “headchopper,” who won just $100K for second place in DraftKings’ contest.

That meant the money swings in DraftKings’ contest were just as big as the U.S. Open: the difference between first place and a tie for second cost Johnson roughly $900k.

When will fantasy prizes eclipse player prizes?

The DK contest for the British Open next month will guarantee $3mm, with $1mm again going to first place. That’s up from $2.2 million for The Masters just a few months ago.

And while a contest based on the PGA Tour is unlikely to eclipse a million dollars for the winner, could we be less than a year away from DFS players making more than the winners of golf’s four majors?

Based on current growth, it is not hard to conceive of a $5 million DraftKings golf contest with $2 million to the winner for The Masters or the U.S. Open in 2016.

It’s amazing growth for a DFS vertical that launched early in 2014. Of course, explosive growth in DFS verticals is starting to become the norm: see eSports, for instance.

We’re still several weeks away from The British Open, and already there have been more than 6,000 entries to the Millionaire Maker for the next major. (That contest caps at 171K.)

What’s next?

Besides bigger contests, there are several things to watch for in the DFS golf market:

  • One-day or two-day contests?: All of the traditional DFS contests based on team sports have contests that are based on certain time frames. Will we start seeing contests based on the final two rounds, after the cut is made in PGA Tour tournaments? One-day contests, in addition to four-day contests?
  • More companies getting into DFS golf: Victiv and Fantasy Feud are among the sites in the tier immediately behind DraftKings and FanDuel that have rolled out a golf product. FanDuel has stayed out of the market. Based on the success of the vertical, will other sites make the leap?
  • Golf and TV ratings: Does DFS move the needle on television viewership? The U.S. Open was Fox’s first foray into a major tournament, so it may not be the best starting point. When the PGA Championship rolls around — the least followed of the four majors — we will likely get a better sense of DFS impact. We have to guess golf fans are watching more closely — if not necessarily in much larger numbers — because of DFS interest.
  • PGA Tour involvement?: Lots of leagues have jumped headfirst into DFS, outside of the NFL. Given the potential of fantasy golf and its possibilities for user engagement, a DraftKings partnership with the PGA Tour appears to be a no-brainer down the road. Unless PGA Tour officials have concerns with legality.
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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.

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