FanDuel, DraftKings have been innovating in DFS in recent months
Legal Sports Report

A New Way To Tee It Up For Daily Fantasy Golf: DraftKings Offers ‘Match Play’ Contests

DraftKings Match Play golf WGC

Daily fantasy golf players have a new toy to play with this week on DraftKings.

The industry leader has launched a new PGA Tour game format to coincide with one of the most fan-friendly events on the calendar.

For the first time, daily fantasy sports contests will run alongside the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament.

DraftKings Match Play

The field for the WGC-Dell consists of 64 players divided into 16 groups of four. They’ll play a round-robin format within their groups before advancing to the elimination stage on Saturday. The drawing was broadcast on TV earlier this week.

On the DFS side, DraftKings’ new Match Play format follows the same blueprint as its standard contests. Each golfer is assigned a salary, and users must fill a roster of six golfers that fits with a $50,000 salary cap. Once the tournament begins, users accrue points based on the real-world performance of their roster.

Scoring will be a bit different than daily fantasy golf players are used to, though. Here’s the breakdown for points:

  • Holes won: +3
  • Holes halved: +0.75
  • Holes lost: -0.75
  • Holes not played: +1.6
  • Matches won: +5
  • Matches halved: +2

As you can see, whether a player makes an eagle or a double bogey is immaterial from a scoring perspective. The only things that matter are winning holes and matches. There is also a +5 bonus for a streak of three consecutive winning holes and a +7.5 bonus if the golfer does not lose any holes in the match. That means that a perfect score for a golfer in each match is 60.3 points.

The WGC-Dell begins on Wednesday, a day earlier than most PGA events. The largest contest in the lobby is a $5 entry with a $400,000 prize pool.

PGA match play basics

In match play, players aren’t competing for the lowest total score among a field of 100-plus golfers. Instead, the field is broken down into heads-up pairings who simply compete for a better score on each individual hole.

Every hole is its own contest, and it can either be won, lost or halved (when both players shoot the same score). The player who wins the most individual holes wins the match. It’s more like a drag race than the Indy 500. And it’s arguably the purest form of golf. It’s the way you and your buddies probably play at your home track.

The scoreboard looks a little different for match-play events, too. Rather than the traditional score-to-par notation (-4, for example), matches are tracked only by the relative score of two players. You may see a player listed as “3 Up,” meaning they’ve won three more holes than their opponent. How many strokes that player has actually taken is irrelevant.

The match-play format also means that some pairings won’t need to play the full 18 holes. If the same player wins each of the first 10, the match is already decided. That’s a rare extreme, but it would result in a winning score of “10 & 8,” meaning the player is 10 holes ahead with only eight to play. Ties, called “halves,” are possible if both players win the same number of holes.

Dormie” is another match play term worth learning for the weekend. It indicates that a player’s score matches the number of holes remaining. A player who is “Dormie three,” for example, is winning by three holes with three to play. He or she would only need to halve one of the remaining holes to win the match.

Golf innovation!

DraftKings has been the driver for daily fantasy golf, partially because of the legal specifics surrounding DFS operations. The federal law that governs them, the UIGEA, stipulates that contests must be based on “multiple” events. It’s not clear if the four rounds of a golf contest would count as multiple events in the eyes of a judge.

DraftKings is operating under the assumption that it’s all clear, though. It was among the first sites to offer PGA contests. So far, it hasn’t met any resistance from lawmakers or lawyers. The same can be said regarding its NASCAR contests, which also toe the line.

After testing the legal fencework, DFS operators have been on an innovation blitz over the last year or so. FanDuel created a whole division, FanDuel Labs, which is charged with developing new formats and game types. It’s been busy, too, rolling out ideas on a near-weekly schedule, it seems.

Some clever features have emerged from second-tier DFS operators, too. Boom Fantasy and Draft are both tweaking their products on an ongoing basis, looking to find something that tempts users away from “the big two” sites. Boom, for example, now offers Jackpot contests. Even Yahoo is fiddling with its platform, recently adding a new feature called QuickMatch.

DraftKings has certainly not stagnated, either. It began to offer single-game contests late in the NFL season, a few months after rolling out its Pick’em format. They now also have single-game contests for other sports, like daily fantasy football and daily fantasy basketball. DraftKings offers more sports than any of its competitors, including things like Euroleague basketball and League of Legends. And now it’s innovating golf, too.

In addition to the Match Play format, DraftKings also offers its Classic format for PGA, along with shorter, weekend-0nly slates.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering poker, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.