DraftKings’ Daily Fantasy Golf Still Hasn’t Hit Peak After British Open

Posted on July 23, 2015

The British Open has had plenty of wild weekends in its existence. But the 144th edition of The Open Championship, played over the weekend at golf epicenter St. Andrews in Scotland, outdid itself.

Wind delayed the Open’s final round until Monday, scores were historically low, a golfer made a run at history, and a three-way playoff ended with Iowa’s Zach Johnson holding the Claret Jug.

The drama-filled major championship produced its own drama with DraftKings’ $3 million Millionaire Maker contest. DraftKings has run nearly 20 contests in which the top prize was $1 million — including three in golf — and for the first time the contest ended in a tie.

Millionaire not made at DraftKings

That means the Millionaire Maker contest did not actually produce a millionaire. Instead, the winners (using names Dr_Cash007 and jrazajr) split the first and second prizes to share $550,000.

Hardly a finish that DraftKings would consider ideal, but it was hardly unexpected either, Matt Kalish, DraftKings CRO and co-founder, told Legal Sports Report.

“We always like to give out that $1 million check to a single person, but it was somewhat inevitable with large field sizes that eventually we would see a tie,” Kalish said. “In this case, the players put out two very different lineups and just happened to put up the same huge score.”

DraftKings still comes out a winner

Less surprising was that DraftKings once again sold out its Millionaire Maker contest, representing more than 171,000 entries, before the first tee shot was taken in Scotland. That is the third consecutive sellout in DFS for golf since DraftKings launched its first Millionaire Maker contest in April for the Masters.

This British Open did make for an interesting flow to the game. The unpredictable weather in Scotland delayed the final round until Monday, and at one point play lasted just 32 windswept minutes during the second round.

Kalish, though, said that the weather did not have much of an effect on the Millionaire Maker. In fact, the delay is just one reason why golf continues to grow as a vertical, Kalish said.

“If anything, I think the weather delay created a slightly longer sweat experience, which in general we would view as a good thing,” Kalish said. “One of the great things about golf is it provides tremendous value. You put up an entry fee, and in exchange get four days of excitement. It’s really unparalleled in that regard, no other sport gives you quite that long of a sweat for the entry fee.”

What’s next?

When DraftKings announced that the Open Millionaire Maker was sold out, it also announced that the contest for the PGA Championship. Perhaps not surprising is the PGA Championship game will once again reflect growth in DraftKings’ golf vertical.

Announcing a sellout and an even larger game for golf’s next major championship has become a tradition of sorts for DraftKings since it experimented with its first golf Millionaire Maker earlier this year.

The PGA Championship, which will be played Aug. 13-16 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, will feature a guarantee of $3.3 million. The contest will be limited to nearly 189,000 entrants and pay out 45,840 places.

That represents steady growth from DraftKings’ Masters contest earlier this year, which was limited to 125,000 entrants and a guarantee of $2.2 million. DraftKings has upped the size in each major championship since, topping out at the PGA Championship.

There will be a change to the game, though, significantly reducing the multi-entry limits from 500 to 100 for the PGA Championship, “which should improve the experience for most everyone and ensure there is more capacity in the game where anyone who wants to get into it can get in late in the day,” Kalish said.

The steady growth in its showcase golf contests has been the result of a combination of factors, including growing interest in DFS for golf and DraftKings still trying to find the peak of the vertical, Kalish said.

“We certainly recognize that we have filled the first three golf Millionaire Makers a bit early, and we like to make sure people who want to play our promotions can get into them late in the game,” Kalish said. “We wanted to address that by increasing the capacity. We will also be driving a lot of new engagement as well, so it goes beyond just supporting the existing player base in golf in that regard.”

Some numbers from The Open

In all, 69,361 individual players entered the contest, and 46,105 of those players entered just one team, according to Homefield Labs, which tracks golf and fantasy golf analytics. Six contestants entered the maximum 500 teams.

To almost no one’s surprise, two-time major winner Jordan Spieth (who finished just a shot out of The Open’s three-way playoff) was the most popular pick among all of DraftKings’ contests, landing on 32.5 percent of all teams. Johnson was the seventh-most popular pick, appearing on 17.5 percent of all teams.

According to DraftKings, only 8.8 percent of teams in the contest had all six of their players make the 36-hole cut (including both winners), giving those teams a distinct advantage in DraftKings’ bonus scoring system. A heftier 32.1 percent had five of six players advance to the final two rounds.

Photo by Christine Olson used under license CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Zack Hall

Zack Hall has been covering sports and business for more than 16 years as both a reporter and editor. He has won numerous awards with stops that include the Reno Gazette-Journal and the Bend Bulletin.

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