FanDuel PGA: Q&A with FanDuel VP
FanDuel PGA: Q&A with FanDuel VP

This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.

We all know how Tiger Woods impacts golf. But what about fantasy golf?

Woods was the biggest winner at the Masters, that much is certain. But there were other winners. CBS won. The Wisconsin man who bet $85,000 in Vegas and took home $1.2 million won. Golf fans and sports fans everywhere won. But that's not all. Gamers who played FanDuel's largest ever golf contest also won. 

And they'll have a chance to play again for the upcoming PGA Championship.

When Woods sank that final putt at 18 on Sunday afternoon, everyone who played FanDuel's $1 million Mega Eagle Daily Fantasy contest got their $15 entry fee back. They didn't have to win the contest. They didn't even have to have Woods in their lineup. FanDuel refunded more than $1 million in entry fees alone, Ari Borod, the DFS site's vice president of fantasy sports, said in an interview with RotoWire. And that was on top of the $1 million paid out in prizes.

It was such a big hit, Borod said, that FanDuel has extended the promo to two contests for the upcoming PGA Championship, where Woods is the betting favorite at 8-1: 1) a $500K Big Cat Mega Eagle (with a $15 entry fee) and 2) a $100K Big Cat Stinger (with a $3 entry fee). FanDuel will give back all entry fees for both contests if Woods wins again, which could leave them on the hook for over $700,000 in entry fees to pay back.

"We did see a significant uplift as a result of the promo," Borod said of the Masters contest, adding that conversely there was a dip in demand when Woods unexpectedly passed on the Wells Fargo Championship a few weeks later. " ... [The Masters] was our biggest golf contest ever by a wide margin," with the previous high being $700,000.

That's in terms of money. But what about in number of people playing? That might be the critical metric.

FanDuel had a $4 entry fee for a Masters game two years ago and, well, $15 simply cannot compete with $4. The $4 game brought in more people. But get this: FanDuel had a $9 game last year, and even with the big jump to a $15 entry fee, the site saw a whopping 20 percent increase in participation this time around, Borod said.

We started talking with Borod a couple of months before the Masters. RotoWire submitted questions to FanDuel about the state of fantasy golf. Here's what Borod had to say.

RotoWire: FanDuel has been offering Fantasy Golf for about two years. Has it met/exceeded your expectations? Where does it stand in relation to interest in other sports on FanDuel?

Borod: Fantasy Golf is starting to pick up a lot of momentum and has exceeded expectations this year. We were second in the market, launching three years after our competitors [DraftKings], so we naturally faced an uphill battle. We experimented with different product formats but eventually settled on a Pick 6 salary format, as it was most in line with what users wanted. We've seen fantasy golf experience over 30 percent annual growth so far in 2019. 

RotoWire: What about golf makes it such a good fit for DFS? How much does the ability to break down a tournament into segments – weekend play, daily play – impact that?

Borod: Golf is a great fit for DFS because the scoring plays are easy to follow and identify, and the real-world tournament culminates as a nationally televised event. This makes it an easy sport to engage with and enjoy from a fantasy perspective. It's easy to track your six players, whether they're making birdies or bogeys and if they are climbing or falling on the leaderboard. It's similar to football , in that respect, where you know when your player has the ball and when he's in the red zone. Similarly, you know what hole your guys' are on, when they're close to the pin and when they're having a blow-up hole. Plus, if one of your guys is in a featured pairing or in the hunt come Sunday, it's easy to find coverage and follow along with every swing.

RotoWire: Does golf being an individual sport make it more attractive for daily fantasy play than team sports?

Borod: Generally, it does because it gives people a "team" to root for where they otherwise wouldn't have one. There's always that guilty feeling when you draft someone playing against your favorite NFL team. You don't need to deal with that in fantasy golf. You draft your team and suddenly you're a Jordan Spieth fan this week or even a Patrick Reed fan the next. It gives you a real rooting interest making the viewing experience that much more engaging.

RotoWire: How many people play fantasy golf on FanDuel weekly? How much of a bump is there in that number for majors? And for tournaments that Tiger Woods is in?

Borod: While we can't share the exact numbers, we're seeing great growth and adoption this season. There is a huge uplift for majors. Daily fantasy , for all sports, generally sees an uptick during the peak moments of the sporting calendar like the Masters, the U.S. Open, the NBA finals or the Super Bowl. When people are planning on watching anyway, fantasy golf provides a natural second screen experience. And, of course, when the greatest player ever is in there and contending, more people are going to want to tune in on television and compete online.

RotoWire: What was the effect on daily fantasy golf when Tiger Woods returned in 2018?

Borod: The effect was significant, and his success last year has had great momentum for the game of golf , both fantasy and otherwise. I read a great quote somewhere on the Tiger effect: Tiger doesn't move the needle, he is the needle.  

RotoWire: Do many people play golf on FanDuel just for fun, without money? Is there some sort of breakdown for what percentage of people play for different amounts of money (for example: $5 or less, $10, more than $20, etc.)?

Borod: Week to week, the vast majority of users play for money. For the majors, however, you get a large group of users who like to play in free contests. Two reasons for that. First, we usually have bigger free play offerings through the majors, so there is naturally more interest in playing. Second, lots of casual golf fans really only pay attention during the majors, so they want to draft some teams for these tournaments. Again, when people are interested in watching on TV, they want to get a fantasy team together for that second screen experience.

RotoWire: The expanding legalization of sports betting in the United States – will that benefit daily fantasy sports/golf?

Borod: Sports betting at FanDuel has been up and running in New Jersey for almost a year, and in that time we have not seen a downturn. In some instances, we've actually seen an increase in new players in New Jersey.  We see the expansion of sports betting being good for our business as a whole. It will naturally create even more interest in golf, which we hope will lead to increased engagement with our fantasy product.

RotoWire: The PGA Tour offers its own fantasy games. Does that help/hurt FanDuel?

Borod: I think our product is sufficiently different from the PGA's that it can only be helpful to get more people interested in fantasy golf. As people pay more attention to golf because of fantasy on one site, they'll naturally have more interest in the sport as a whole, and we'd expect that to make our addressable market even bigger. What's good for golf is ultimately good for fantasy golf on FanDuel.

RotoWire: Do you know of any professional (or college) athletes playing daily fantasy sports? Any golfers?

Borod: There are athletes who play , but obviously we don't allow them to play in the sports they participate in.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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Len Hochberg
Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.
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