News & Opinion

It’s your last shot at a Masters pool, so follow these rules

It’s Masters week, and after getting humiliated in your office NCAA basketball tournament pool – yeah, you were the genius who had Villanova to win it all – you’d like to regain some face. And maybe some loose change.

So, on the eve of the 81st Masters, here’s one way to run your own decent pool:

Step 1: Don’t have a player draft. Remember what a nightmare marathon it is drafting players in your fantasy football league? It takes forever, and you’ve got to juggle schedules for 10 or 12 team managers – and, oh yeah, Howie and Eduardo work evenings, so that’s out. Instead, go with an entry form so each entrant can select his or her Masters lineup.

Step 2: Invoke college golf. Don’t tell the NCAA that you’re borrowing its format for a wagering vehicle. They’ve been neck-deep in basketball brackets, so I don’t think it’s a problem. Your Masters pool will be scored just like a college golf event. You field a team of five players. The best four scores among your starting five each round is your team score. Lowest total team score after four rounds wins.

Step 3: Incentivize your poolsters to enter a second time in order to reduce the likelihood of duplicate entries. Say you charge $15 for one entry, $20 for two . . . but you can’t use the same player on more than one entry. Hmm, so maybe I’ll put Rory McIlroy on my B Squad to shore up that team in case Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler happen to get hot. A second entry allows for more strategy, which was needed when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were ruling golf with iron fists and half of the entries were going to have both of them on the same squad. A second team makes you consider spreading the wealth and taking more long shots.

Step 4: Encourage your poolsters to enter a second time to avoid this pool’s biggest danger: not having an entry on the weekend. If two of your five players fail to make the cut, you’ve got only three players left and can’t post a four-player score, so you’re eliminated. In my experience with this Masters pool – purely hypothetical, of course – rarely does a poolster who files only one entry finish in the money. Check the last few Masters and notice big names who miss the cut. You’ll be surprised how often it happens. Last year’s players who had Masters weekend off included Mickelson, Fowler, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell and Ryan Moore.

Step 5: Add innovative options as you wish, and at your own risk. You could, say, allow entrants to substitute one player in his lineup in each round. That could add to the fun at the expense of you, the pool commissioner, fielding late-night emails and texts before the next round. It also likely would lead to more similarity of entries as entrants jump aboard the bandwagon of whichever player shot a low first- or second-round score. The Masters awards crystal for eagles and low round of the day. Maybe you want to pay out bonuses for something like that, too, or a bonus to the player who makes the most birdies for the week. In last year’s hypothetical Masters pool, which I did not run, there was a bonus for picking the winner of the Par-3 Contest. 

Step 6: Collect the money in advance. It’s amazing how much less some people are interested in paying up once they’ve already been eliminated. Stupid Villanova.

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email:gvansick@aol.com; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle