PGA-themed daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests have generally proven to be a success for DraftKings – the sport has built an enthusiastic following in the daily fantasy realm since debuting on the site in January 2014.
The DFS industry leader has run multiple contests with multi-million dollar prize pools over the years for all major PGA tournaments. It also got a three-year head start on its biggest rival in this regard. FanDuel did not roll out a PGA product until March 2017. It had primarily stayed away prior to that due to Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) concerns.
DK’s latest golf innovation- Match Play
Not one to rest on its laurels – especially during a time when product innovation seems to be the name of the game in DFS – DraftKings served up a new PGA game format last weekend that mirrored the scoring system of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament.
The WGC-Dell event consisted of a round-robin tournament with 64 golfers overall. They were divided into 16 groups of four players. DraftKings rolled out its new Match Play format just for the event.
The WGC-Dell’s match play rules deviate from standard “stroke play” golf in that it features head-to-head competition between pairs of golfers.
In match play, winners are determined by how many holes and matches a golfer wins. That’s in contrast to stroke play, where each golfer competes with the others in a tournament from the onset. In stroke play, the golfer with the lowest score overall at the end of 18 holes is considered the winner.
Accordingly, DraftKings scoring system for their Match Play contests was as follows:
- Holes won: +3 points
- Halved holes: +0.75 points
- Holes lost: -0.75 points
- Unplayed holes: +1.6 points
- Matches won: +5 points
- Matches halved: +2 points
- Three consecutive winning holes: +5 points bonus
- No holes lost in a match: +7.5 points bonus
While the scoring was different from DraftKings’ standard PGA offerings – where points are awarded based on traditional categories such as bogeys, eagles, birdies, and par – Match Play contests still featured a $50,000 salary cap and six-golfer roster.
DFS currently riding an innovation wave
Despite those similarities, Match Play contests still differ enough from the conventional format to qualify as the latest example of DraftKings’ willingness to explore new contest variants.
FanDuel seemingly took the lead in this regard several months ago with the creation of its LABS initiative. DraftKings has attempted to keep pace with the introduction of its Showdown (single-game format) during the NFL playoffs and its Pick ‘Em format (no salary cap) the prior summer.
Most of the new offerings that have come down the pike from both industry heavyweights share a common theme –simplicity. Any DFS format that has fewer hoops to jump through – i.e. salary caps and full rosters – is likely to catch the eye and hold the interest of the casual player that may just be sampling the product, possibly looking for an alternative to sports betting.
Moreover, the simplified formats likely up the odds of success to some degree. That’s naturally one of the best incentives for a new player to become a repeat customer.
Match Play seems to be following in those footsteps, even with its conventional roster size and salary cap. The head-to-head format and scoring centered on clear won/loss-based outcomes are much likelier to appeal to a novice PGA DFS player. Multiple bonus opportunities also drive up scoring. That’s usually a tried-and-true method of making a fantasy contest all the more entertaining in the eyes of the participant.
Additionally, having a format that mirrors the only one of the four major WGC events not to be played with stroke play rules gives DraftKings a golden opportunity to feed into a previously untapped segment of DFS golf.