Navigating LIV Golfers in "The Albatross" on Underdog Fantasy

Mar 3rd 2023

Nick DeMott

Professional golf revolves around the four majors, which are the four biggest and most important tournaments of the year. With golf's best players divided between different tours–mainly PGA and LIV–there's even greater anticipation to see the most talented golfers in the world competing against each other for these four weeks.

The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Open Championship will act as the battlegrounds for The Albatross, a golf best ball tournament centered around these four major championships in 2023.

Ever since LIV Golf formed a year ago, the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) have served as a focal point for debate and scrutiny.

LIV tournaments do not award world-ranking points.

As a result, LIV golfers have plummeted down the OWGR, and this is important because world rank is a significant factor in deciding which golfers ultimately get invited to the majors.

The good news for LIV golfers is that world rank is not the sole factor in deciding who gets to compete in the four majors. There are other criteria and exemptions that will allow LIV golfers–who aren't ranked high enough in the OWGR–to have a spot in these tournaments.

The most well-known example of this: past champions of The Masters are granted a lifetime exemption to play at Augusta every year. This means LIV golfers like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, and Sergio Garcia will compete in the 2023 Masters.

There are various types of these exemptions and other qualification methods that span across all four majors.

Are LIV Golfers Eligible for the Majors?

Short answer: Yes.

Golfers who joined LIV Golf were effectively banned from the PGA Tour. However, the PGA Tour does NOT directly govern any of the majors.

For those who don't know, each major championship is its own separate and distinct entity:

  • Augusta National Golf Club/The Masters Committee decides who can play in The Masters.

  • The PGA of America decides who can play in the PGA Championship.

  • The United States Golf Association (USGA) decides who can play in the U.S. Open.

  • The R&A decides who can play in the Open Championship (aka "The Open").

To that end, all four majors have announced their eligibility and exemption criteria for 2023 and all four tournaments have decided that *QUALIFIED* LIV Golf players will be allowed to compete.

Which LIV Golfers are *Qualified* for the Majors?

Shoutout to @Robopz on Twitter for tweeting this chart out. Please give him a follow or send kind words of thanks his way.

LIV golfers *confirmed* to be qualified for all four majors: Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, and Phil Mickelson.

LIV golfers *likely* to be qualified for all four majors: Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Talor Gooch, and Thomas Pieters.


The Masters:

  • The list of LIV golfers competing in The Masters is basically set.

  • There are two remaining criteria for getting into The Masters:

    • Ranking top 50 in the OWGR on April 2nd (unlikely if not inside the top 50 already since LIV tournaments don't offer OWGR points)

    • Winning a PGA Tour event (not possible)

PGA Championship:

  • 9 LIV golfers are already exempt to play in the PGA Championship.

  • LIV golfers ranked well inside the top 100 are pretty safe to receive invites as well.

U.S. Open:

  • LIV golfers not already exempt or qualified for the U.S. Open will have the opportunity to enter sectional qualifiers.

    • This is challenging to estimate without knowing which players will even attempt these qualifiers.

Open Championship:

  • LIV golfers not already exempt or qualified for The Open can earn a place in the field through the Open Qualifying Series. That information is found here.

    • Similar to the U.S. Open, it's just tough to know which LIV golfers will attempt to (or even have the opportunity to) play in these qualifying events.

As always, we will continue to tweet out the latest news and notes regarding LIV players' inclusion in the majors.

LIV Golfers to Target in Drafts

Dustin Johnson - ADP 15.4

The bullish case for Dustin Johnson is that he plays to his past pedigree. He's a 2x major winner, 24x PGA Tour winner, and former number-one-ranked golfer in the world. These accomplishments are fairly recent too. DJ won The Masters at the end of 2020 and ranked number one in the world as recently as the summer of 2021.

Contrary to the 37th-place finish at Mayakoba to start the 2023 LIV Golf season, I don't believe DJ's game has fallen off a cliff. He won LIV Boston and finished top-5 in nearly every other LIV event in the Fall.

While the merit of those LIV tournament finishes is debatable, it's worth pointing out that Dustin Johnson is currently 14th in DataGolf's ranking system–ahead of Cam Smith whose ADP is a few spots higher.

DJ's major championship results were good but not great in 2022: T12 at The Masters, MC at the PGA Championship, T24 at the U.S. Open, and T6 at the Open Championship. Certainly not bad finishes for a big-name golfer at the center of an upstart league receiving lots of criticism.

Touting Dustin Johnson is not some groundbreaking take, but it just feels like a golfer who might still belong in the top-5 conversation but gets drafted 10+ spots later.

(A lot of these same points can be made about Brooks Koepka whose ADP is currently 31.9).

Joaquin Niemann - ADP 26.6

Joaquin Niemann's wire-to-wire victory at the 2022 Genesis Invitational was one of the most impressive performances last season on the PGA Tour.

Since Niemann did not leave for LIV Golf until after the TOUR Championship, we can look at his stats and finishes from the entire 2021-22 season which culminated in a T11 at East Lake for the Tour Championship.

Niemann ranked 10th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+1.34) last season, just ahead of golfers like Xander Schauffele (+1.31), Jon Rahm (+1.29), and Patrick Cantlay (+1.16).

Also in the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, Niemann ranked 14th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 19th in SG: Approach. He was one of the most consistent ball strikers week-in and week-out.

Niemann's weakness has been his around-the-green play, but he improved dramatically in that stat category from 2021 to 2022. He ranked 138th on the PGA Tour in SG: Around-the-Green in 2021 and then rose to 35th in 2022.

The drawback for Niemann is that he has middling finishes in majors so far in his career (T23 at the 2020 U.S. Open is his best). That said, if you believe the 24-year-old Chilean's improvements from a year ago can translate to the majors then Niemann stands as a great option.

Honorable Mention: Patrick Reed - ADP 53.0

Patrick Reed is qualified for 3-of-4 major championships right now, but I can envision him doing everything in his power to try and qualify for the U.S. Open.

In between LIV events, Reed has been making starts on both the DP World Tour and Asian Tour in order to earn ranking points. A solo 2nd place finish at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, in which Reed battled throughout the week with Rory McIlroy following 'tee-gate', boosted him from 90th in the world rankings to 57th.

That battle with Rory sort of reminded me that Reed is going to show up to majors championships in 2023 with something to prove and not backing down from the PGA Tour's stars. Of course this is very narrative driven stuff...

But Reed has excellent course history at Augusta–a win and two other top-10 finishes. He has a solo-4th at the 2018 U.S. Open and multiple other top-20 finishes (no surprise that Reed can hang in there at a difficult tournament like the U.S. Open given how good his short game is).

Reed's ADP ultimately feels fair, hovering in the same vacinity as PGA players like J.T. Poston, Gary Woodland, and Russell Henley.

The Format

The Albatross starts with a 6-person snake draft. This 6-person draft room makes up your league for Round 1, which is for The Masters.

The ONE (1) team that scores the most points for The Masters advances to Round 2.

Teams that advance to Round 2 will be placed in new 12-person groups. In Round 2, teams are competing to score the most points at the PGA Championship. The TWO (2) teams that score the most points for the PGA Championship advance to Round 3.

Teams that advance to Round 3 will be placed in new 12-person groups once again and compete to score the most points at the U.S. Open. The TWO (2) teams that score the most points for the U.S. Open advance to Round 4.

Round 4 will consist of the final 260 entries competing for the top prizes. Teams in Round 4 will compete to score the most points at The Open Championship.

In Short:

  • Round 1 - The Masters (April 6th-9th)

    • 1/6 advance (9,360 total entries advance)

  • Round 2 - PGA Championship (May 18th-21st)

    • 2/12 advance (1,560 total entries advance)

  • Round 3 - U.S. Open (June 15th-18th)

    • 2/12 advance (260 total entries advance)

  • Round 4 - The Open Championship (July 20th-23rd)

    • 260 team finale

Here's how the prize breakdown works: