Although we have our mainstream “major” sports around the corner, I’ve spent the past few months in the golf space. An avid golfer, and a follower of the sport for years — wagering on this beautiful game was always an afterthought. After intaking some golf content earlier this summer, making a few friends on #GamblingTwitter, I came out guns blazing picking two outright winners in consecutive tournaments. While hitting outrights each week is not sustainable (nor very likely) I have found handicapping and projecting golf to be an exciting new project of mine.
As this is my first article, I’ll give a brief overview into my process. From there we’ll head to the links of Dublin, Ohio’s very own Muirfield Village GC — home of this weekend’s Memorial Tournament, and one of the greatest golfers to live, Mr. Jack Nicklaus.
Betting on Golf:
Golf is a fun betting market, where not only can you bet an individual golfer to win, but you can bet them to finish top 5/10/20, make/miss the cut, or my personal favorite in matchups. The outright bets, and top finishes speak for themselves — If your golfer wins, you get paid. If he loses, you don’t. With matchups you are betting Golfer A to beat Golfer B. A matchup works similar to betting the spread in football or basketball, but you also have the ability to bet them on the moneyline. Similar to soccer, the moneyline comes in two varieties 1) Tie = no bet. 2) tie = loss. The odds on the second option tend to be a bit greater. You can differentiate between the two by simply seeing if a third option is displayed under both golfers that says “tie” or “draw”. With matchups, you can bet over the course of a tournament or you can bet for a single round.
The GVD Process:
While I am a huge proponent of flat betting (betting same amounts across all bets) because outrights and top finishes offer such high odds, we stake golf a bit differently than you would a matchup. Think of outrights/top finishes as futures, while matchups are your bread & butter bets on a single game. My card each week is broken down to allocate a certain amount of funds to each type of offerings.
Outrights: I do not go super heavy on these. As I don’t typically bet the “favorite” instead using the data provided by the fine folks at Fantasy National Golf (www.fantasynational.com) and some analysis and thoughts of my own – I find 5-7 golfers I like and stake smaller units on them. To ensure I have no favoritism amongst my outrights, I always bet the outrights to win 6 units. I do not exceed 1-2 units at risk across all outrights.
Top Finishes: Similar thought process applies, however I stake to win 1 unit. My favorite “top finish” bets are Top 20 — simply because you have more shots at your golfer(s) landing in that finishing position. I do not exceed 1-2 units at risk across all top finishes.
Other Options: Sometimes I will bet golfers to make or miss the cut. Sometimes I will bet which golfer I believe will finish first amongst his fellow countrymen. I stake these bets to win 1 unit.
Matchups: These are my favorite options, and I believe it is where I have my largest edge (variance in expectation, relative to the prices being offered). I tend to bet these by risking 1 unit, regardless of price — unless my analysis/thought process dictates otherwise. I tend to load up most on full tournament matchups, and before/after each round I try to find 3-5 round matchups to target as well.
Units Risked: My target is to typically have anywhere from 20-28 units risked over the four days of a given golf tournament. For me, this is an amount I have found to be sustainable enough while ensuring I have an edge to profit/break even. Could I bet more? Sure… But when variance or “bad luck” find me — I don’t want to be staring down the barrel of a largely negative outcome. At this amount, I could handle some losses, but thus far — profitability has been sustained.
Muirfield Village GC is a Jack Nicklaus designed course. Never heard of him? Well, the man reigned supreme in the golf world for 20+ years, culminating in 73 PGA Tour victories, including winning each of the majors at least 3 times. Second only to his professional golf career, Mr. Nicklaus has built quite the resume of designing amazing, championship quality golf courses around the world — one of which is Muirfield Village GC, in Nicklaus’s hometown of Dublin, Ohio.
Muirfield Village is a Par 72 course, spanning just shy of 7400 yards from the tips. The fairways of the course are lined with trees as well as an obscene amount of fairway bunkers. The bent grass greens are fast, frequently among the fastest on tour and protected by bunkers or water on many holes. Although we just saw this course at the Workday Charity Open, the team at Muirfield Village has allowed the rough to grow longer and the greens have been manicured to reflect their traditional fast speeds that we have seen at Memorial Tournaments for the past 40+ years.
Because of the design of this course, we often view this course as one friendliest to those with strong iron play, an ability to get out of bunkers when necessary and the ability to get hot with the putter. Although this course favors that particular profile of golfer, those with long drivers and the ability to keep their shots on target are not to be overlooked. Golfers with weak iron play, or a history of struggling in bunkers or rough tend to perform worse here.
Enough of the fancy golf talk, we all are here for the picks, right? I’ll break down a selection of offerings from most portions of my card (excluding Round 1 Matchups). My full card will be found at the base of this article and if you have questions — shoot me a message on twitter.
Odds are as of when I placed the bets. Golf is a fickle market, do your homework in shopping around for the best possible odds.
Patrick Cantlay (+1400): Mr. Consistent. Over the past 24 months, Cantlay has established himself as one of the most talented golfers in the world. Having only missed two cuts in the past 24 months, it is hard to overlook Patrick Cantlay — who just happens to be the defending champion of this tournament. Cantlay is long and straight off the tee, but his irons are what truly set him apart consistently ranking as one of the top ball strikers on tour. Given his pedigree and a previous victory at Muirfield Village, he is the guy nearest the top of the board I bet.
Tiger Woods (+2500): The king is back. El Tigre has not been seen playing competitive golf since the tour was stopped due to COVID-19. In his first tournament back, he chose the Memorial Tournament, an event he has won five times previously. Tiger fits the profile necessary to win this tournament to a tee. Arguably the greatest iron player of all time, an ability to get out of the rough/bunkers and can catch fire on the putting green like no one else — at 25-1, Tiger needed a spot on my card.
Abraham Ancer (+5000): Ancer has the third longest odds amongst my outright plays. The young Mexican-American golfer has earned a spot on my card, simply from his crisp iron play. Ancer ranks first in the past 2 months in Strokes Gained: Approach, a statistic I feel is paramount to win this tournament. Another highlight on Ancer is his ability to consistently hit fairways and greens in regulation — which sets him up for numerous birdie opportunities. In fact, he is eighth in opportunities gained in that same time span.
Daniel Berger (Top 10 +350): In addition to a fun name, Berger also has ice in his veins. He won the 2020 Charles Schwab Classic in June, in a playoff. THAT is exactly the type of golfer you want down the stretch of a tournament. Berger profiles as an amazing ball striker, putter, and wedge player who has gained strokes against the field in 9 of his last 10 tournaments. He ranks #1 in my power ratings based on statistics over the past 3 months. Note: Berger has been top 10 in his last five tournaments.
Kevin Streelman (Top 20 +275): Another superb ball striker, Mr. Kevin Streelman struggled immediately after returning from the COVID break, but has performed great the past two tournaments. Streelman keeps it long and straight off the tee, which sets up for some crisp iron play. Streelman is no stiff on the greens either, often finding the ability to convert difficult putts. Streelman has been one of the best all-around golfers the past two tournaments, with no glaring weaknesses in his game.
Henrik Norlander (Top 20 +830): This is a bit more of a gut play, simply because I love this dude. His iron play is great, and he always seems to find a way to avoid bogeys (#6 in the field the past 2 months). While his putting at times leaves something to be desired, last week at Muirfield Village the swede gained 3.6 strokes putting, showing he is not completely incompetent when on his game.
Full Tournament Matchups
Rory Sabbatini -1.5 o Phil Mickelson (-105): This is one of my favorite bets of the week. What has Phil done over the past few months that has instilled confidence that he is consistent enough to be at the top of the leaderboard? Sabbatini aka “The Other Rory” is one of the premier putters in the field this week, plays his irons well and has an affinity for par 4s, which this course is loaded with.
Daniel Berger o Rickie Fowler (-105): You’re shitting me… right? Rickie Fowler, despite being the apple of the PGA’s eye — is one of the least consistent golfers in the world. His game has been all over the place… one week he can’t hit the ball off a tee, the next he struggles on the tee. While Berger ranks #1 for my numbers, Fowler is #40. Give me the über competitive ginger, Daniel Berger to win.
Dustin Johnson o Jon Rahm (+115): Remember earlier when I talked about guys with long drivers? Okay, remember how I said it is important to keep it straight, but also have good iron play? “One of these things is not like the other…” and in this scenario Jon Rahm Rodriguez, is the odd man out. DJ showed how well he can play his irons, and is known as one of the clutch putters on tour. Rahm has struggled as of late, not only with keeping his tee shot in play, but looks absolutely lost when his ball lands in a bunker. At plus-money, I’ll back DJ — despite Rahm still being one of the most talented golfers in the world.
Lucas Glover -1.5 o Scottie Scheffler (+120): I love this bet. This line almost feels wrong, thats how much I love this bet. Glover opened a -103 favorite to Scottie, before his number quickly drifted higher. Glover fits the profile that I like for this tournament, while Scottie Don’t. Scheffler has missed three consecutive cuts, while Glover finds himself in the top 25 of those very tournaments… Don’t even get me started on Scheffler’s approach play.
Top Region/Top Countryman
Hideki Matsuyama (Top Asian +130): I know everyone loves to talk about Sung Jae Im and how much he loves golf and how much he played over the COVID break, but results in tournaments speak louder. Since the restart, Hideki has out played Im in every tournament. Hideki has been top 25 in the last two tournaments, while Im has not cracked the top 50. Hideki frequently gains more strokes on approach, than Im gains strokes total. The one weak spot in Hideki’s game is his putting and we will need him to hold it together on the greens this week to win us this bet.