First, I’ll start by saying I’m beyond excited to see the return of golf after a hiatus of 90-plus days. For me, the UFC and NASCAR are cool, and I’ve really dove deep into the wagering pool with those sports (and actually fared nicely), but I really can’t get enough of researching and betting golf, especially large events, and since we have had nothing because of COVID-19, this would absolutely qualify as large.
Speaking of large, the field is at 148 golfers with 16 of the top 20 players in the world set to battle it out come Thursday morning.
Now when it comes to wagering on golf, I have a few factors that I consider in doing my research.
First is something that would be common in any situation and that is how a golfer’s season is going. In these circumstances, that measuring stick is hard to use since we have been away from the action for so long. Still, the PGA has played enough tournaments to amass a plethora of stats to use in handicapping.
For example, let’s use American Patrick Reed. The Texas-born Reed’s odds are +300 to finish in the top 10 and +2800 to win the Charles Schwab Challenge. Heading into Thursday, Reed is ranked seventh in the world golf rankings, he’s second on the tour in one putts, and he has finished 17th or better in eight of his last 10 tournaments. Last time I checked, he would fit the bill when considering lesson No. 1.
The next rule is how “hot” a golfer is at the time of an event. This law gets a pass this time since we have been away from the game for so long. If we were using the statistics from the last few tournaments, though, Rory McIlroy (the world No. 1 golfer) would be that guy.
The Northern Ireland native has played in just six events in 2019-20 but has top-10 finishes in every one of them. He also has two third-place finishes and a win at the WGC in Shanghai at the beginning of November.
However, something to be aware of is that McIlroy has never played here and won’t have the benefit of his long game on this course. If Rory were to win this, it would be especially impressive considering his short game will have to be on.
My third factor would be whether a certain wager represents good value. What I mean by good value is a price that you feel is better than it should be.
A sample of that in my eyes is American Kevin Na’s odds. Na is 11th on the FedExCup points leaderboard and is ranked 31st in the world. He finished fourth here two years ago and just so happens to be the defending champ as well. Yet, you can bet Na at +500 for a top-10 finish, +250 for a top-20, and he is +6000 to win it all. With those numbers, his value is worth a play.
The Golden Rule
Now we get to my golden rule of betting golf. Some golf courses just fit a player’s game perfectly and some … well, some just don’t. A bad play this weekend is American Bubba Watson, who has never played Colonial because of the length of the course. A guy who could possibly be the longest hitter on tour some days shouldn’t be playing this course that possesses only two total par 5s. These greens are firm and fast and that won’t help Watson either considering he is 143rd on the tour in birdie average.
Tiger Woods, who isn’t playing this week, is a prime example for this situation with eight career wins at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando). He has dominated this course in his career, with five of those eight triumphs coming by at least two strokes, including one by an astonishing 11. Tiger is also the “master” at The Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Woods has donned the green jacket five times in his illustrious career.
A guy who always puts on a good show at Colonial is Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth. Spieth scored a top-eight last year, and his second-place finishes in 2015 and 2017 sandwiched a victory in ’16 by three strokes over Harris English and four over Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson.
Those are my most important factors in wagering on golf now that it is back and in full swing. Here are a few plays for the tournament that register in my thought process.
Kevin Kisner -120, Bubba Watson +110
As I said, this course is the opposite of what Watson likes, thus the reason he has never played here. Kisner is a solid golfer and has won at this course in the past.
Pick: Kisner -120
Justin Rose -120, Marc Leishman +110
Rose won here two years ago and finished one shot off the course record at -20.
Pick: Rose -120
Brooks Koepka -120, Dustin Johnson -110
Johnson was playing awful golf (mainly his putting) before play was halted and this course won’t treat him well either. In 2018, Koepka scored a second-place finish and had not one but two rounds of 63.
Pick: Koepka -120
Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson both to miss the cut +350
My reasons on Bubba are too good to pass up and Mickelson (will be 50 this year) has only played here twice since 2010 (one missed cut).
Top 20 Finish
Justin Rose +155, Jordan Spieth +155
I expect both to set themselves up with many birdie opportunities.
Jon Rahm +1100
On Halloween I discussed with of all people the great Tony Romo that this is going to be the season that puts Rahm in the grouping of major winners. He agreed wholeheartedly. Rahm is fourth on tour in putting average and has two top-five performances in the past three tournaments at Colonial.