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One Year Later: Stats and Strategies I’ve Learned to Bet the PGA

Pamela Maldonado shares her golf tips she's learned in the past year on how to bet PGA.

Raise your hand if you started betting on the PGA in 2020 because the pandemic shut down most sports and you didn’t want to touch Korean baseball. Or you started betting the PGA because you figured if we’re firing on KBO and Russian table tennis, then, of course, you should also be taking a stab at the PGA.

Regardless of how you got here, if you are like me, then you are approaching your one-year anniversary of PGA betting. I started with the restart, with the Charles Schwab Challenge last June, and have been betting ever since.

Nearly one year later, here is what I found to be most useful when wagering on the PGA:

PGA Stats To Use For Betting

I love stats and the PGA offers so many stats, but I find in golf, it’s better to “keep it simple, stupid.” I do everything on pen and paper, making it easy for me to go back and see which stats I have heavily used throughout the last year. My three favorites have been Strokes Gained Approach the Green, SG Tee-to-Green, and Birdie or Better Percentage.

Strokes Gained Approach the Green (SG APP)

Basically, SG APP is how well a player hits their irons leading up to the green after their tee shot, excluding around the green, and considers distance and accuracy. Why heavily weight this stat? Because what good is having a stud quarterback if you have a wonky offensive line that can’t defend him? It’s a similar effect here.

You could have a good tee shot, or even just decent, but you can’t capitalize on that tee shot if you have a poor iron shot. Instead, you are left with someone needing to still chip up or hit the green but can’t hit the ball close enough to the hole for a birdie opportunity. It’s not a coincidence you see the best iron players in contention each week. Keegan Bradley, third in SG APP this year, just took second place at last week’s Valspar event. Corey Conners, fifth in 2021, has racked up six top-20s, including four top-10 finishes.

In football, I go straight to a pass rush vs an offensive line. In golf, I go straight to considering the best iron players.

Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green (SG T2G)

This stat considers every shot minus putting relative to the field. I tend to use this more than SG APP on courses that are longer, on courses that have narrow fairways leaving the likely scenario that players will not need to hit a driver off the tee, and on difficult courses where missing the fairways and missing the greens in regulation has a higher probability and therefore, I need to see how a player does collectively from … tee-to-green.

The Masters was one tournament I weighed tee-to-green more than approach and it proved helpful as Will Zalatoris was a big play of mine, ranking sixth in the field for tee-to-green.

Birdie or Better Percentage

By definition, this is “the percent of time a score of birdie or better is recorded.” Simple enough. It seems like every week, the tournament on deck has an opportunity of seeing low scores. Although I don’t use this as a main stat, I rely on it as a supplement, the one most often utilized in my betting process. If a tournament had the previous winners scoring 12 to 20 under par, yeah, I really want to see if a player is capable of making birdies.

Sam Burns just won the Valspar event, and he ranks sixth in this stat category and entered the tournament ranking 14th. Now if it’s a bit more of a difficult course and the winning score is something like 3 to 5 under par, then I won’t use this stat, as it is clear birdies are hard to come by.

Where to see these stats: PGA Tour is your go-to source. However, there are two sites I found to be useful: RickRunGood and Fantasy National. I only use one, but you should decide which you like to navigate most.

Being Selective: Tough to Do

I went on a bit of a dry spell, going like 0-6 or something absurd in my golf YouTube videos for Odds Shark. However, I was turning a profit each week. How did the two not align? I was attempting to give a single play for YouTube but my betting card actually consisted of five to eight plays. I somehow managed to give the one losing play every week but as a whole, my betting card would do well.

I’m actually a very selective bettor. Especially for a sport like football, less is typically more. However, I’ve learned that in golf, you have to be OK with betting a bit more volume. My favorite type of wagers to bet on the PGA are top-20s and full tournament head-to-head. Top-20 plays are typically plus-money options since there are so many players in the field. I definitely don’t mind volume betting on plus-money options. It’s volume betting on juiced minus options that I try to avoid. You can go 2-3 in top-20 plays but still turn a profit because of the plus-money wagers.

Avoid Over-Committing

I learned a big lesson from betting the Valspar Championship – avoid over-committing to one player. I was so convinced Corey Conners would just dominate the field that I took him top 20, top 10, top five, to win, and in a head-to-head. Well, what happens when that player underperforms? You lose everything because you put all your eggs in one basket.

If you love a player, don’t spread him through every betting option. Are there times it works out? Sure. I also loved Jordan Spieth for the Valero Texas Open and fortunately that worked out, but more often than not, it won’t.

If I stuck to my normal top-20 plays instead of adding top 10 and top five, I would have turned a profit. Instead, because I over-committed, I had a small loss. As I say, if you are getting plus money on a top 20, that’s value for me and I don’t feel the need to extend further.

I’ve actually written a “what I learned” about betting on the PGA. Looking back, that was ... not helpful but it was only after five weeks of betting. I was a newb to PGA wagering but after a year of trial and error, seeing what works and doesn’t work for me, I believe these tips can prove to be useful.