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Despite losses, return of golf betting a positive

Even if the result was not what most of us wanted, it was therapeutic to spend four days watching a great golf tournament. It’s a mental game of highs and lows, full of lessons applicable to daily life and a reminder that achieving success is mostly about the power of a positive attitude.

The late, great Arnold Palmer once spoke with wisdom on the subject.

“The whole secret to mastering the game of golf is to cultivate a mental approach to the game that will enable you to shrug off the bad days, keep patient and know in your heart that sooner or later you will be back on top,” Palmer said. “Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind.”

Not to get too philosophical, but those are words to live by if you are a sports bettor — recreational player or pro. Positive thinking is a powerful way to overcome bad days. The last few months have been mostly about chaos and negative news, with the fallout turning the sports world upside down. It’s not always easy to be optimistic, but it’s a must.

The return of the PGA Tour after a three-month hiatus was a needed distraction and a wild ride that ended with Daniel Berger winning the Charles Schwab Challenge at 80/1 odds. Berger walked away with the victory in Fort Worth, Texas, partly because he avoided the big mistake that took down every other contender on an intense Sunday.

I know two people who bet on Berger — VSiN program director Brian Rogers and professional handicapper Paul Stone — and several more who were disappointed. It’s rewarding to cash a golf futures ticket, but it’s difficult to do, and there was no better example than this tournament.

Collin Morikawa (40/1) and his betting backers experienced the agony of defeat and took a bad beat when the 23-year-old rising star blew two short putts down the stretch. Morikawa missed a 6-foot birdie putt to win on the 72nd hole and missed again from 3 feet on the first playoff hole to hand the trophy to Berger. Those of us who gamble with friends on the golf course know there are no gimme putts, and that’s especially true when tournament pressure is cranked up.

Xander Schauffele (25/1) emerged with a one-stroke lead after the third round, when seven other players claimed at least a share of the lead. Schauffele, a former San Diego State golfer, has become my favorite player because he has a complete game and is mentally tough. At one point on Sunday’s back nine it appeared he was going to win, but then Schauffele hit out of a fairway bunker into a pond and later inexplicably missed a 3-foot putt on the 17th hole.

Bryson DeChambeau (25/1) also took a turn at the top of the leaderboard. A late bogey doomed the bulked-up hulk and kept him out of the playoff. Jordan Spieth (50/1) was one stroke off the lead going into Sunday, but he fell apart mentally, blasted a drive out of bounds and finished in a tie for 10th to extend his three-year winless streak.

I had bets on Schauffele, DeChambeau, Spieth and Justin Thomas (17/1), who was in position to win after three rounds yet did nothing Sunday.

The suspense of the final round was reminiscent of the Masters last year, when several players had shots to win before Tiger Woods claimed his first major championship in more than a decade. Not even the absence of Woods could kill the buzz in Texas last week. It was not a major, but it had the feel of something big and was bet that way.

“The wagering handle was really good,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It was definitely comparable to a major — not a Masters, but any of the other three majors.”

With the Major League Baseball season in jeopardy, the NBA restart in limbo and the NHL playoffs still about six weeks away, the PGA Tour will help fill a gaping hole in a sports calendar that has been dominated by weekly UFC cards. Almost three months after a mid-March shutdown, golf returned to the sports spotlight and took full advantage by putting on a phenomenal show.

“A lot of people will be introduced to golf betting and will stick with it,” Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “People like to play long odds, and there are a lot of those opportunities in golf. You get a run for the money and enjoy it. It was awesome. It was totally wide open on the weekend and still wide open coming down to the last few holes.

“But it was a tough one with Morikawa.”

Most bets come with sweat, for better or worse. Sherman took a bad beat on his Morikawa wager, as did Bogdanovich, a veteran bookmaker who took the personal loss in stride because the golf weekend was good for business.

“If I had to pick the next great golfer, it would be Morikawa,” Bogdanovich said. “He let one slip away, that’s for sure. But it was a good winner for us.”

A bettor at DraftKings sportsbook in Colorado wagered $1,000 on Berger at 71-1 odds. Berger, 27, picked up his third PGA Tour win. He has never finished in the top five in a major.

Long shots are the primary attraction to golf betting. Five-figure wagers are rare in golf, which is why Saturday’s weak UFC card had a bigger handle, but golf will get a boost and welcome in a lot of new bettors this summer.

Young guns such as Berger and Morikawa add to the star power. Woods will return soon. Rory McIlroy will rebound. McIlroy, the pre-tournament favorite in Texas, was a flop in the final round. Some other popular players who missed the cut — Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler — will be getting higher odds in the coming weeks.

I handicap golf tournaments primarily on a player’s course form and current form. I look for odds value on the futures board and rarely play the favorite. (McIlroy opened as the 12-1 favorite in this week’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.) I plan to stick with Schauffele, DeChambeau and Thomas for the next several weeks. Thomas might be the best all-around player in the game, even better than McIlroy. Last week’s leaders in strokes gained off the tee were DeChambeau (1.83) and Schauffele (1.24), each a putt or two from winning.

Morikawa seemed to have the tournament in the bag before his putter sputtered at the worst time.

“I had Morikawa and Schauffele, so it was doubly brutal,” VSiN golf analyst Brady Kannon said. “But it was absolutely thrilling. What a way for golf to come back.”

I have had a lot of time to golf with Kannon the last few months and he’s the most optimistic player imaginable. If you shank an awful shot, he’ll find a way to put a positive spin on it.

Stay positive and stick with the same handicapping strategy. Eventually you will win. Even those of us who lost last week had to appreciate the drama of the PGA Tour’s return.

 

PGA TOUR SCHEDULE

(Winner, runner-up, Westgate SuperBook closing odds)

June 14 — Charles Schwab Challenge (Daniel Berger 80/1, Collin Morikawa 40/1)

June 18-21 — RBC Heritage, Harbour Town GL, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

June 25-28 — Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Conn.

July 2-5 — Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit GC, Detroit

July 9-12 — Workday sponsor for event at Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio

July 16-19 — Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio

July 23-26 — 3M Open, TPC Twin Cities, Blaine, Minn.

July 30-Aug. 2 — Barracuda Championship, Montreux Golf & CC, Reno, Nev.

July 30-Aug. 2 — WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, TPC Southwind, Memphis, Tenn.

Aug. 6-9 — PGA Championship, Harding Park GC, San Francisco

Aug. 13-16 — Wyndham Championship, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, N.C.

Aug. 20-23 — The Northern Trust, TPC Boston, Norton, Mass.

Aug. 27-30 — BMW Championship, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill.

Sept. 4-7 — Tour Championship, East Lake GC, Atlanta

Sept. 10-13 — Safeway Open, Silverado Resort and Spa North, Napa, Calif.

Sept. 17-20 — U.S. Open, Winged Foot GC, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Sept. 24-27 — Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Sept. 25-27 — Ryder Cup, Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wis.

Oct. 1-4 — Sanderson Farms Championship, CC of Jackson, Jackson, Miss.

Oct. 8-11 — Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas

Oct. 15-18 — The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, South Korea

Oct. 22-25 — Zozo Championship, Accordia Golf Narashino CC, Chiba, Japan

Oct. 29-Nov. 1 — World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, Sheshan International GC, Shanghai, China

Oct. 29-Nov. 1 — Bermuda Championship, Port Royal GC, Southampton, Bermuda

Nov. 5-8 — Houston Open, Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston

Nov. 12-15 — Masters Tournament, Augusta National GC, Augusta, Ga.

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