Golf betting not easy to master

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If it seems like yesterday that Dustin Johnson won the Masters in dominant fashion, that’s not far off. It was only five months ago. The scheduling cancellations, postponements and quirks caused by the coronavirus pandemic have been mostly negative, but this one is a major positive.

The biggest betting event in golf is making a quick comeback, and no one is complaining.

It’s odd that there’s not a lot of buzz around Johnson, whose tournament-record 20-under-par score blew away the field in November. He’s returning to Augusta National as the 9-1 favorite at Circa Sports and most other books, though the odds board from top to bottom seemingly changes by the hour. Johnson is not forgotten, yet he has not found the winner’s circle since the day 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods handed him his first green jacket.

“DJ’s odds have been so low for so long, and he has been out of form, so most people have been shying away from him,” Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said.

Woods is obviously missing this week while recovering from a serious car accident in late February, but the absence of the sport’s biggest star is not hurting the wagering handle. The show must go on, and this is the Super Bowl of golf.

“Our handle is actually higher than it’s ever been leading into Masters week,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “It’s great. Tiger draws money regardless of what his odds are and how he’s playing. If it wasn’t for Tiger, I don’t think golf betting would be where it is today.”

Even without Woods, golf betting is thriving due to high-profile stars such as Johnson and several young guns who pack the potential firepower to win the year’s first major. The game has an abundance of intriguing players, and few other sports present opportunities to hit a winning ticket at long-shot odds on a weekly basis.

“Cashing a ticket is not easy,” Avello said.

As stressful as these tournaments are for the players, it’s almost as tough on the gamblers going for the green. I have hit four futures winners in the last eight weeks at odds of 12-1, 16-1, 22-1 and 70-1, but it was never easy. Sunday afternoons are always a sweat and sometimes a thrill.

Playing the favorite in an elite 88-player field is not a profitable or wise long-term strategy, so take a shot at beating the favorite, look past Johnson and watch these 10 players (odds listed are the best available prices from Circa, DraftKings, South Point and Westgate):

Bryson DeChambeau (11-1) — After a six-stroke win at the U.S. Open, golf’s incredible hulkster started believing the hype. He planned to outmuscle Augusta and crush the competition. However, all aspects of his game were erratic en route to a tie for 34th in November. Is it wrong to write him off this time?

“I think DeChambeau went in there thinking he was going to conquer the course,” Sherman said. “He can use that as a learning experience, take a different approach and be more competitive this time around.”

Jordan Spieth (12-1) — In early February, when Spieth started showing signs of finding his lost game, his Masters odds were soaring as high as 60-1. He’s finally all the way back, stopping a four-year winless streak Sunday at the Texas Open in San Antonio. The odds are no bargain, but the 2015 Masters champion figures to be in the hunt on a course that fits him perfectly. He’s comfortable in this setting, and his confidence has returned.

“Spieth is getting a good share of the money,” Avello said. Spieth was elevated to the tournament favorite at 8-1 Monday at the South Point.

Matchup play: Spieth (-105) over Rory McIlroy.

Justin Thomas (12-1) — Driving distance is imperative at Augusta, where shorter hitters off the tee are at a distinct disadvantage. Thomas is long off the tee, and his precise iron play is about as good as it gets. He leads the PGA Tour in putting average this season and has few flaws in his all-around game, which was strong enough to win the Players Championship in Florida in mid-March.

In 2018, Thomas tied for 17th at Augusta at 4 under par. When Woods won the next year, Thomas tied for 12th at 8 under. Last year, he finished fourth at 12 under, eight strokes behind Johnson.

“Every year he has been a little better,” said Jeff Sealey, a VSiN contributor and golf handicapper. “Everything is trending the right way for JT. I think the price is appropriate. It’s not really great value at these odds, but I’ll bet him.”

Matchup play: Thomas (-120) over DeChambeau.

Jon Rahm (14-1) — Still in search of his first major win, Rahm has three straight top-10 finishes at Augusta. Rahm and his wife announced the birth of their first child, a son, on Saturday, and some handicappers will spin that into a reason to play Rahm this week.

Patrick Cantlay (22-1) — His body language is typically negative and his demeanor is usually miserable. Appearances aside, optimism should surround Cantlay, who finished in the top 20 in his last two Masters starts. He has all the tools to win.

Brooks Koepka (30-1) — The four-time major champion was getting odds as high as 40-1 at Circa this week, mostly because of questions surrounding surgery on his right knee March 16. Still, Koepka arrived at Augusta saying he intends to contend. Sealey’s math model projects Koepka as the most likely winner.

“I take into account short-term form, long-term form, course history and course fit,” Sealey said. “I looked at the results and Koepka is No. 1. But (the model) does not account for the injury factor.”

Koepka’s win Feb. 7 in Phoenix was his first since the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

“I want to play Koepka, but I’m worried about his health,” VSiN golf handicapper Brady Kannon said. “I might take a shot with him. If he’s 90%, he could win it.”

Collin Morikawa (34-1) — VSiN’s Brent Musburger is touting the 24-year-old who won the PGA last year and lives in Las Vegas. Morikawa is an elite iron player. All he lacks is experience at Augusta, where he debuted with a tie for 44th in November.

Cameron Smith (45-1) — Augusta is the perfect example of a horse-for-the-course handicap, and the 27-year-old Australian has course history in his corner. Smith tied for second, five strokes behind Johnson, in November. He also tied for fifth in 2018. Sharp money has shown on Smith since his odds recently reached a peak of 70-1.

Adam Scott (72-1) — Another Aussie who excels at Augusta is Scott, the Masters winner in 2013. In his last 11 starts here, he has seven top-20s. Scott ranks in the tour’s top 20 in driving distance — DeChambeau is first — and should make a run for the money if his putter gets hot. He’s inconsistent yet irresistible at this high price.

Kevin Kisner (325-1) — Bombs away. Kisner lives 20 miles from Augusta, so this is essentially a home game for him. At these Circa odds, a $20 bet would pay $6,500. Why not? It’s a little lottery ticket and a big story to tell if it hits.

The next 10: Xander Schauffele (27-1), Tony Finau (40-1), Daniel Berger (47-1), Paul Casey (50-1), Webb Simpson (54-1), Matthew Fitzpatrick (57-1), Jason Day (69-1), Joaquin Niemann (79-1), Bubba Watson (84-1), Corey Conners (110-1).

 

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