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The 19th Hole

Odds and Trends

by Dave Tindall
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Golf has always been one of the most enticing sports on which to bet due to the fact that you can land winners at huge prices.

 

Barring a freak result, that simply isn’t the case in other sports.

 

Take the tennis Grand Slams. The last 42 have been won by just seven different players, so what’s the point in looking for someone further down the betting when you virtually know the champion will come from a list of just four or five who are all short/short-ish prices?

 

In golf, you’re not really witnessing a shock when a player wins at 80/1. (I’ll reveal why I’ve chosen those precise odds shortly!)

 

Also true is that, for whatever reason, some golf tournaments repeatedly throw up surprise winners while others seem to be a haven for the favorites.

 

So, what if we had a list of every PGA TOUR event and the average betting odds of every winner over the last five years. Knowing where to expect future shocks could help modify our betting behavior and help us with fantasy picks.

 

I’ve already put that into play in this week’s KLM Open in the Netherlands. The last five champions of that event were priced at 25/1, 20/1, 22/1, 25/1 and 12/1 so I’ve picked players towards the front of the betting on the basis that class normally tells at the KLM.

 

Firstly, some background is needed if those odds don’t immediately produce a chime of recognition.

 

Typically, a full-field event may be priced up like this (divided into three groups):

 

Group 1) 40/1 or less - Top 10-12 most-favored players. (Think of the top 10 in a Power Rankings list.)

Group 2) 45/1 to 90/1 – The next best 25 players. A win for anyone in this bracket isn’t exactly unexpected.

Group 3) 100/1 or more – The rest of the field. The level of shock rises to “serious” at 200/1 or more.

 

We could break Group 1 down to hot-favorites (those under 10/1 such as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy) but, for the time being, let’s keep it simple.

 

So, now we have the context, it’s pretty clear that all those five KLM Open winners mentioned earlier would have been in the top 10 in the betting (and, in fact, probably inside the top six).

 

Although odds are also based on how much money each player is likely to attract, they’re also a strong reflection of someone’s winning chances. Think of it like this: Odds are shorthand for ranking a field from top to bottom.

 

Time for some lists then…

 

 

PGA TOUR events that are easiest to predict

(Average-priced winner in parentheses; e.g (21.7) = 21.7/1))

 

1. (21.7) Hyundai Tournament of Champions

2. (28.6) TOUR Championship

T3. (30.2) WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship

T3. (30.2) CIMB Classic

T5. (33.6) RBC Heritage

T5. (33.6) WGC-HSBC Champions

 

Notice anything? Yes, all these are limited-field events, so it’s pretty obvious that the Hyundai and TOUR Championship (30-man fields) would produce the lowest average-priced winner.

 

Of more interest, are the next two lists...

 

 

FULL-FIELD EVENTS

 

Easiest to predict

1. RBC Heritage

2. AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

3. U.S. OPEN

4. John Deere Classic

5. Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

 

Hardest to predict

1. The Greenbrier Classic

2. The Honda Classic

3. Valero Texas Open

4. AT&T Byron Nelson Championship

5. FedEx St. Jude Classic

 

 

But, I can feel you’re itching to read the full list. So, with a drumroll…

 

 

All PGA TOUR events

(Average-priced winner in parentheses; e.g (21.7) = 21.7/1)):

 

1. (21.7) Hyundai Tournament of Champions

2. (28.6) TOUR Championship

T3. (30.2) WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship

T3.(30.2) CIMB Classic

T5. (33.6) RBC Heritage

T5. (33.6) WGC-HSBC Champions

7. (34.4) AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

8. (35.8) U.S. OPEN

9. (36.0) The Barclays

10. (37.5) John Deere Classic

T11. (40.0) WGC-Cadillac Championship

T11. (40.0) Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

13. (42.4) BMW Championship

14. (42.6) THE MASTERS

15. (45.0) Zurich Classic of New Orleans

16. (47.8) RBC Canadian Open

17. (50.8) PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

18. (51.6) THE PLAYERS

19. (53.0) Deutsche Bank Championship

20. (54.4) WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

21. (55.2) Barracuda Championship

22. (69.2) Waste Management Phoenix Open

23. (69.6) Frys.com Open

24. (72.0) Farmers Insurance Open

25. (75.2) OHL Classic at Mayakoba

26. (75.8) Shriners Hospital for Children Open

27. (76.4) Memorial

28. (76.6) Sony Open

29. (81.6) THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

30. (83.0) Puerto Rico Open

31. (84.4) Arnold Palmer Invitational

32. (85.1) Quicken Loans National

33. (88.2) The McGladrey Classic

34. (88.6) Shell Houston Open

35. (90.0) Valspar Championship

36. (96.8) Travelers Championship

37. (114.0) CareerBuilder Challenge (formerly the Humana Challenge)

38. (126.6) Northern Trust Open

39. (135.4) Sanderson Farms Championship

40. (145.5) Wells Fargo Championship

41. (153.0) Wyndham Championship

42. (167.2) FedEx St. Jude Classic

43. (174.4) AT&T Byron Nelson

44. (185.0) Valero Texas Open

45. (207.6) The Honda Classic

46. (210.0) The Greenbrier Classic

 

I have to admit I’m surprised by how high the numbers are.

 

 

THE AVERAGE PRICED WINNER ON THE PGA TOUR OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS IS 80/1!!!

 

It becomes easier to accept, though, when you consider that someone priced 80/1 will be around 30th-35th in the betting. In other words, in a field of 156, the mark of the averaged-priced winner is struck at approximately 20 percent down the page (30 ÷ ~150 x 100).

 

 

Flaws

 

• Of course, these numbers are an average. Four of the last five winners of the Farmers went off at 66/1, 22/1, 15/2 and 14/1, but the average is dragged up by Scott Stallings’ 250/1 win in 2014. Its impact does get watered down a little, but at No. 24 on the list, it’s in the middle of the easy/hard-to-predict scale when a fairer reflection would be to slot it higher.

 

Davis Love III’s recent win at 500/1 in the Wyndham Championship also had a big effect on that tournament’s average, although, in actuality, 200/1 Arjun Atwal in 2010 and 125/1 Camilo Villegas in 2014 had previously shown that it might pay to think a little outside the box in this event.

 

• It’s also worth listing at this point the tournaments where Group 1 players (i.e. 40/1 or less) win the majority of the time.

 

 

Favorite tournaments for favorites

 

The CIMB Classic is the only tournament in the last five years to have been won every time by a player at 40/1 or less. There are 13 other tournaments in which Group 1 players have won four of the five.

 

All 5

CIMB Classic (40/1, 25/1, 20/1, 33/1, 33/1)

 

4 of the 5

Hyundai Tournament of Champions (50/1, 8/1, 14/1, 14/1, 22/1)

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (80/1, 25/1, 14/1, 28/1, 25/1)

RBC Heritage (35/1, 50/1, 40/1, 18/1, 25/1)

Zurich Classic of New Orleans (28/1, 28/1, 33/1, 125/1, 11/1)

WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship (35/1, 50/1, 35/1, 20/1, 11/1)

Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial (33/1, 16/1, 100/1, 18/1, 33/1)

U.S. OPEN (22/1, 80/1, 28/1, 40/1, 8/1)

John Deere Classic (7/1, 12/1, 40/1, 125/1, 7/2)

Quicken Loans National (14/1, 5/1, 40/1, 16/1, 350/1)

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (175/1, 20/1, 40/1, 5/1, 14/1)

Deutsche Bank Championship (35/1, 12/1, 28/1, 150/1, 40/1)

Tour Championship (20/1, 45/1, 40/1, 16/1, 22/1)

WGC-HSBC Champions (55/1, 25/1, 20/1, 40/1, 28/1)

 

 

Conclusions

 

This is where it gets hard. It would have been wonderful if the list divided into neat sections such as all the Texas events throwing up shock winners or the Florida Swing being easier to predict than other parts of the tour.

 

I’ve looked at wind speeds, timing of tournaments (was the event immediately before a major or immediately after), grass types, etc., but it’s hard to spot clear patterns.

 

That said, there are a lot of big events in the top-20 easiest to predict – US Open (No. 8), The Barclays (9), WGC-Cadillac Championship (11), The Masters (14), PGA Championship (17), THE PLAYERS (18), WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (20) – which suggests the cream tends to rise to the top in the elite events when all the big guns come out to play. Plenty to like about that logic. Admittedly, some of those are not full-field tournaments.

 

One other little ray of light is that the bottom eight events on the list (i.e. the hardest to predict) are all in tournaments played in The South (West Virginia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina). But is that due to location, the timing of the events, the grass type or something else?

 

Perhaps, to use a buzz phrase, it is what it is. Bettors/gamers should use the list as a reference point to help decide if it’s worth chasing a shock.

 

At least I know one thing. After winners at 175/1, 500/1, 125/1, 100/1 and 150/1 in the last five years, I’ll be looking way down the market when making my selections for next year’s Greenbrier Classic!

 

(Thanks to Steve Bamford @Bamfordgolf on Twitter for providing the raw data.)

 

Dave Tindall
Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.