Golf Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for the 2019 Byron Nelson
Jim Dedmon, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Pat Perez
- Brooks Koepka is the betting favorite to win this weekend's AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas, Texas.
- The Byron Nelson features a weak field playing on a relatively easy course the week before a major, so expect longshots to contend.
- Here are our staff's favorite bets for this weekend's PGA event.
The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black is on the horizon but this week is all about the 2019 AT&T Byron Nelson Championship.
Brooks Koepka is the consensus favorite at +650 and is the only golfer shorter than 10-1 at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Tx. Hideki Matsuyama is the second favorite at 16-1 and Jordan Spieth is right behind him at 18-1.
Trinity Forest isn’t a difficult course. Last season, the links-style track played nearly 7,400 yards for a par 71 and really didn’t give the pros much trouble. Aaron Wise won this event last year at 23-under par.
The field for this weekend’s tournament may leave a lot to be desired from a star-power, but that just adds to the fun. A weak field playing on an easy course the week before a major means there could be some longshots that make some noise.
Here are our golf staffers’ favorite bets for the 2019 Byron Nelson.
The Bet: Rory Sabbatini: First-Round Leader (+5000)
I hate FRL bets. Hate ‘em. The odds are usually very similar to a player’s outright number, but there are so many more guys who are in the mix for a single-round lead than a tournament victory that it’s truly a sucker bet.
And yes, I’m a sucker for playing it.
Look, we’re going to bet on everything anyway, so we might as well go into this one armed with a little intel.
Prior to last week’s opening 76, Sabbo had posted scores of 67-69-69-70-68-67-71-69-72-68-68-69-70-67 on Thursdays this season. And that doesn’t even include the best-ball 60 alongside Brian Gay at the Zurich Classic which cashed that week’s FRL bet.
Since I offered a very tame recommendation of Rory McIlroy for a top-10 last week — which just barely cashed when he limped to a final-round 73 — I’m going with a much more aggressive play this week.
It’s a sucker bet. But at least it’s an educated one.
Dr. Lou Riccio*
The Bet: Henrik Stenson Top-10 Finish (+290)
Everything is coming together for Stenson stats-wise. His iron play is back to elite Stenson level, and on these huge, undulated greens at Trinity Forest, placing your iron shots in the correct place is key to playing well.
The Swede at nearly 3-to-1 odds to finish in the top-10 is very appealing, given his form and the weak field.
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA’s handicap research team for three decades. More of his predictive analysis can be found over at Golf Digest.
The Bet: Abraham Ancer (+105) over Daniel Berger
My favorite bet would’ve been Keith Mitchell over Marc Leishman at +125, but that line has since moved to Mitchell -105. Instead, I’ll go with another matchup I’ve got this week with Ancer over Berger.
Berger hasn’t been great this year, sporting four missed cuts, along with finishing 33rd or worse in all but two tournaments. Ancer also has four missed cuts this year, but he also has a couple of top-30 and top-19 finishes.
And in the long-term he’s got a slight edge in most metrics I am weighing this week (Ancer listed first):
- Eagles per tournament: 0.3 vs. 0.2
- Birdies per tournament: 13.1 vs. 12.6
- Adjusted strokes on par 4s: -0.5 vs. +0.6
- Adjusted strokes on par 5s: -4.2 vs. -4.1
The par 5s are a wash, but the par 4s could come into play for this matchup as Ancer leads Berger by nearly a stroke. There are also six par 4s that check in between 400-450 yards, giving Ancer the edge over the past 50 rounds, ranking 25th in par-4 efficiency from that range while Berger ranks 59th.
The Bet: Adam Schenk (-150) over Robert Streb
Streb is one of the lower-rated players in my model given his current form (terrible) and fit at this course (also terrible). Trinity Forest is long and wide open, so bombers will be able to really attack these fairways without any worry. That’s a big reason why scores were so low here last year: You can really bomb your driver and put yourself in good birdie opportunities.
Schenk has a very large advantage off the tee over Streb, who is in the bottom half of the field in driving distance. His marks have been even lower lately, in fact, while Schenk is one of the longer guys in the field. Plus Schenk is playing very well right now, placing top 15 in two of his last three tournaments.
Schenk has the distance advantage, is much better on par 4s and par 5s and has a far superior birdie rate. At this course, those factors will loom large over a four-day period. I would bet this to -160.
The Bet: Tony Romo Over 77.5 in Round 1
I don’t know much about golf, but I know enough to tee up this prop and smash it as far as I can with my driver.
I fully expect Romo to be one of the three worst golfers in the field this week. Probably the worst. At one sportsbook, he’s -130 to finish last.
In the FantasyLabs PGA Models, he’s the only golfer with a 0.0% chance of winning the tournament or finishing in the top 10 (based on his Vegas odds).
At the Westgate Superbook, Romo is +1000000 to win. That’s six zeros.
That’s literally a Kevin Malone special.
I’d like $10 on those odds. If someone gives you to 10,000 to one on anything, you take it. If John Mellencamp ever wins an Oscar, I am going to be a very rich dude.
By hanging that +1000000, the Westgate is literally saying to everyone, “Yes, we’re willing to risk losing $10 million just so we can get $1,000 from the 10 random Romo truthers drunk enough to bet $100 each.”
Romo’s not going to get even close to the top of the leaderboard this week.
Of all the golfers in our Models, Romo is easily last in a number of long-term metrics.
- Adjusted round score: 79.6
- Greens in regulation: 45.8%
- Putts per round: 31.8
- Scrambling: 38.6%
- Eagles per tournament: 0
- Birdies per tournament: 3
- Par 4 scoring: 9.5
- Par 5 scoring: 2.5
Romo has one factor in his favor, and it’s not insignificant: He knows the course well. It’s his home course. He’s a member of the Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.
So Romo will have a home-field advantage of sorts.
But I really doubt that will matter. Romo has attempted numerous times to qualify for the AT&T Byron Nelson: Each time he’s been unsuccessful. He’s playing in the tournament now only because of a sponsor’s exemption.
In other words, Romo’s not good enough to play in this event. He’s famous enough to play in it, and he might help increase the attendance numbers, but he’s not good enough for it.
When he talks about preparing for the tournament, Romo sounds like a guy who’s not looking to compete.
“It’s going to be fun. See if I can live up to the improvement I hope I’ve made. It’s a work in progress. I love competing, but I also love improving and getting better and seeing how good you can be.”
“There’s different success as far as the way you think of it. It’s all about improvement.”
Romo’s right: There are different kinds of success. For instance, there’s the philosophical success he’s going to have in just getting to play in a PGA event.
And then there’s the financial success I’m going to have in betting against him.
Both are real — and they’re spectacular.
This year and last year, while the best golfers in the world competed against each other in the WGC-Dell Techologies Match Play, Romo played (again, via a sponsor’s exemption) in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
In neither tournament did he come close to making the cut.
- 2018: 159 strokes in two rounds (second-worst score in field)
- 2017: 159 strokes in two rounds (worst score in field)
Over the past five years, 3.4 golfers per tournament have shot higher than 77.5 in Round 1 at Byron Nelson.
Romo isn’t a professional golfer, and he’s never qualified for a PGA Tour event.
If he doesn’t have one of the worst Round 1 scores this week, it will be a minor miracle.
As a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, I love Romo — but I’ve learned not to expect miracles from him.
I’d bet over 77.5 strokes all the way to -150.
The Bet: Pat Perez (+120) over Scott Piercy
It’s tough to be overly confident about anything with this tournament. We’ve only got one year’s worth of info to look back on and the PGA Championship is looming. This whole event is a bit of a crapshoot.
But I’ll take a shot with Pat Perez here. I bet Perez to win the tournament, so I’ll back him at plus money over Scott Piercy. This play is more about the number than anything else. Perez appears to be healthy after missing a couple months and at full strength, he’s pretty much a coinflip most weeks against Piercy. So I’ll try him here as a small underdog.