Desert Classic Betting Guide: Longshots Can Thrive in a Weak Field

Desert Classic Betting Guide: Longshots Can Thrive in a Weak Field article feature image

Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Chez Reavie

  • John Rahm (+650) and Justin Rose (+900) are the betting favorites for the 2019 Desert Classic.
  • The tournament features a relatively weak field and an easy course, so betting on longshots can pay off.

It’s been a long time since a golf win felt that comfortable, but thanks to Matt Kuchar and Andrew Putnam, the Sony Open was smooth sailing.

With both players on the card, we had at least a two-shot cushion the entire weekend. Kuchar eventually came out on top and cashed the +4555 ticket.

Now, we leave Hawaii and move back to the mainland with the Desert Classic in California.

Winning the Desert Classic is similar to the Sony Open in that it helps to have played golf recently. Only one golfer, Bill Haas in 2015, has won this tournament without playing in one of the two Hawaii events. It is worth noting that Haas was a previous champion here in 2010, so he had some previous success to fall back on.

As we highlighted last week, this isn’t really surprising. Golf tournaments are decided by such razor thin margins that getting competitive rounds is an advantage for players who are returning from a lengthy layoff.

In 2018, the top 13 finishes at this tournament all played in one of the two Hawaii events.

The Course(s)

The Desert Classic takes place on a trio of courses. La Quinta Country Club and the Nicklaus Tournament Course host a round apiece, while the Stadium Course will be played twice. All three are par 72s that check in at under 7,200 yards.

La Quinta CC and the Nicklaus Course were the two easiest on the PGA Tour in 2018. So if you’re looking for a first-round leader angle, target players on those two courses. The Stadium course also played under par, but it was about two strokes more difficult than the other two tracks in relation to par.

The Field

Two names headline the field, defending champ Jon Rahm and World No. 1 Justin Rose. Rahm opened as the favorite at +650 with Rose right behind at +900. There’s a clear drop off in caliber after that, however, as Patrick Cantlay is the only other golfer in the teens at +1600.

Three players make up the group in the 20s. Charles Howell III is at +2000. Adam Hadwin is next at +2500 and last week’s runner up Andrew Putnam checks in at +2800.

Not really a star-studded field.

The Favorites

As we mentioned earlier, avoiding Hawaii hasn’t been a recipe for victory here. But two of the top three in the odds, Rose and Cantlay, are making there 2019 debuts. It’s pretty hard to suggest backing them at such short numbers knowing that.

Prior to last year when Rahm won, this wasn’t a tournament where the top players came out with the victory.

I’m not really liking anyone in this range at all and if Rahm goes back-to-back, so be it.

The Mid-tier

Prior to Rahm last year, we had a stretch of winners in this range with Hudson Swafford in 2017, Jason Dufner in 2016 and Bill Haas in 2015 all cashing in tickets ranging from +3000 to +5000.

I’m going to start the card in that range with Aaron Wise at +3500 on MyBookie. Outside of the three favorites, he might be the most talented player in this field. Wise finished in the top 16 in six of his final eight events. He didn’t play great at the Tournament of Champions, but I’m willing to chalk that up to some offseason rust and back him on a course where he finished 17th as a rookie last year.

My other play in this range is Chez Reavie at +4050 on Bookmaker. Sleeze called Reavie’s performance at the Sony from a mile away last week. Chez was completely dialed in with his irons and on a course where the winner will need to get to 20-under, you want a guy who’s going to have 60+ looks at birdie. Reavie can provide that, it will just come down to whether or not the putter gets going. If he was a half-stroke better than field average last week, he’d have defeated Kuchar.

Dylan Fritelli
Dylan Fritelli in action at the 2018 PGA Championship. Credit: Kyle Terada


We’ve had four straight tournaments without someone coming from off the radar here. But prior to this current stretch, the Desert Classic was a longshot haven. From 2010 through 2014, Brian Gay had the best odds of any winner at +8000 with the other four champions breaking triple digits. Given how weak the field is overall, it lends itself to longshot contenders.

I’ve targeted four players down the board that I’m taking a chance on.

First is Pat Perez at 100/1. Perez got his first PGA Tour victory at this tournament in 2009 and has shot 21-under or better in all three of his previous wins. Basically, he’s built for a birdie-fest like this.

Next up is Dylan Frittelli  at 110/1. Fritelli has a couple wins on the European Tour, but we’re still waiting for a strong performance on the PGA Tour. His talent level is better than the odds he’s getting right now. At the Sony, he gained the fifth-most strokes off the tee. He had an off week with the irons, but that’s usually a strength as well, so I’d look for the approach numbers to bounce back.

The last two are Sam Ryder at 140/1 on MyBookie and Sam Burns at 200/1. Ryder has fallen off the radar a bit after some strong finishes in the fall swing. But with top-3 finishes at the Shriners and Safeway, he’s got the skill to contend.

Meanwhile, Burns has been all over the map with his results. He’s shown the ability to land in the top 5, but he can also miss cuts in bunches. But at 200/1, I’m wanting to back young talent who can pop up the leaderboard. He might flame out, but at that big of a price, we’re not risking much for someone with his ability. I’m also adding top 5s on both of them at +2500 and +3300 each.

Lastly, I’m adding a top 20 on Carlos Ortiz at +1250. He gained strokes ball striking and with the putter. If he scrambles a bit better he should fit the course.

2019 Desert Classic Card

  • Aaron Wise +3500
  • Chez Reavie +4050
  • Pat Perez +10000
  • Dylan Frittelli +11000
  • Sam Ryder +14000/+2500 Top 5
  • Sam Burns +20000/+3300 Top 5
  • Carlos Ortiz +1250 Top 20

Total Stake: 3.705 units

Season: +12.71

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