Photo credit: USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tony Finau and Webb Simpson
- Many people betting the 2019 Masters will lean heavily on name recognition to make their picks.
- Bryan Mears uses DFS salaries and implied odds to win to find value on this year's Masters field.
There are a lot of correlations in the betting and DFS golf world. For one, odds to win a major are often tied to not just skill, but also public popularity and history at that specific course or event. That’s the reason for someone like Phil Mickelson having similar odds to win the 2019 Masters as, say, Tony Finau, who is a much superior golfer right now.
That’s notable within the DFS world because DraftKings and FanDuel salaries are really tied to a player’s odds to win — which, again, is subject to narratives and popularity rather than, you know, actual golfing ability.
In fact, there’s a 0.91 correlation (0 is no correlation, 1 is perfect correlation) between DraftKings salary and odds to win this year, which is incredibly significant:
That means there’s some significant value to be found in both the betting and DFS markets using a metric like our Long-Term Adjusted Round Score, which I believe is the best catch-all stat in the golf community. In general, a player with a lower LT Adj Rd Score is the superior golfer than one with a higher one.
For reference, there’s just a 0.65 correlation between DraftKings salary and LT Adj Rd Score, which means in that difference there’s value. Additionally, there’s a 0.54 correlation between odds to win the Masters this year and LT Adj Rd Score. Again: sweet, sweet value.
Using all that data and running some regressions, we can predict based on a player’s LT Adj Rd Score — again, the best proxy for talent — what each golfer’s odds to win and DraftKings salaries should be. Let’s start with betting odds to win.
Best Betting Values for the 2019 Masters
As I wrote about here last year, the best betting values in majors are in the mid tier. The reason is because the distribution of odds from the favorite to the mid tier and from the mid tier to the longshots don’t shift from tournament to tournament — but the talent of the players certainly do.
For example, the difference between this year’s Masters favorite, Rory McIlroy at 11.8% implied probability, and Tony Finau (2.0%) is 9.8%. That was the same difference between the favorite at the Genesis Open in February between the favorite, Dustin Johnson, and guys like Adam Hadwin and Chez Reavie.
It’s a transitive point, but I think it works: The difference between Rory and Finau is not the same as between DJ and Hadwin/Reavie. The field is just stronger and the odds for the favorites are still the same because people love to bet Rory, Jordan Spieth and so on. Thus, we get nice value on those extremely talented mid-tier golfers who would be much higher in a regular week.
Those guys for the 2019 Masters include the aforementioned Finau (average odds of around 50-1), Webb Simpson (around 85-1), Patrick Cantlay (around 60-1) and Marc Leishman (around 60-1). Those guys are all top-20ish players in the world, and they’re being heavily discounted here because of the strong field.
Finau is especially intriguing. He’s obviously incredibly talented, and in his first Augusta appearance last year placed 10th. Simpson has a Players Championship under his belt (another major-like field), Leishman has a top five here in the past and Cantlay has awesome pedigree. Even if you don’t want to throw some darts at those guys to win, they’re likely nice values to place in the top 10 or top 20, since those are usually fairly correlated numbers as well.
Best DFS Values for the 2019 Masters
No surprise, since odds to win and DraftKings salaries are so highly correlated, a lot of the best bets are also the best DFS values:
Simpson comes out at the top again and is arguably the most undervalued golfers in the betting/DFS markets for the Masters. Other undervalued guys: Emiliano Grillo and Charles Howell III, the latter whom is definitely more interesting as a DFS play than a to-win bet.
Howell is considered one of the premier grinders on tour, winning just three times in his long career but always making cuts and cashing checks. Over the past 75 weeks, he’s one of the few golfers in the field to top 40 tournaments and has one of the lowest missed cut rates. Howell has yet to miss a cut in 2019 and has been inside the top 20 in six of his eight events.
We’ll have more comprehensive DFS content in the run up to the event, but it could definitely make sense to take a more balanced approach in DraftKings cash games. In the Milly Maker, it’s more +EV to take the players with the highest win equity and take shots on lower-owned players.
But the overall takeaway from the data here is that mid-tier golfers are undervalued in majors, and that’s true again for the 2019 Masters. Whether you want to grind DFS cash games or top-20 bets, suit yourself, but there’s definitely some value to be had in this tournament.