Mears: Why I’m Buying Adam Scott at Bethpage and Other Underdog Matchup Bets

Mears: Why I’m Buying Adam Scott at Bethpage and Other Underdog Matchup Bets article feature image
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Photo credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Adam Scott

  • I created a golf model based on past PGA Championship data to identify head-to-head betting opportunities for this week's tournament.
  • Below are my five favorite underdog bets, including Adam Scott vs. Paul Casey and Tiger Woods vs. Justin Rose.

Using the FantasyLabs Trends tool, I backtested historical PGA Championship data to create a model for this week’s tournament. Using that data, I’ve handicapped the 100-plus head-to-head matchup props, with the ones I’m most interested in betting listed below.

Adam Scott (+105) over Paul Casey

The major to bet on Casey is the Masters; he’s struggled relative to expectations in the other three. He has just one top 10 in his 16 PGA appearances, and last year he missed the cut.

Further, since my theme is fading golfers with poor recent play, Casey is an easy target. He’s had some strong finishes lately, including a fourth at the Wells Fargo and a win at Valspar, but he also missed the cut badly in the two big fields with tough courses at the Masters and Players. He shot opening rounds of 81 and 78 in those, and he was terrible with his irons and short game.

Scott, meanwhile, has five top-five finishes at the PGA, including a third at last year’s event. Further, he’s in solid form currently, especially with his driver and long irons.

That’s a recipe for success at this event, and Scott already has good history at this course and other comps. I’d personally have him as the favorite in this matchup (Casey currently is with -135 odds). I would bet this up to -120.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+100) over Marc Leishman

My model currently has Rafa over Leishman, and that doesn’t even factor in Leishman’s withdrawal at last week’s Byron Nelson with a back injury. He said this last week looking ahead to Bethpage: “I’ll get it more thoroughly checked out and worked on but I hope it just needs some rest and I’ll be okay for next week.”

With Leishman a decent favorite here, I don’t think that injury has been fully adjusted for in the head-to-head market. He’s been playing below expectations of late anyway (potentially due to that back), missing the cut at the Players and finishing just 49th and 58th at the Masters and Heritage.

Rafa, meanwhile, remains one of the more steady players on tour. He likely doesn’t have the elite distance to truly contend here, but he’s playing well right now and doesn’t really have any weaknesses. His iron play and short game should let him hang around on the weekend, something I can’t confidently say for Leishman with that WD hanging over his head. I would bet this to -110.

Martin Kaymer (+140) over Charles Howell III

I certainly don’t love betting on Kaymer, but he is a past PGA Champion and is coming off a very strong outing at the British Masters, where he finished eighth. He hit 81.9% of his greens and consistently nailed fairways. Be it not for terrible short game, he could’ve been in contention. With putting being less important this week, that’s a good sign.

But really, this matchup is solely because I don’t think the uncertainty around Howell is properly priced into the market. Howell, a cut-making machine, missed two straight cuts at the Heritage (a tournament that should’ve set up well for him as a ball-striker) and Wells Fargo. Then last week, he had to withdraw after Round 1 of the Byron Nelson.

He didn’t give a reason for his withdrawal, but I think there’s a chance he does it again or just continues to not be right if it’s an injury. I’ll take +140 odds that happens, as it’ll require Kaymer to not really do anything but play.

Sung Kang (+105) over Jim Furyk

Furyk is obviously the bigger name here, but I don’t think the 49-year-old currently has the game to compete at a Bethpage Black. He’s one of the shortest players off the tee in this huge field, which will consistently put him at a disadvantage on the long second shot approaches.

He’s been pretty good lately, notably surprising everyone and finishing second at the Players, but he missed the cut at a Heritage tournament that should’ve set up well for him (it’s short and doesn’t really require driver). His putter has been trending in the wrong direction over the last month, too.

Kang is the less talented golfer, but he is playing really well right now, evidenced by his win last week at the Byron Nelson. Everything was working for him, and while this course will be much tougher, I think his distance advantage is worthy of a bet at plus odds. I wouldn’t go past -110, though.

Tiger Woods (+105) over Justin Rose

Let’s have some fun, shall we?

It’s obviously hard to bet Tiger given the amount of public support behind him in every tournament, but I don’t mind taking a shot against Rose, who has been a bit up-and-down of late. He bounced back with a third at Wells Fargo, but that Masters missed cut is weighing his recent data down.

And even at that Wells Fargo tournament, he was missing fairways at a high rate. In fact, he’s missed over 50% of the fairways in each of his last two events. It’s crucial at Bethpage to hit it long and straight, and while Tiger has his accuracy issues off the tee, too, he’s been better in that regard than Rose lately.

Perhaps that turns around this week — I think Rose could be an interesting contrarian play in DFS tournaments — but I think Tiger’s form is worthy of betting on and Rose’s is questionable. At plus odds that’s worthy of a small wager.