Sobel’s 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions Betting Guide: Will the Elite Players Flourish?
Butch Dill, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Paul Casey
It’s not supposed to work this way. Sure, the game’s elite players will travel the globe and compete in tournaments during the autumn months, but like so many of them often say, they want their games to peak four times per year – and no offense to the Halloween Swing, but this ain’t one of ‘em.
In theory, these should be titles that the next tier of players can pick off, bolstering their status while the best of the best don’t go full-throttle six months before they “really” want to have their A-plus stuff.
Good theory, huh? It’s clearly being disproven so far.
The first two events of the three-tourney Asia Swing have been captured by Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods, who obviously understand that winning trophies in the Far East in October have little bearing on winning a Green Jacket at Augusta in April.
And so, if we truly believe that good things come in threes, then WGC-HSBC Champions favorite Rory McIlroy might very well be on the verge of a superstar triumvirate. Prior to a T-54 at Sheshan International GC last year, he’d finished sixth-or-better in his five appearances at this one, even without a victory.
Through all the Tiger hoopla at the Zozo Championship, it was easy to overlook another patented back-door top-five for Rory, who finished T-3 despite being a half-dozen strokes off the pace.
Unlike most WGCs, not all of the world’s top players are in this week’s field, but like most WGCs, the top players who do compete in this one tend to win it, as the champion’s list consists of stars and near-stars.
It’s difficult to envision an out-of-nowhere selection winning the impending version of this event, though there remains some value in looking (slightly) down the board.
Keep in mind that the first tee for this event is at 8:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
One player to win the tournament.
Paul Casey (+2000)
Perhaps Casey’s longtime struggle to win PGA Tour events (everywhere but in Tampa) has something to do with so few of them being played internationally.
Since this became an official event, Casey has finished 20-23-12-11-16, which is to say, he’s been good, but hardly great. His current form – save for back-to-back results of solo third at the Tour Championship and a win at the European Open – consists of much of the same, all of which makes him a non-chalky outsider play, if we can say that for the fifth man on the odds board.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Tony Finau (+2200)
As you might recall – and as I’m sure some of you would like to remind me – I picked Finau to win last week and he just missed, finishing a heartbreaking 22 strokes out of a potential playoff at T-59 for the week.
Well, I’m nothing if not persistent. Finau led this tourney last year after the first, second and third rounds before falling to Xander Schauffele in a playoff. Long hitters have proven to hold an advantage here, so I expect a nice bounce-back.
One player to finish top-five.
Keegan Bradley (+1350 for top-five)
One of the more curious images from the Zozo was Woods closing out his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour victory, followed by Bradley holing a putt to finish in a share of 13th place.
Some tried to classify that as a classless move, but I took it as Bradley simply still grinding when it seemingly meant nothing at all. He’s playing some solid golf right now and was solo sixth a year ago, so expecting a jump of one more spot on the leaderboard shouldn’t be asking for too much.
One player to finish top-10.
Matt Wallace (+270)
Maybe this is a better place for Fitzpatrick, as I’ve been bullish on both for a while, though I’ve tended to support the wrong Matt on the wrong week. Wallace owns finishes of 8-7-15-41-3 in his last five starts, so last year’s T-50 shouldn’t bother us much.
One player to finish top-20.
Corey Conners (+325) and Andrew Putnam (+450)
They’ve been two of my favorites throughout the fall schedule so far, especially in international events. Conners is the superior ball-striker, but Putnam tends to play some of his better golf around the globe. Not to beat myself to the punch, but before listing a few DFS options, I’d also offer that each of these guys makes for a nice play in any lineup.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
Rory McIlroy (DK $11,700; FD $12,400)
Yeah, I know. This is why they pay me the big bucks: To tell you that McIlroy might score some DFS points for you. Really, though, while I do believe Rory will contend for this title again, offering him as an option says more about the other potential options, meaning there are enough lower-salary plays to squeeze into a lineup (especially on FD) that we should be able to afford him, riding him like the horse on this course that he is.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Kevin Tway (DK $6,400; FD $7,800)
Though he hasn’t played his best golf lately, Tway has three things going for him this week: 1) He’s uncommonly cheap in both formats, allowing us to fit some higher-priced players into our lineups; 2) He’s a solid play anytime total driving is an important stat, as it is this week; and 3) He makes a lot of birdies, as evidenced by his T-37 in birdie average this season (despite not playing his best), which will be more of a determining factor than usual when everyone is guaranteed four rounds.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Jordan Spieth (+3500 for FRL)
Look, it’s no secret here: Over the past year, Spieth has played very well during Thursday/Friday rounds and very poorly during Saturday/Sunday rounds.
There’s really no way to capitalize on these numbers other than round-by-round matchups and trying to target him for a low opener, which could happen once again.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Byeong Hun An
I might look back on this preview Sunday evening and regret not placing An’s name in a more weighty category, as he’s fresh off finishes of T-8 and T-6 in the last two weeks.
The problem is that he’s often a player who doesn’t tend to ride momentum from one week to the next, so I’m still a bit skittish betting him against the entire field. Matching up against just one other player, though, feels like a smart play, as we can hope that momentum-killer isn’t coming anytime soon.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Henrik Stenson (+2800)
As I wrote earlier, this hasn’t been a tourney where fading the faves usually works out very well, but Stenson isn’t a guy I’ll be targeting.
First off, his odds are simply too low, ahead of the likes of Adam Scott and An and Wallace, each of whom I’d take ahead of Stenson in a H2H at even-money. Secondly, the last time we saw him, he’d admitted his game was rusty before MCing in Houston while testing out new 3-woods. I’m going to pass until he starts playing better and/or his odds go way up.
My favorite non-PGA Tour play of the week.
OK, so the alternate-field Bermuda Championship isn’t exactly “off tour” – it just seems that way with some of the names in this field. Carlos Franco! Jonathan Kaye! Keith Clearwater! Frank Lickliter! Excuse me while I dust off my 2006 PGA Tour media guide to breakdown some of these plays.
Of course, anytime the player list goes this deep, there are wagering opportunities and this time is no different.
Quick: Anyone know what kind of turf they have in Bermuda? Anyone?? Come on, give it a guess…
Yes, this is a week where we can rely on Bermuda specialists and there are a handful in the field.
Here’s a half-dozen who I like for outright plays in this one: Doc Redman (+3000), Robby Shelton (+4000), Robert Streb (+4500), Peter Uihlein (+5000), Doug Ghim (+8000) and Chase Seiffert (+12000).