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Sobel’s 2019 Zurich Classic Betting Preview: Fade the Chalk at TPC Louisiana


Joshua S. Kelly, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Rory Sabbatini

  • The Zurich Classic is one of the toughest PGA Tour events to handicap because of its team-based format.
  • Jason Day and Adam Scott (+700) are favorites to win the event, but Jason Sobel says you should fade the chalk at TPC Louisiana.

Welcome to what is, in a way, one of the best betting weeks on the PGA Tour calendar. And absolutely, positively one of the worst, too.

Allow me to explain, since that certainly didn’t clear anything up.

This week’s tournament is the Zurich Classic, which for the third straight year is a two-man format featuring 80 teams. For an event that annually felt like it had a bit of an identity crisis amongst the amalgam of indy stroke-play fixtures, this was a brilliant idea to separate from the pack and stand out as unique.

It’s easy to see why this one is so much fun to bet.

There’s a bit of Ryder Cup element to the proceedings, without the rampant xenophobia and escalating heart rates.

If wagering on individual players each week is enticing, then wagering on two of ‘em together is, uh, twice as enticing. Based on the nature of the beast, one player can carry the other — as Billy Horschel did for Scott Piercy during their victory last year — or like any good member-guest duo, they can ham-and-egg around the course while gaining ground on the leaderboard.

With best-ball for the first and third rounds, and alternate shot for the second and fourth, there’s plenty of room for volatility, especially on that final day, when a hot team can make a serious run from behind while the leaders can move backward in a hurry.

Sounds like fun, right?

It is — and yet, there are reasons this tourney is simultaneously brutal to bet.

At most stroke-play events, we’re trying to identify players at the intersection of recent form and course history. If that’s an inexact science in itself, then try doubling it. Sure, we can find tandems to fit the analytical models. And yes, every other event is also somewhat of a crapshoot. But this one is always way more random than others.

Also, for those who enjoy having more skin in the game than just outright winners, top-5/10/20 and matchups, DFS industry leaders still haven’t figured out how to include games based on this format, instead taking a pass on the entire week. That’s a huge triple-bogey.

So, what type of team should we look to bet this week?

There’s been few trends over the first two editions of this format, but I’m looking at two different types of teams.

The first is the buddy system. I want guys who play practice rounds together, who know each other’s games, who won’t get frustrated spending four days with each other. Think about it: If you’re going to compete in a team event, do you want to play alongside someone you like, whose game you trust? Or do you want to be paired up with someone you’re not as familiar with? Give me the former every time.

The second is the us-and-the-world team. This is a perfect opportunity for two fringe players, perhaps still battling for status, to band together and go after the W. Let’s face it: If Adam Scott and Jason Day don’t play well this week, they’ll both be just fine moving forward. But for those much further down the list, this week can be a life-changer.

With that in mind, let’s get to this week’s selections.


Sergio Garcia-Tommy Fleetwood (+800)

Full disclosure: My original list of picks skipped right past all the faves, directly to teams that were 30-1 or higher. But it would be foolish to write off all the top-ranked tandems, so I’ve included a few, starting with this one that should feature plenty of impressive ball-striking, though I cringe at that low number next to their names.

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