2022-23 PGA TOUR Season: Five players with Outright Value, Including Sahith Theegala, Aaron Wise, More
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Pictured: Sahith Theegala
Believe it or not, the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season kicks off this week at the Fortinet Championship. While it might feel a bit counterproductive to be producing season preview content as we’re still wrapping up the previous campaign, it similarly feels neglectful to let it pass without at least one big-picture view on how to approach the betting market.
So, here’s the idea: I’m going to list five players for whom I believe there is regular outright value in relation to their respective talent levels.
That’s not to say we should blindly play the following players every week, but they regularly own prices that are longer than they should be.
Let’s get right to it, starting with a guy I’ll undoubtedly be on this week at the opener.
During the 2022 calendar year, Theegala’s odds have ranged from 250/1 (Farmers Insurance Open and Players Championship) to 20/1 (3M Open). In a way, that makes some semblance of sense.
An all-everything as an amateur, Theegala enjoyed a natural progression in his freshman campaign at the highest level, so the inverted relationship between his performances and his odds should come as little surprise. Then again, not every part of it makes sense.
Following that 20/1 number at the 3M, where he was tied for fourth on the pre-tourney board, he went from 35/1 (Rocket Mortgage Classic) to 125/1 (FedEx St. Jude Championship) to 80/1 (BMW Championship) in his next three starts.
The easy takeaway here is that in weaker fields, the books have more heavily weighted Theegala’s chances, while they’ve still offered bigger numbers against stronger fields.
However, that can be said for any player. Perhaps more appropriate here is an obvious recency bias in reaction to public money.
He was 200/1 before the Waste Management Phoenix Open, finished T3 and was 100/1 in his next start. He was 150/1 before the Travelers Championship, finished runner-up and was 25/1 in his next start.
Moral of the story? He still owns value in most events — especially in more potent fields, against whom he can certainly win — but continues to especially hold value after a poor result or two, once the public has jumped off the bandwagon.
Remember: The goal of this piece isn’t to list players you’ve never heard about; it’s to list players who remain a bit ignored in the regular marketplace.
Wise is the 37th-ranked player in the world, a former NCAA champion, has been playing the PGA TOUR since the 2017-18 season and has already won — taking the AT&T Byron Nelson title during that rookie campaign.
The point is, you know him, you’ve watched him and you’ve likely even bet on him before. The other point is that you shouldn’t stop.
In the season which just wrapped up, Wise gained strokes in every major category and ranked 21st in strokes gained overall. That’s perhaps the best gauge of total performance and he finished above the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland.
Even though his runner-up finish at the Memorial Tournament was his only true title contention, I’m a firm believer that consistent play at a high level will soon lead to better results. That was the case for guys like Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick, who ranked right around the same place as Wise during the previous season, and I expect a similar correlation over the next year.
Regular readers and listeners of my content already know that my bias toward Mitchell’s game is bordering on fanboy-type gushing, but it’s for no other reason than I believe he’s just that talented.
If Wise’s total strokes gained number sounds impressive, then it should be noted that Mitchell ranked one spot ahead of him, though their games aren’t completely congruent.
While the University of Georgia product also gained strokes in every major category, he’s not quite as well-rounded. That’s not a knock on his game, though.
Mitchell ranked fourth in strokes gained off the tee last season — trailing only the lofty company of Jon Rahm, Cameron Young and Rory McIlroy — after finishing 11th in that metric the previous year. I firmly believe he owns the goods to win anyplace, anytime, but there are going to be specific courses during the season where hitting a driver long and straight will be more advantageous than others.
From what we’ve seen, the books don’t necessarily shorten his odds at these venues, so play him accordingly.
If those stats don’t get you excited enough, there’s the inherent intangible. Every time I speak with Mitchell, he just sounds like the most confident dude in the world. I often get some Gary Woodland vibes from him, as if he knows something the rest of us don’t and maybe he’ll let us in on the secret at some point.
In such a mental pursuit as golf, Mitchell’s work with Bob Rotella has admittedly done wonders for him and I expect it to pay off with a victory or two this season.
If the first three names on this list weren’t total surprises, then at least the last two should catch your attention.
NeSmith wasn’t exactly knocking on the door to titles for most of the past season, but there’s reason to think he can pull off a win at some point. For the purpose of this exercise, I like players who excel in one specific aspect of the game and ball-striking is a pretty significant one in which to excel.
A native of South Carolina, NeSmith’s iron play is trending toward a Corey Conners-like trajectory, as he ranked 30th in strokes gained on approach shots and 31st in greens in regulation during the most recent season.
The reason I like him is that with a high baseline for iron play, he’s essentially just a solid putting performance away from contending for a victory. That’s easier said than done for a player who ranked 145th on the greens, but much like a Keegan Bradley or a Russell Henley over the years, NeSmith is a guy who only needs to improve upon a single aspect of the game in order to contend.
We can probably throw guys such as David Lipsky, Adam Svensson and Aaron Rai into the same category, as all three of them ranked inside the top-50 in ball-striking.
This one holds the same theory as the NeSmith play, though with a completely different skillset.
While the former does it with strong iron play, Clark is notable for the two most proficient clubs in his bag — the driver and the putter.
Last season, he ranked 56th in strokes gained off the tee, but fourth in driving distance, displaying some power which shouldn’t go overlooked. He was also 31st in putting.
While we can make a case that iron play is the greatest determining factor of success on a regular basis, the 1-2 combo of driver-putter might be even more effective.
Case in point: The only player to rank top-20 in both strokes gained off the tee and putting last season was Rory McIlroy.
I’m not suggesting that Clark owns the potential to be the next McIlroy — not even close — but I am suggesting he at least owns some of the same skills that can lead to success. That’s especially true on a handful of given weeks during the season, when driving and putting supersede iron play as the most important metrics.