2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open Betting Preview: How Far Ahead of the Field Is World No. 1 Jon Rahm?

2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open Betting Preview: How Far Ahead of the Field Is World No. 1 Jon Rahm? article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jon Rahm.

So, how good is Jon Rahm?

We've reached the point where Rahm is the clear favorite in any field he enters. And it's not something the golf betting market has seen in years. This despite the incredible depth in talent on the PGA TOUR has led to seemingly constant change atop the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) since the middle of 2018.

Patrick Cantlay was 6-1 last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and that was with only two of the top-20 players in the world in the field.

This week, 15 of the top-25 players are in the field at the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Rahm is 6-1.

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The Spaniard is clearly the best golfer in the world right now. He’s made three starts in 2022, finishing second, T14 and T3. In the 2020-21 season, he missed one cut and had 15 top-10 finishes and five top-three finishes in 22 starts.

His only win came at the U.S. Open in June, but just two weeks before that he was poised to win the Memorial before testing positive for COVID with a five-stroke lead after three rounds.

Justin Thomas took over for a whopping four weeks, before we saw constant change. Since May 2018, six players have owned the title of world No. 1: Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Rahm. Rahm has held his current No. 1 standing since July 18, 2021, which is when he sealed a T3 finish at the British Open. Since then, he finished the 2021-22 season in strong fashion and has picked up where he left off in the new year.

Rahm didn’t play on TOUR last fall after the Ryder Cup, opting to play in Spain and spend more time with his young son. That opened an opportunity for Collin Morikawa to take over as world No. 1 with a win at the Hero World Challenge in December, but he let a four-stroke lead in the final round go and stayed at No. 2.

So how far ahead of the TOUR is he? Well, so far in 2022 he has earned the fourth-most points toward one’s OWGR, trailing only Viktor Hovland, Luke List and Cameron Smith. Morikawa has gained 44.05 fewer, strengthening the Spaniard’s stranglehold.

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How Good Is Rahm?

DataGolf’s ranking differ from the OWGR, which focuses more on finishing positions than Strokes Gained performances. For example, Morikawa is No. 2 in the OWGR but No. 14 in DataGolf’s rankings.

That creates an even bigger gap between Rahm and the field.

DataGolf’s Matthew Courchene told The Action Network that the gap between Rahm and the No. 2 player in their rankings “was as large as any non-Tiger [Woods] gap since 2004. It has narrowed since, mainly because Rahm had a couple bad events in the fall of 2021,” which came at the Fortinet Open before the Ryder Cup and a pair in Spain.

The chart below illustrates the difference in Strokes Gained per round between the No. 1 players in the world according to DataGolf since 2004, which early on was Woods and has since become Rahm.

Chart courtesy of DataGolf.

Rahm has rebounded well to start 2022, with three strong results entering the Waste Management Open. It's quite possible that gap begins to widen again.

It is worth noting that the two players who are directly behind Rahm in DataGolf’s rankings — Cantlay and Thomas — are both in the field this week.

A Perennial Betting Favorite

On a betting front, Rahm’s incredible form has been reflected.

The Memorial in June 2021 was where he was initially recognized as the consensus favorite whenever he started. Rahm was around +1000 at the U.S. Open two weeks later, and he kept getting lower and lower. It was +900 at the British Open, then +600 at the BMW Championship as part of the FedExCup Playoffs.

In 2022, Rahm opened around 8-1 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and 6-1 at The American Express. He was at 7-1 for the Farmers Insurance Open the next week with a much, much stronger field.

The SuperBook's Jeff Sherman told The Action Network that those low numbers are warranted. He said 6-1 is as low as he'd likely go right now for Rahm.

"The power rating between him and everyone else [is large] just because of first of all his consistency factor," Sherman said. "You look at all the golfers behind him, and they’re just not top-10 every week like he is."

The SuperBook offers opposing picks on top-10s and top-20s on top players like Rahm. Sherman said he still gets sharp play against those, but the Spaniard's consistency has proven profitable for backers over the past year or so.

Who Has Been Better in Recent Memory?

When asked the last run that rivals something like Rahm is doing right now, Sherman thought back to early 2017.

Johnson was at the top of the odds board for pretty much every event he played, along with Jordan Spieth. DJ was +750 at Pebble Beach and the Genesis in 2017, either tied with Spieth or slightly ahead of him. He won as a +650 favorite at the WGC-Mexico in early March and at 8-1 at the Match Play.

Johnson was getting hot at the right time, but he unfortunately was injured and missed the Masters that year. When he returned in May, he was 6-1 or lower in three of his next four starts.

It was Johnson who also was a clear favorite whenever he played when the PGA TOUR returned from its COVID break in the middle of 2020. Johnson won the FedEx Cup that year, and he carried that success over into a convincing November win at Augusta National.

Now, though, Johnson has faded from the top of the board. It's Rahm by himself.

Sherman said Rahm is at least -145 in any matchup, which shows just how far ahead of an impressive crop of players he is. The major win last year further established that.

How Low Is Too Low To Bet Rahm?

Rahm's low odds might be merited, but is that a number that bettors take take action on?

For casual fans who are tuning into a tournament like the Waste Management before the Super Bowl, sure. It's fun to root for the best player, especially when he perennially is near the top of the leaderboard.

For those who bet golf throughout the entire year? It's not as easy.

The Action Network writer Matt Vincenzi said, "I think to get return on investment that is sustainable for a full year of betting golf outrights, anything under 8-1 is unbettable."

Chris Murphy agreed, saying, "Even there, I’m taking chances he beats me for now. He’s great for sure but he hasn’t actually closed out as many as you’d expect a guy being listed at those odds."

Vincenzi further elaborated: "So the number of golfers you can bet is dependent on odds of said golfers. A lot of people ask me, how many golfers do you bet per week, and the answer is always that is entirely dependent on the odds of each golfer. Could be six 50-1 guys or one 8-1 guy, or anywhere in between.

"But a 100-1 shot should win the same amount on a winning as an 8-1 shot.

"By keeping return per week seven times or greater that means you only have to hit an outright every seven events to break even, which to me is the minimum of what is sustainable over the course of a season/multiple seasons."

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