Charles Schwab Betting Preview: The Return of Golf at Colonial Is the Perfect Time to Take Longshots
Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Danny Lee
As sports come back, bettors will have a tall task of handicapping weird situations. It’s an unprecedented time in lot of ways, including in sports, and that brings variables like long layoffs, a lack of fans and more that muddy the waters on trying to predict what will happen.
The PGA makes its return this week for the Charles Schwab Challenge, hosted at Colonial Country Club in Forth Worth, Texas. No fans will be in attendance, and while golf seems like an easy sport to practice despite the COVID-19 shutdown, it’s unclear which golfers have been doing so. Current form for the entire huge field is a massive question mark.
Furthering the uncertainty this week is the fact that Colonial is a bit of an unpredictable track. As a par-70 at 7,200 yards, it’s definitely not a bomber’s paradise, although long guys like Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka have found high-end success.
Driving distance has not been a bonus here; in fact, golfers with the long ball have historically underperformed expectations, which makes sense as golfers are usually long or short and more accurate. Few golfers are both, and those are the best names in the world like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, etc.
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But it’s not like your traditional ball-striking metrics have been very predictable either. Driving accuracy and greens in regulation have both been less important here than the average tour event. The biggest angle I’ve found at Colonial in my research is that golfers with great short games do well.
And honestly, a lot of those golfers are longshots, as we’ve seen on the leaderboard historically. Take a look at the past winners: Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, Chris Kirk, Boo Weekley, Zach Johnson and Rory Sabbatini, to name a few. Those aren’t crazy names, but they are guys consistently in the mid-to-low tier in terms of betting odds.
This morning I created a course history rating for Colonial to easily highlight which golfers have the best track record at this course. Among those are big names like Jordan Spieth and Koepka, sure, but right in the mix include guys likes Kirk, Brian Harman, Danny Lee, Charley Hoffman and others. You can get all of those guys at big triple digits.
What I’m trying to say is that Colonial is a course that’s tough to predict anyway, and we’ve seen longshots do well. Combine that with the situation we find ourselves in — the first no-fans event coming off a long layoff — and it may be the perfect storm for longshots and plus-money bets.
My Betting Strategy This Week at Colonial
I’ll admit: I’m not a big bettor of to-win odds. It’s an exercise that can be highly profitable if successful; golf is a rare game that will cash a 300/1 ticket.
But the fields are so incredible big that even if you find an edge, you have to be a very diligent bettor and have a sizable bankroll to be able to realize that edge over the long-term. You also have to have mental strength, as there will be a lot more — a lot more — losing bets than winning ones.
There’s longshot to-win value this week almost certainly. But the way I’m approaching it and you might find valuable as well is to focus on head-to-head matchup props.
Books tend to offer those props on golfers within the same range of skillset or predictable outcomes. It’s why you don’t see matchups with -300 odds; they’re just not going to offer Rory McIlroy vs. Scott McCarron, for example.
Given the props on the board and the situation this week, I’m not certain that any of these matchups listed should be extreme in their odds.
The books definitely seem to have adjusted the matchups down a bit — so they likely agree with my sentiment — but perhaps not enough. Phil Mickelson, for example, is a +130 dog to Jim Furyk at Parx. I’m not a Mickelson stan by any means, but should he be +130 to anyone in his range?
More extreme odds can be found in single-day matchups. Brooks Koepka is a +150 dog in Round 1 to Jon Rahm at DraftKings. Jordan Spieth is a +163 underdog to Justin Thomas.
The books have the correct side on those, but given the massive uncertainty this week for a variety of reasons, none of these should be +150 or higher, in my opinion.
Maybe I’m wrong; maybe golfers have been practicing and maybe they’ll settle right back into play even without fans. I’d bet that won’t be the case, though, and I think if you blindly bet all plus-money sides of matchups this week, you’d come out ahead despite the juice.
Golf is back! Enjoy. You’ll find me rooting hard for all the dogs.