Greenbrier Golf Betting Guide: The Favorites, Longshots With Value in Weak Field
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tony Finau
What a Sunday from Francesco Molinari to win the Quicken Loans National. Molinari, one of my pretournament bets, cashed at 22-1 and marked the ninth outright winner I’ve picked in my articles for The Action Network during the 2017-18 tour season. We’ll try to keep it rolling at this week’s event, the Greenbrier Classic.
This has been one of the more unpredictable events in its short history. Now called A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, we’ll probably get more of the same in 2018.
In the previous seven tournaments, Angel Cabrera is the only champion to rank inside the World Golf Ranking Top 100 at the time of the victory. He entered the week at No. 90 in 2014.
With so many winners coming from off the radar, there hasn’t really been an overriding skill set that wins here. Longer hitters such as Cabrera and Xander Schauffele have victories, but so do shorter hitters such as Jonas Blixt and Ted Potter Jr.
The Old White TPC is a 7,286-yard par 70, but will play a little shorter than that yardage because of the altitude. Using a rough estimate, a golf course loses 2% of its yardage for every 1,000 feet above sea level. And with White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, checking in at around 2,000 feet of elevation, we’ll see this course play at around 7,000 yards.
The Old White also has a unique layout with no par-5s on the front, so the opening nine holes play to a par 34. It’s also one of the few tour stops that finishes with a par-3.
Five favorites clearly stand out at the top of this field. Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson and Schauffele are near the top of the betting board. Finau opened as a +1100 favorite in some books available in Europe and Canada, while Mickelson and Watson were at +1600.
Finau and Watson opened at +2000, while Mickelson was next in line at +2200 with Simpson and Russell Henley. Schauffele came in just behind at +2500.
These numbers changed my entire strategy for the week.
This has always been a tournament to target longshots, so I wasn’t expecting to bet Finau or Phil.
But like Molinari last week, anything around +2000 in a weak field is a good number. I rarely double up like this at the top, but Phil and Finau were 1-2 on my board by a good margin, and to get them both in the 20-1 range was not something I expected.
I have Finau slightly ahead of Mickelson here if you’re debating one or the other. Finau has better results, with two top-15s in two tries. Mickelson has missed the cut three times here, so he’s been pretty hit or miss.
This is the range I expected to start my card, and even after unexpectedly adding Finau and Mickelson, I’m still targeting two plays here.
Joaquin Niemann continues to impress. The 19-year old closed with a 65 on Sunday to work his way into the top 20 at the Quicken Loans National. He opened at +3300. And this course has been kind to rookies.
Schauffele picked up the win in his first season a year ago, joining Scott Stallings (2011) and Potter Jr. (2012) as rookies who have won this event. Niemann has as much if not more talent than anyone on that list. He also played last year as an amateur and had three great rounds, but a 75 on Saturday sent him down the board and he finished tied for 29th.
The other guy I’m backing is Ryan Moore at +4000. In the seven-year history of this tournament, only Danny Lee in 2015 had ever played it in a previous season. This will be Moore’s first time at The Greenbrier. The stat is probably more of fluke than anything, but Moore fits this course regardless. He’s at his best on shorter layouts in weak fields.
I expected to have a pretty deep card in this range. Before Schauffele’s win last year, four straight champs were listed at 100-1 or higher before the tournament.
But this week, many of the guys I expected to be in that range had their numbers slashed. That led to me targeting the top of the board more.
First up is Brandon Hagy at +8000 — but I expect we’ll find triple digits at some point. Hagy is teeing it up on the PGA Tour for the first time since November after recovering from a wrist injury. It appears he’s fully recovered, however. Hagy tied for second two weeks ago after losing in a playoff on the Web.com Tour. He’s a long hitter who makes birdies in bunches and looked poised to break through during the fall swing before he was derailed by the injury. I’ll be looking for a top-20 play in the +400 or +500 range as well.
Next, I’m looking at Brandon Harkins at 100-1 and Chris Stroud at 125-1. Harkins has been a consistent cut-maker, seeing the weekend in six of his past seven tournaments. The short game has held him back. He’s lost strokes in 13 of his past 15 tournaments around the green.
However, he gained nearly five strokes with his approach last week. If he can keep that up, it will take pressure off his chipping and he could work his way into contention. Stroud has had a good history here, finishing in the top 10 twice. I like both of these players to finish top-20 in that +500 range as well.