Sobel: Don’t Be Surprised by the Underdogs in Golf’s Upcoming Matches

Credit:

Sam Greenwood, Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Wolff

May 04, 2020, 12:33 PM EDT

If there’s golf being played, there’s money to be made.

Before the scheduled return of PGA TOUR tournaments next month, two high-profile matches between big-name golfers (and a couple of other guys) will be aired live on national television and streamed internationally, the first competitive golf events in over two months.

And yes, you can bet on ‘em.

Even though all proceeds for TaylorMade Driving Relief and Champions for Charity will be donated toward COVID-19 relief efforts, expect there to be plenty of betting action from a sports-starved audience which has largely gone without many gaming opportunities since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the first match, on May 17 at Seminole GC, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will team up against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a skins game which appears one-sided, at least from the oddsmakers’ perspective.

Rory and DJ are ranked first and fifth in the world, respectively – Fowler and Wolff are 27th and 110th – and they’re the only two players in the match who have won major championships. It’s the reason why they’ve been installed as a heavy favorite, as golfodds.com has Rory/DJ at -200 and Fowler/Wolff +175 – and it’s the reason why many bettors will flock to what they consider a slam-dunk winning ticket.

It’s also the reason why I’d recommend taking Fowler and Wolff instead.

Don’t get me wrong here: Do I really think Rory and DJ will lose this match? Probably not, but I also don’t believe the differential between the two teams is enough to warrant such disparity in their odds.

I’m usually partial to only plus-money options when it comes to individual tournament or single-round matchup bets, for the simple reason that the discrepancy between any two players in the same event is often minor and any competitor can beat one of his peers on any given day.

That’s how I feel about this one, too.

Sure, Rory and DJ are the better players, the more accomplished players, the proper favorites in this one. There’s obviously more value on the underdogs, though – especially considering the format. Considering this will be a birdie-or-better proposition to win the skins, the birdie averages for the two teams this season are negligible, with McIlroy (4.33) and Johnson (3.44) totaling a combined 7.77 per round, while Fowler (3.95) and Wolff (3.50) are just behind them at 7.45.

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Considering the latter pair have an Oklahoma State connection and perhaps more motivation as the underdog, the plus-money is the zigging pick to everyone’s potential zag.

One week after the first charity match will be another, more star-studded one between teams of Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady.

While some details have yet to be released – Medalist GC is a likely venue and there’s murmurs of an alternate-shot component – we at least know the teams and the odds ahead of time.

Woods and Manning have been installed as a -220 favorite by SuperBookUSA, while Mickelson and Brady are a +175 underdog.

The numbers make sense: Woods is a member at Medalist and obviously knows the course better than his opponents. Meanwhile, Manning’s handicap index of 6.4 places him a couple of notches above Brady, who’s an 8.1.

Other than that, though, this one remains a toss-up. There’s no real way of analyzing pairings of a Hall of Fame golfer and quarterback in what should be a less-than-major-championship type of environment between them.

And so, once again, I’d recommend betting the plus-money based on pure value.

That strategy worked the last time Tiger and Phil played “The Match” a year-and-a-half ago and it could easily work again. Based purely on social media posts, it does seem like Mickelson and Brady might be a little more motivated to partner up and win this match than their opponents.

These two upcoming matches should qualify as a soft open for sports in general and professional golf more specifically – and for sports wagering once again.

The lack of other competitive options and the charitable component should ensure success for both events and the strategy of betting on the value picks could lead to success for bettors’ returns, as well.

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