Sentry Tournament of Champions Picks: Expert Approach to Betting 2023 Opener
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Viktor Hovland.
After a month-long break, we are back for the Sentry Tournament of Champions! Thirty-nine qualifiers will be giving Kapalua their best shot, hoping to ride the wave of success throughout the entire season, and I could not be more excited to be along for the ride.
I mentioned this concept on my Links & Locks podcast with Roberto Arguello and Nick Bretwisch, but birdie shootouts tend to convolute the handicapping process since more guys come into play when the conditions soften. That is a theory that has been proven from a mathematical perspective when we dive into success at venues that feature winning scores that I would classify as “easier-than-average,” but I would still be cautious when following that general sentiment at its most basic level.
Sure, the structure of that description demonstrates the expectation around every player becoming further enhanced since easy scoring equals better performances for all, but the fact that this event now allows the top-30 players — even without a past victory — should provide us with a much more dynamic field of participants.
That leaves us this board that accentuates the cream rising to the top, and our job becomes trying to differentiate the contenders from the pretenders — something we will try to uncover more.
If you aren’t doing so already, you can find me on Twitter @TeeOffSports. There I will provide a link to my pre-tournament model, a powerful and interactive data spreadsheet that allows user inputs to create custom rankings for golf. That sheet is released every Monday, so be sure to check it out and construct your own numbers from my database of information.
Well, I appear to be on my own planet this week when it comes to fading Viktor Hovland.
Sharp markets love Hovland’s potential output by moving him up the board in both the head-to-head and outright sectors, and the movement has been notable in most cases — evidenced by his push toward being a sizable favorite in matchups against the likes of Cameron Young and Matthew Fitzpatrick. All of that placed me in a quandary that made me go back to the research board to figure out if I was missing something that the rest of the market was noticing, but the short answer to that was a definitive no.
Hovland’s metrics begin to sink at most tests where wind becomes a factor, and while the birdie-making upside and potential to score at an easy track shouldn’t be discounted, I believe there is a stylistic concern for him at a course where he has yet to post a finish better than 30th-place.
From an optimal game theory route, I love trying to find matchups against him from a pre-tournament perspective against anyone that might be adequately priced vs. him for the week (pretty much anything -135 or better), and there could be this opening after day one if he does get off to a decent start for us to pinpoint other avenues to take him on throughout the in-tournament market.
When we look at the two most overrated golfers on my model, the fact that K.H. Lee cracked the second name on this list is possibly more of a deterrent than even Hovland since we are talking about a golfer that opened 23rd on the betting board from an outright perspective and 28th for his DFS position.
Usually, most of the significantly overpriced outliers from a win equity standpoint will come from names a little higher up on the list, but the fact that Lee has continued his negative trajectory in the futures market only adds to the notion that the opportunity to take on the 31-year-old in potential head-to-head wagers might yet to be accounted for with his slippage down the board.
Lee ranks a paltry 31st in weighted scoring — a metric I used to recalculate expected returns at Kapalua — and the additional 31st-place grade in weighted proximity creates this double-whammy that convolutes his desired output and places way too much stress on a stellar short-game that will be able to handle the undulation of the track, but maybe not in the sense of creating makable birdie looks at a venue that needs scoring chances to work yourself up the leaderboard.
My least desired way to take Lee on is likely from a round-one perspective since we have seen spike days that have been undone later in the week, but I would still strongly consider a wager like Adam Scott -110 over K.H. Lee at bet365 on Thursday. The Aussie is one of my favorite targets down the board because of the combination that ranks him first in weighted proximity from under 100 yards and over 200 yards, seventh for driving distance and second when faced with slow Bermuda greens.
Underrated Star At The Top
After coming up just short on Scottie Scheffler at the Hero World Challenge, let’s run it back again on a golfer exhibiting the best pure combination of ball striking in this field.
The American has gained an astronomical 6.7 shots tee-to-green over his last 10 starts with data present, although it is the -1.63 strokes he has lost per event during that same timeframe with his flat stick that has made the headline notes by removing most of the win equity upside that we became accustomed to on a golfer that captured four titles on tour in less than two months.
The good part of that answer is we know Scheffler can string together results like no other, even if we are now dealing with a month-long layoff between starts.
It’s worth noting that I’ve always been a massive proponent of locating the elite golfers in the field that are currently producing from a statistical standpoint but not cashing in with the flat stick. Inevitably, those putts will start to fall, and in this case, it may equate to a runaway victory the second we see the former number-one spike on the greens.
Scheffler has an expected 27th-place grade in this field when putting on all green complexes but shoots up to 16th when faced with a velcro-like Bermuda texture, a return that is noteworthy enough to make me believe that help could be on its way.