Sobel: How to Bet the U.S. Women’s Open, DP World Tour Championship & QBE Shootout
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Brooke Henderson.
The last official PGA TOUR event of 2020 has been completed, but as we all know, golf never ends — and that means golf betting never ends, either.
For the second week of December, this week’s schedule is actually packed with what should be some pretty entertaining events.
Let’s break down this week’s three biggest tournaments, with a handful of plays for each of ‘em.
All odds as of Monday and via DraftKings.
U.S. Women’s Open
Look, 2020 has been a weird year, so maybe it only makes some small semblance of sense that the Women’s Open is being held in December on two courses. Played at Champions GC in Houston, this edition of the event will be held predominantly on the Cypress Creek course (6,731 yards) with each competitor playing one of the first two rounds on the Jackrabbit (6,558 yards), as well.
Much like its U.S. Open cousin, this USGA championship has yielded more birdies in recent years, with final winning scores between 6- and 11-under par over the past half-decade. While an ability to grind out pars should still lead to a respectable result, ball-striking should serve as the overall determination of the final leaderboard.
This is a big week for the LPGA, both tangibly and otherwise. The opportunity to showcase the world’s best players on a major stage via network television without a PGA TOUR event to steal away some interest level should make this feel even bigger than most other women’s majors.
You know the LPGA (and USGA) execs will be rooting for a leaderboard packed with some of the game’s top names. Don’t be surprised if this one does indeed live up to their expectations.
My first play was a toss-up between Brooke Henderson (+1100) and Danielle Kang (+1200), who are second and third on the board, respectively, behind Sei Young Kim (+600). While I think Kang, a well-known friend of the Gretzky family, might be motivated by Dustin Johnson’s recent Masters win, Henderson’s play as of late has shown her knocking on all the right doors.
With a runner-up and three sixth-place finishes in her last four starts, the Canadian sensation should be ready to get her Women’s Open resume back on track after four somewhat lackluster appearances that were preceded by a pair of top-10s.
There are no strokes gained statistics available for the LPGA, which obviously impacts our ability to prognosticate on a regular basis, but the stats which are available scream Carlota Ciganda (+1800) this week.
On what should be a pair of ball-strikers’ courses, Ciganda ranks third (behind only Kim and Henderson) in greens in regulation this season. She’s also in top form, having finished T-3 and T-4 at her last two starts. I was hoping for a bigger price on a player whose only two LPGA titles came in 2016, but she should be featured on the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Since 2008, South Korean-born players have dominated this event, winning eight of the last dozen titles. If that streak is to continue, Jin Young Ko (+2500) might be the one to keep it going.
Riddle me this: Ko is currently No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, the world ranking for women, yet she’s listed at seventh on the oddsmakers’ board. Some of that is undoubtedly due to the fact that she’s played just two LPGA events since the pandemic started, but one of those was a fifth-place finish this past weekend.
And it’s not like she wasn’t playing during that time; Ko finished 3rd-2nd-8th in three KLPGA starts before returning to the U.S. tour. Throw in the fact that she won two majors last year and didn’t finish worse than T-16 in any of the five, and she might be the preferred play this week.
Minjee Lee (+3300) has been an all-or-nothing type of player this year, but we should like her ceiling this week. She won on the LET just last month and owns three top-fives on the LPGA this year, including a third-place result at the Women’s British Open. Her splits aren’t on the level of Ko, but at No. 8 in the world and No. 12 in the odds, there should be some inherent value this week.
I’ve always seen Anna Nordqvist (+9000) as a gamer, the type of fiery competitor who feeds off the adrenaline of being in contention. She’s a two-time major champion, finished runner-up at this event four years ago, was fifth at the Women’s PGA earlier this year and is fresh off a T-6 result this past weekend. Consider this a very, very intriguing price for her this week.
Unlike in the U.S. Open (most years), I do believe there are players at triple-digit prices who can win this tourney without it being much of a shock. My two favorites here are a pair of up-and-comers not too far removed from the collegiate ranks.
Jennifer Kupcho (+10000) was an NCAA champion and also won the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur last year. The other is two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman (+15000); I always like backing a player who has won a previous USGA title, much like Bryson DeChambeau proved earlier this year. Gillman and Kupcho were T-8 and T-11, respectively, this past weekend, so they’re each coming in with some form.
Let’s go with one final dart throw. Speaking of Bryson, if speed and distance can win the U.S. Open, then maybe those attributes can bring a Women’s Open title, as well. Bianca Pagdanganan (+15000) might be the best player you don’t yet know, but she owns a powerful swing that’s helped her lead the LPGA with an average driving distance of just over 284 yards this year. If she can harness that power and show some short game, she could make a name for herself this week.
DP World Tour Championship
The European Tour’s year-long Race to Dubai ends this week, with the top-60 on the points list competing for the overseas equivalent of the FedEx Cup title.
You can’t fake your way to a DP victory. Since its inception in 2009, this tournament has witnessed a murderer’s row of stud champions; perhaps the only winner who didn’t fit that profile was Alvaro Quiros in 2011, though the big hitter was pretty studly himself at that point. Since then, the winner’s list has included Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson twice apiece, with Matt Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett each winning once.
This week’s edition will see pre-tournament favorite Patrick Reed (+800), Collin Morikawa (+1800) and Sungjae Im (+2200) all venturing to Dubai from their home tour, but I’m going to stick with what’s been the winning formula — a Euro Tour regular who’s a familiar face in the winner’s circle.
If Matt Wallace (+2200) isn’t motivated this week, then someone needs to check his pulse. An emotional competitor, I doubt that will be necessary, but he enters this one with plenty of reasons to come out firing. He owns a pair of runner-up finishes in his last five starts, which should have him ready to hoist a trophy.
Then there’s the little matter of this past weekend’s latest T-2 only moving him from 51st to 49th in the world ranking, as he hopes to retain top-50 honors by year’s end and enjoy the spoils that come with it, including a Masters invitation.
Wallace was similarly runner-up at this event two years ago, so he could slay a handful of demons with one fell swoop this week.
There’s a sweet spot at the beginning of the mid-tier this week, and it starts with Robert Macintyre (+3000).
The young Scotsman spent much of the summer insisting he was close without proving it through his results, but finishes of 3rd-1st-6th-19th in his last four starts have done the talking for him. He’s an emerging star just waiting for a big breakthrough victory, and it wouldn’t be a shock if that one finally comes this week.
At the same price, Bernd Wiesberger (+3000) feels like a dissimilar play, considering he’s a well-traveled veteran who’s already had a bit of been-there/done-that in his career.
However, much like Macintyre, he’s overcome a string of mediocrity with some strong recent play, finishing T-4 at the RSM Classic, then heading back to Dubai for a T-8 last week.
I’ve been waiting all year for Thomas Pieters (+3500) to pop, but it just hasn’t happened yet. But of course, that simply serves as a microcosm for his career, as the world’s 82nd-ranked player owns the talent to be a top-20 sort of guy on an annual basis.
His ball-striking numbers suggest just an above-average week with the wedges and putter could and should equal a title contention, but I’ll readily admit his high ceiling is offset by a low floor.
If you’re looking at Thomas Detry (+4500) this week, here’s everything you need to know: He’s basically Thomas Pieters 2.0. From the country (Belgium) to the college (Illinois) to the ability to mash the ball off the tee and the inability to (so far) live up to potential, there are a ton of similarities.
As you might’ve noticed above, there are three players in the past eight years who have won this title on two separate occasions, suggesting certain horses are attracted to this course. Danny Willett (+7000) has won this event merely once in that time frame, which suggests he could be the next one to add a second victory. At this price, he holds a ton of value.
Whatever name they give this event — it has enjoyed (or endured) nine different titles since the inception in 1989 — just consider it the ol’ Shark Shootout, with tandems of PGA TOUR pros going after a little Silly Season spending money before the holidays, with one round each of a scramble format, modified alternate shot and best-ball.
Once again this week, there will be just a dozen teams competing, a stark decline from the (slightly) bigger fields it used to have.
Four of them are repeaters, having previously played here together — Harris English/Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel/Brendon Todd, Ryan Palmer/Harold Varner III and defending champions Rory Sabbatini/Kevin Tway.
I’m bypassing that quartet, however, in favor of three new duos who should have some appeal this week.
First off, I’m not even sure the right team is favored. Tony Finau/Cameron Champ (+550) are atop the pre-tourney board, but Abraham Ancer/Matthew Wolff (+650) feels like a deadly combo in these three formats.
I can easily see them setting the pace in a scramble, then playing Heisman over the final two rounds and keeping the field at arm’s length. There aren’t many times a Sooner and a Cowboy can make for an uncontentious team, but I really like them here.
If that opposing college pride is too much for you to overcome on your card, then Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith (+800) should be aligned more closely. The Aussie duo has largely spent the past half-year on opposite ends of the leaderboard, with Smith playing some of the best golf of his career and Leishman languishing, but the latter has found a little something lately.
They say opposites attract, and while sweet-swinging Daniel Berger and prodigious-putting partner Steve Stricker fit the bill, I’ll go with Lanto Griffin/Mackenzie Hughes (+1200) at a slightly bigger number. Griffin is a very good ball-striker who can get exceptionally hot at times, while Hughes is rapidly becoming one of the better putters in the game.