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Sobel: Making Sense of Corey Conners’ Odds at the Valspar Championship

Sobel: Making Sense of Corey Conners’ Odds at the Valspar Championship article feature image

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Conners

You’ll notice a strange dichotomy near the top of the Valspar Championship odds board this week.

Paul Casey is the two-time defending champion, seeking the incredibly rare PGA TOUR three-peat, and he’s currently listed at +2200.

Makes sense, really. Casey has played well this year, winning in Dubai three months ago, and deserves to be in the second tier just beyond favorites Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.

Even so, consider this a bit disarming — or maybe it simply suggests value: Casey was +2000 prior to each of his two previous Valspar wins, but he’s somehow managed slightly longer odds after more success.

That’s hardly the strange part, though.

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No, that comes in a surprising third-favorite on the board this week in Corey Conners. With one fewer career victory than Casey owns at this tournament alone in the past two editions, Conners stands at +1800 outright.

In those terms alone, the prices might sound a bit misguided, but — surprise, surprise — the oddsmakers tend to know what they’re doing.

Conners has finished in the top-10 in four of his last six starts and this week’s host venue, Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, particularly suits his elite ball-striking abilities.

Two years ago, he held the 54-hole lead, got paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday afternoon, then fell victim to the moment, getting passed on the leaderboard by Casey and so many others, eventually finishing in a share of 16th place.

Just two weeks later, the Canadian famously Monday qualified for the Valero Texas Open, then won six days later, clinching the final Masters invitation and proving that the Valspar final round didn’t only lead to negative repercussions.

Now the questions around Conners have changed. Instead, we’re asking questions such as, “Does he have any staying power as one of the favorites in fields like this one?” and “How low is too low for us to chase after him this week?”

Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Conners.

To answer the first one, we should examine the overall profile that he’s built. A seemingly grounded guy who studied to be an actuary if this golf thing didn’t work out, he doesn’t seem too fazed by the spotlight of bigger stages. That’s a good sign, as is the fact that he can rely on an iron game that might only rank below the likes of the aforementioned Thomas and Collin Morikawa.

Unless he goes on a winning tear soon, we won’t see Conners’ odds in the high-teens prior to most other events, but this one offered the perfect intersection between course history and recent form, one which sportsbooks knew the public would want to capitalize on this week.

All of which leads to that second question.

I’ll admit it: Prior to the odds being released, Conners was one of my favorite plays on the theoretical board, but I simply couldn’t chase that number. We often reference value in the prognostication business and I suppose the easy explanation is that any bet which eventually cashes owns some inherent value.

There is, of course, way more to it than that. Prior to the recent Masters, Johnson was the favorite at 8/1, while Conners was well behind at 100/1, tied for 32nd on the board. Just three weeks later, their odds are 11/1 and 18/1, respectively. You might want to fade DJ after a spate of mediocrity and play Conners after his strong performances, but you’re at least going to have to rationalize it against those numbers from Augusta National.

From Conners’ meteoric movement to Casey’s relative languish on the board, it’s all just another reminder that these prices are a reflection of public perception. It might’ve been a shock to see Conners third on this week’s list and a surprise to see him above a two-time defending champion, but it certainly has more bettors thinking twice about where they want to put their money this week.

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