Sobel’s Mayakoba Golf Classic Betting Preview: Value on Patton Kizzire to Rise Above the Rest
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Patton Kizzire.
And then there was one.
That’s right — just one final PGA TOUR event left in 2020, if you don’t count next week’s team-based QBE Shootout or the upcoming PNC (Father-Son) Championship. Granted, that still means we’re just a dozen tourneys into this 50-event super-season, but it’s a worthwhile checkpoint for a year-round schedule that implores us to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.
For those bettors whose win rate looks something akin to that of Tony Finau, the conclusion of this week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic will offer a chance to reset and reenergize prior to the schedule’s continuation early next month. And for those who simply can’t stop winning, well, you can always place a hefty wager on 11-year-old Charlie Woods (and his dad) in a few weeks.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though.
The festivities at Mayakoba will, as usual, take place on picturesque El Camaleon Golf Club, a par 71 that plays just north of 7,000 yards. If Fred Funk, Brian Gay and Mark Wilson — the first three winners of this event starting in 2007 — didn’t initially clue us into the type of player who can succeed here, then just check out the last two, as Matt Kuchar and Brendon Todd are similar fairway-finders.
Once again, this tourney should cater to ball-strikers and short-game artists over protein shake enthusiasts. Don’t be shy about checking out results from the recent RSM Classic, Bermuda Championship, Sanderson Farms and Corales Puntacana for hints as to whom might find themselves on the leaderboard.
My list starts with a pick that might be a bit under the radar but should make sense this week.
One player to win the tournament.
Patton Kizzire (+6600)
This has largely been an autumn of underdogs, with Hudson Swafford, Martin Laird, Brian Gay and Robert Streb among the winners so far. With that in mind, I wanted to dig a little deeper below the surface to unearth a name this week, and Kizzire seemed to fit the profile.
For starters, he won this event three years ago, which follows a very Laird/Streb vibe, each of whom returned to the scene of a previous victory. There’s more to this pick than that, though. Kizzire has always been a momentum player, feeding off recent strong results to post even better ones.
When he won his first KFT title in 2015, it came after six top-10s in his previous nine starts — and then he won again three starts later. When he won at Mayakoba in 2017, it was preceded by a pair of top-10s — and then he won again three starts later.
This week, he’s fresh off finishes of 10th and -11th in his last two events, his highest pair of consecutive results since that last victory. He’s clearly moving in the right direction, and this feels like the right time to hop on that bandwagon.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Sebastian Munoz (+6000)
A missed cut in his last start at the RSM Classic should simply be considered cost management, as it kept his price from being untenable this week and perhaps threw some bettors off the scent. What we should remember, though, is that he was top-20 in each of his previous three starts and top-30 in eight of his previous nine. His results at this one aren’t anything too special, but in the case of guys who are clearly playing the best golf of their careers, I’m not too concerned about past performance at specific events.
Emiliano Grillo (+4500)
If you are concerned about past performance, though, then you might consider Grillo a safer OAD play this week. In four career Mayakoba starts, he owns three top-15 finishes, as last year’s T-41 was the only outlier. In fact, speaking of outliers, he broke par on this course in each of his first 15 rounds, ending that streak with an even-par 71 in last year’s final round.
Even so, that’s a nice run of really good scores for a proven ball-striker who only needs to get a bit tepid with his putter to contend once again.
One player to finish top-five.
Abraham Ancer (+500 for top-five)
I was ready to pull the trigger on Ancer as my favorite outright play this week, but the fifth-lowest odds on the board for something to happen for the first time doesn’t seem like a wise decision, so I decided to back off a bit.
Nobody’s ever gotten rich trying to cash Ancer tickets, but there are a few reasons to believe things could be different for one of the top PGA TOUR talents without a PGA TOUR win. He’s fresh off a title contention at Augusta National, which admittedly ended early Sunday, as he posted a final-round 76 in the last group. But at least proves he’s in solid form.
Competing against some of the big boys in this week’s field should hardly carry much intimidation for a guy who’s used to it. And playing in his native Mexico should offer some additional motivation without the pressure of the first few times he’s done so.
Throw in the fact that Abe has finished 21st or better in each of the last three editions of this event, and he should be a smart play — if not also a trendy one — to finally claim that first career victory.
One player to finish top-10.
Ollie Schniederjans (+1400 for top-10)
In his last 10 PGA/KFT starts, Ollie has been the embodiment of all-or-nothing: MC-3rd-MC-MC-8th-MC-12th-10th-MC-7th. That won’t win him any awards for consistency, but as we all know by now, consistency is overrated in this game. Not that we’d turn down the career of Charles Howell III, but you know he’d trade a few of those millions for one of John Daly’s major championship trophies.
Anyway, Schniederjans has finished top-10 in four of those last 10 starts, which far exceeds the implied odds from his number here. Sure, there’s a chance his penchant for all-or-nothing results in nothing again, but his top-10 equity is far greater than those at a similar price.
One player to finish top-20.
Doug Ghim (+450 for top-20)
The University of Texas product owned an amateur record that was comparable to some players who have received much more hype early in their pro careers. Maybe Ghim doesn’t get as much respect as he should, but he’s posted top-20 results in each of his last two starts and three of his last five, including solid performances at places like Sea Island, Bermuda and Jackson, each of which should have some correlation to El Camaleon.
One player to finish top-30.
Even though he MC’d in each of his last two starts, one was missed by a single stroke and the other started with an opening 78 before a 70 the next day. It doesn’t feel like Shelton is too far removed from playing solid golf, as he went T-21 and T-34 in his previous two appearances.
Last year, a final-round 65 vaulted him into a share of sixth place at this event, so there’s some history here. With longer odds than some players whose world ranking number is twice as big, I think this is a nice conservative play on Shelton.
One player to finish top-40.
After getting burned on my Davis Thompson call two weeks ago, I’m a big reluctant to list another youngster stepping up to play with the big boys, but top-40 still feels safe enough for last year’s U.S. Amateur champion. After finishing T-34 at the Masters, Ogletree will make his professional debut on a sponsor’s exemption this week.
Whether it was Will Zalatoris or Will Gordon, we’ve seen players in similar situations — young talents with a small window of opportunity — take advantage of such gifts, so don’t be surprised to see him on the leaderboard early in this event, knowing this one probably means more to him than it might for most of his veteran peers.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
There are fewer safe plays right now safer than English, whose last 13 starts have results in 12 top-40 finishes and four top-10s, including two in his last three appearances. If that wasn’t enough to insta-click him into your lineups this week, the 2014 champion of this event was solo fifth here last year. I don’t mind outrights and props on English, as well, though his number is too low for my liking. In DFS contests, he might be chalky, but for good reason.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
If you’re closing out a lineup with a low-cost, low-owned player at the bottom, then everything is gravy after making the cut, which should be the main objective here. Well, that’s something Oppenheim has done really well lately, reaching the weekend in six of his last eight starts. He might not have the highest ceiling of these lower-priced options — of those six made cuts, his best result is T-15 — but he does own a high floor, which is important for a player in this tier.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Harold Varner III (+6600 for FRL)
If there was a PGA TOUR-based SAT test, we’d all crush this analogy question: “Charley Hoffman : majors :: _______ : regular events.” It’s a bit of a stereotypical myth that in his prime, Hoffman was “always” on the first-round leaderboard, but that notion isn’t without some merit, as it certainly took place on a handful of occasions.
Varner has similarly gotten a rep — right or wrong; good or bad — as one of the game’s better Thursday players. Before an opening 75 in his most recent start, his Thursday scores this season were 67-69-63-67 and twice this past summer at Colonial and Sedgefield he held a share of the opening-round lead. That should be enough to at least keep us interested in HV3 for this prop on a regular basis.
One player who should beat comparable players.
For those of us who backed Finau at the Masters, it was another in a long line of disappointments from a guy who clearly has the talent to win on any given week and clearly hasn’t done enough to win on most given weeks.
What he takes from us in outright bets, though, he tends to give back in props. Most of the H2H wagers haven’t been listed at the time I’m writing this, but I’ve got to believe that Finau — at fourth on the overall odds board this week — can be had at plus-money against the likes of Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka.
Even though he’s an abnormally long hitter, Finau tends to play some of his best golf on shorter courses, which only enhances the idea that he’s mind-numbingly difficult to figure out but almost always holds some value if you play him in the right spots.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Daniel Berger (+2000)
The easy answer here would’ve been Gary Woodland, but that felt a little too easy, so I went in a different direction. Remember way back in the early part of this past summer when Berger was a top-10 machine?
It might seem like six years ago, but six months ago he was one of the game’s hottest players, at one point going 9th-5th-4th-1st-3rd-MC-2nd-13th-3rd in a nine-start span. He hasn’t completely fallen off the pace, but five straight finishes of between 17th and 34th place have left him cooled off on the leaderboards but not the odds boards, as he’s still priced like one of the game’s hottest players.
If you really like him this week — and keep in mind, he finished T-51 in his lone start here six years ago — I won’t talk you out of it, but I think he’s still a bit mispriced based on his play from earlier this year.