Previously on SBD, we’ve dived into the golf futures on offer to demonstrate how sportsbooks are using Tiger Woods’ resurgence to funnel money out of emotional bettors against laughably short odds. We briefly talked about other players and other bets offering more value, and today we’re going into a little more depth, particularly on this year’s Masters.
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy: +800 (8/1)
The three favorites are given short odds because they have a history of winning, are visibly three of the very best golfers in the world (although for different reasons), and are apparently in form. I tend to stay away from favorites in golf futures, as +800 isn’t a great payout for the risk you’re taking, and with this trio, there are reasons to doubt each one: Rory hasn’t played many great tournaments since a rib injury hobbled him in 2017, Jordan Spieth has had, ummm … struggles winning at Augusta, and Dustin Johnson has never finished higher than fourth.
It’s DJ that bugs me the most of the three. His signature bomb-and-gouge style hasn’t been hugely relevant at Augusta since the par fives were lengthened in the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ second win in 2001. Since then, the only big hitters to win the tournament have been Bubba Watson (2012) and … Bubba Watson again (2014). I don’t like Rory for similar reasons, plus the effect of coming back from a rib injury.
You could bet on all three as a kind of hedge, but that will only yield you odds of +266, which isn’t quite rich enough.
Betting Tip: Skip these guys for now; there’s likely to be roughly the same odds available at tee time on the Thursday, anyway.
Sergio Garcia: +2800 (28/1)
Garcia, long the “Best Player to Never Win a Major,” shed that unwelcome label at Augusta last year. It’s a little odd to see the defending champ listed so long, particularly coming off the best year of his career. Is the 38-year-old too old to win? Is that the whole argument?
Garcia did suffer from something of a Master’s hangover last year, failing to record another top-ten finish until the Tour Championship at the very end of the season, but that’s understandable. Usually you’d see a defending champion listed higher, but Garcia gets wrapped up in all kinds of narratives about curses and “Can’t Win The Big One.” If anything, that creates value for bettors who (logically) don’t care about them.
Betting Tip: Why can’t he do it again? Why is he listed so long?
Matt Kuchar: +5500 (55/1)
Listed as long as Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar finished fourth on last year’s leaderboard after a torrid run through the back nine on Sunday. Kuchar had a remarkable 2017, highlighted by a second-place at The Open Championship and top-ten finishes at three majors, plus a deep run in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Kuchar is by no means a spectacular player — he doesn’t drive the ball a mile or make wild shots — but he consistently scores well, finishes at or near the top of leaderboards, and certainly has a 2% chance of wearing a Green Jacket this year.
Betting Tip: Likely listed at these odds for lack of name recognition, not lack of performance. Kuchar is worth a small bet.
Charl Schwartzel: +6600 (66/1)
This isn’t just a “he’s won it before” thing, I promise. He also finished in third last year, closing with stellar rounds on Saturday and Sunday. These odds, which would suggest that he has just slightly-above average odds of winning the tournament again, simply don’t do the South African justice. Is he the best player in the field? No. Is another victory really be a 66/1 longshot? Also no.
It’s only once you get into the longshots and weirdos that futures bets start to offer any value at all. Sportsbooks love to go super-short on the players you know, and the players they get the most action on, and it’s only by listing long odds on less-popular players that they can maintain even semi-reasonable total implied probability numbers.
Betting Tip: Proved last year that he can still make it happen at Augusta, and the odds-vs-previous-performance ratio is more lopsided here than anywhere. I see this as the best value at the moment.