Tiger is Back!
At last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods completed 72 holes of PGA Tour golf for the first time in two years, and did it ostensibly pain-free. He made all the shots, played from the rough, grinded for a score, and generally showed that he’s ready to start golfing in a serious way again.
As you’d imagine, this generated a firestorm of “Tiger is back!” content, with breathless accounts of his incredible cut-making performance from pretty much every outlet. If you want details, you can find stories about how his back fusion went, how his play at Torrey Pines looked, and how he’s not using a swing coach. All of this is going to build to a feverish pitch by April, when he’ll be listed at irrationally short odds to win the Masters.
Jason Day won the tournament, by the way.
It’s in that spirit that, for this edition of our semi-regular Golf Advice/Tiger Tracker column, we’re focusing on the Waste Management Open, the golf tournament you’ll be watching if you really don’t care about the Super Bowl. Tiger Woods will not be competing, so it’s a little more like a golf tournament you can bet on and a little less like a circus.
2018 Waste Management Open Betting Advice
Hideki Matsuyama is going for the three-peat — having won each of the last two in a playoff — and is a strong favorite at +900. Sportsbooks are bound by law to list Jordan Spieth at +900, so he’s at that spot too. Matsuyama has obviously figured out something about TPC Scottsdale. If Matsuyama is the model of success, Spieth compares well statistically: they’re both accurate players who gain a lot of strokes tee-to-green, then rely on a solid short game to finish the job. The biggest difference between the two? Spieth putts better than Matsuyama, and Matsuyama is a little longer off the tee.
Looking a little further down the sheet, Alex Noren is listed at +4000. Noren lost in a playoff at the Farmers and is probably listed so low because he has very little name recognition and is only now starting his third year on tour. He is very similar statistically to Matsuyama, being another accurate tee-to-green player, but with better putting and around-the-green play. Statistical software really liked Noren in the lead-up to the Farmers, especially at +6000, and it makes sense that he’ll outperform his billing again at +4000.
Another name to look at is JB Holmes, whom you’ll have heard about for all the wrong reasons. After taking a glacial four minutes and ten seconds to make a shot on 18 at Torrey Pines, Holmes attracted the ire of PGA players and fans alike. What gets lost in the conversation is that Holmes took so long because he was in contention to win and needed to figure out how to make eagle. He’s listed at +4500 this weekend, and while everyone will hate you for making the bet, it’s a pretty well established fact that the golf gods tend to reward the most frustrating possible outcome, in this case JB Holmes’ vindication.
Webb Simpson made the playoff at the Phoenix Open last year and is listed at +3300 this year. He’s one of the few players in the field to have posted a 64 on this course, and did so on the Sunday of last year’s tournament. He recently finished two strokes out of the playoff at the Sony Open, and while he hasn’t really lived up to his 2012 US Open win, he’s performed admirably on tour.
There are good players available all over this sheet. If you like a slightly underrated favorite, Justin Thomas at +1600 is about the longest we’ve seen him this year. Rickie Fowler came just short last year and is also available at +1600. If you like looking at the previous year’s leaderboard, Daniel Berger finished T7 last year, just four strokes out of the playoff, and is available at +4000. Further down the list, Xander Schauffele is recovering from some kind of hangover, as the 2017 Rookie of the Year and Tour Championship winner is all the way down there at +9000, having missed the cut at the Farmers and dragged home in T32 at the Sony Open.
It’s not hard to talk yourself into a lot of these players, but Alex Noren at +4000 is the most enticing. He’ll get wildly overrated soon enough, particularly if he keeps playing like this, but for now he’s a longshot 32-year-old from the European Tour that’s quietly contending and still very affordable. Sign me up!