The fall season is typically a slow one for the golf world. Sure, there’s the wrap around schedule of the PGA Tour that could draw your interest. Or, you could slip some Baileys in with your morning coffee, get up at 4 AM and catch the stretch run towards the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. But with the sports landscape dominated by football, playoff baseball and the start of the NBA season, golf understandably takes a back seat in the headlines.
It can be a struggle for the golf twitterazzi and bloggers to push out interesting content that’ll drive up clicks and views. But sometimes a story or two, no matter how trivial it may seem, drops in the Fall that sets the golf world on fire.
And there’s no one that moves the needle quite like Eldrick Tont Woods. This week, Tiger Woods sent golf fans into a tizzy when two new videos emerged. One showed him hitting a self described “smooth iron shot”, while another showed him hitting irons next to Kevin Chappell during a clinic.
For most golfers, hell most athletes, seeing them practice would barely garner a retweet. But this would be the equivalent of video leaking out in 1994 of minor league baseball star Michael Jordan practicing jump shots in a North Carolina gym. With all the ups and down Tiger has had since 2014, anything remotely suggesting his return to the PGA Tour is imminent is enough to turn everyone into the Elmo on Fire GIF.
I’m just a weekend hacker, so I couldn’t possibly give any credible insight from these videos about his spine angle, angle of attack, shaft lean, etc. I’m sure there’s plenty of debate going on in a subreddit or at GolfWRX right now on that subject. But what I can tell you that, besides golf fans, there’s two groups who absolutely are loving this news.
Low PGA Championship Ratings
One group, obviously, are the networks. Considering how much President Trump loves to needle media outlets over low ratings, I’m puzzled why he hasn’t targeted CBS for the lowest PGA Championship ratings since 2008. Casual sports fans tune in when Tiger is playing, and more so when he’s in contention. The summer months typically are a black hole for sports, so if the PGA Tour could promote the hell out of Tiger Woods teeing it up at the Greenbriar or Quicken Loans National they’ll easy dominate the sports weekend and drive up advertising revenue.
You know what else the public loves to do with Tiger, though? Bet on him! And that leads us to our second winner – the Sports Books. Around this time last year, Tiger Woods made his return to golf at the Hero Challenge, a small exhibition hosted by his foundation down in the Bahamas. It was the first time he teed off since a disastrous 2015 campaign featuring shanks, duck hooks, and the chip yips. But he showed some signs of life at the tournament, posting a 65 in the 2nd round to bring him into contention and send golf fans on a trip down memory lane on the dominance he could exude on a golf course.
Though Tiger faded with a Sunday 76 to finish 15th (out of 18 golfers), that was evidence enough to garner more than a few believers. Already with preposterous Masters Odds at 60/1 to win the tournament, bettors drove up his odds all the way to 20/1! Just absolute insanity given the state of his game 14 months earlier.
A month later, Tiger withdrew from the Omega Dubai Classic due to “back spasms” after a rough flight over to the UAE. But the bets still kept pouring in. CG Technology reported that Tiger Woods was the 19th most bet on golfer for the 2017 Masters even when it was all but confirmed he’d miss the tournament. And unfortunately, the books aren’t necessarily too kind to refund any of those bets after he withdrew. As always, the books always win.
As of today, Tiger Woods is 125/1 to win the 2018 Masters. While that isn’t all that outrageous at some of the numbers he’s been at the last few years, I’m sure the books are salivating to bring in some public money on him over the next couple months. Yes, the liability would be pretty high, but I’m pretty confident in saying that Tiger Woods won’t be winning the 2018 Masters. If anything, check out those Missed Cut props that the sharps were cashing on him during the 2015 Major Season.
2017 CIMB Classic Picks
This week the PGA Tour heads overseas to Malaysia for the CIMB Classic. This is the fifth time the tournament has been co-sanctioned by both the PGA Tour and the Asian Tour, and for the last four years it’s been a bit of a horses for courses event. Ryan Moore won the tournament in 2013 and 2014, followed by Justin Thomas going back to back in 2015 and 2016.
For me personally, I always look forward to when the tour heads over to Asia or Australia. There’s a certain charm about watching live golf in prime time when you’re out at a bar on the weekend. Or for the more hardcore fans, getting up at 3 AM with the rest of Golf Twitter and talking about early morning action can get pretty lit.
Looking back over the years, the tournament has favored distance over accuracy off the tee and guys who can score well on the Par 5’s. Since 2013, most golfers who finished in the Top 10 fared well during the overall season in these relevant stat categories. Because we’re so fresh into the new season, feel free to use the 2017 stats on PGA Tour to help with your picks. The sample size for 2018 is still far too small to rely upon.
- Justin Thomas – 4/1
- Hideki Matsuyama – 8/1
- Paul Casey – 12/1
- Brendan Steele – 25/1
- Xander Schauffele – 25/1
- Charl Schwartzel – 25/1
- Ian Poulter – 25/1
- Anirban Lahiri – 25/1
What immediately pops out is that Justin Thomas is a 4/1 favorite to win the tournament. That is absurdly low odds on him. I get why he’s that low – he’s the two time defending champion and is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now. But those are terrible odds, especially because the CIMB boasts a fairly strong field. I’m not saying to fade him in Matchup Plays, but on traditional Win/Top 10/Top 20 bets, there just isn’t any value here.
Hideki Matsuyama also has far too inflated odds. He has fantastic course history at the event, finishing 2nd and 5th his last two tries there. But his recent form since the PGA Championship is really in the dumps. He has limitless talent and has gone on insane hot stretches over the last 12 months. But one has to wonder after he squandered the lead on the back nine at the PGA Championship if his head is on straight. Stay away from him until you see some proof of life, especially at those odds.
Two guys I like out of this group is Paul Casey at 12/1 and Ian Poulter at 25/1. His odds aren’t awesome, but if there’s anyone who’s due for a win it’s Paul Casey. He only missed one cut so far in 2017 and has been in contention in numerous tournaments. In 2017, Paul Casey ranked 7th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 3rd in Strokes Gained on Approach, averaged just under 300 yards off the tee and 62nd in Par 5 Birdie or Better %. He hasn’t been able to close the deal in the United States, but maybe a change in continents is just what the doctor ordered.
As for Poulter, he’s had a lot of success playing in Asian tournaments. He’s won four times in his career in East Asia and has played very solid golf throughout 2017. He comes into the tournament not missing a cut since May, and ranked highly in 2017 in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Strokes Gained on Approach and Par 4 Scoring. He’s not the longest off the tee, but if he can set himself up for birdie opportunities he could return to the winners circle for the first time since 2012.
Gary Woodland – 30/1: Here’s a guy that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough as a legitimate contender on the PGA Tour. Woodland had a very solid 2017, making 19 of 22 cuts and posting four Top 5’s. What’s missing from his resume was a win, but he performed well enough statistically in 2017 to put him in position to check off that box. Woodland is long off the tee, ranking 13th in Driving Distance and posted 11th in Par 5 Birdie or Better % in 2017. He also has positive course history, finishing 2nd in 2013 and 4th in 2014. The course might suit his eye, and if it does this week he could finally hoist the trophy in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
Kyle Stanley (50/1), Jamie Lovemark (65/1), Luke List (65/1) and Lucas Glover (80/1) – Here’s a quartet of guys playing decent of late with longer odds, are solid tee to green and long off the tee. These guys also score well on the Par 5’s, ranking 37th, 39th, 9th and 56th, respectively. Try sprinkling some Top 10 or Matchup plays on these guys this weekend, particularly if they’re paired up against golfers who are weaker tee to green.
Stewart Cink (125/1), and Sung Kang (125/1) – Here’s a couple of Hail Mary’s that might pay off in the Top 10, Top 20 or Matchup market. Cink isn’t that long off the tee, but he makes up for it with tremendous iron play on his approach shots. He lacks a bit in converting on the Par 5’s into scoring opportunities, but he scored Top 20’s in this event in both 2013 and 2015. Maybe he could ride his good performances of late towards another solid finish this weekend.
As for Sung Kang, he ranked pretty well in every stat category I took a look at for the event – 69th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 59th in Strokes Gained on Approach, 67th in Driving Distance, 53rd in Par 4 Scoring Average and 15th in Birdie or Better % in 2017. He finished just outside the Top 20 last year in the event, so maybe his all around game can help him break through for a nice finish this time around.