For those who missed it, please check out the 2020 WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational Preview and Betting Strategies column for the types of golfers you should look to target for your bets.
With that in mind, here’s who I like this week at TPC Southwind (with odds courtesy of MyBookie.ag).
Champions Futures (with Top 10 odds)
Before I lay out who I like this week, it’s important to note that typically the players with short odds win WGC tournaments, especially the FedEx St. Jude (previously the Bridgestone) and the Mexico Championship (previously the Cadillac). These two events are very similar in that it’s a four round no-cut event in the heart of the PGA Tour season. The WGC-Match Play is susceptible for variance because of the format, and the WGC-HSBC also can have its fair share of odd ball winners because of its weird placement on the schedule.
But in recent history, the favorites have dominated these two WGC events:
15 of the last 18 winners of the WGC FedEx/Bridgestone and WGC Mexico/Cadillac have had odds 25/1 or shorter. Only Patrick Reed (twice!) and Shane Lowry were longshot winners. And the most recent Patrick Reed win came primarily because Bryson blew a multi-shot lead on the back nine, and Bryson was around 30/1 to win that tournament.
Is this trend actually legitimate? Potentially. Both these tournaments are played on relatively no-nonsense golf courses that come down to a game of execution. At these events, the cream will generally rise to the top over the course of four rounds.
Bottom line – I wouldn’t go too crazy trying to go for glory and pick a longshot winner. There is strong evidence that the winner of this event will be under 30/1.
With that said, here’s who I like:
Bryson DeChambeau – 12/1 (+140): Many of us took great delight at the 10 Bryson took on Hole 15 to knock him out of the Memorial for his first missed cut since the PGA Tour returned. But even without the blowup hole Bryson’s play was pretty lackluster, especially with his irons. Lost in the hoopla of how great off the tee DeChambeau has become is how mediocre his irons have been since the RBC Heritage. After gaining 10.65 shots with his irons at the Charles Schwab and the RBC Heritage, DeChambeau has lost over 6 across his last three tournaments (primarily because of the 10 he had on Hole No. 15).
I’m a data guy and so is Bryson, so I’m sure he’s noticed this same unfavorable trend as I have. I think he’ll grind in the simulator and get it fixed this week. And when he does then he can absolutely bully TPC Southwind. Driving accuracy is something that’s been batted around as an important attribute for success at TPC Southwind, but for as long as Bryson hits it he takes almost every fairway bunker out of play. In addition, while there are 10 water hazards on the golf course they mostly come into play either on the Par 3’s or on the approach shots. Only the 12th and the 18th has water in play off the tee that could make him nervous with a driver or three wood in his hand, and he has the length to cut the corner on 18 to carry it over the water.
Add to it that the golf course is going to get a lot of rain and make the greens pillow soft, I don’t see a lot of ways Bryson gets flustered to knock himself out of it. I really like his chances to win this week, which will make him the 2nd biggest storyline heading into the PGA Championship.
Patrick Cantlay – 18/1 (+200): Cantlay was the hot commodity two weeks ago at the Memorial. While he tanked in the final round, overall he played well and put up solid figures in almost every statistical category.
Now two weeks removed from that and he’s pretty much the forgotten man in the minds of the bettors. While his price didn’t change from the Memorial, the perception of him certainly has. He probably should win more than he has given his consistent and well-rounded game, but Cantlay demonstrates the elite upside that gives him the ability to win any tournament he plays. I like that less attention is being paid to him this week and think this might finally be his week.
Webb Simpson – 22/1 (+250): Webb is in a similar spot as he was entering the RBC Heritage. He came off an uncharacteristically poor putting and ball-striking performance at the bentgrass greens of Colonial, and all that reversed himself the following week on a bermuda greens golf course he has good history at.
At the Memorial, Webb lost over 5 strokes to the field Thursday and Friday with his irons and only gained half a shot on the greens. Those performances, especially with his irons, are way off his normal baselines. I expect both these areas to rebound, as he’s still one of the most accurate and elite ball-strikers in the game and is the top putter on bermuda in the field. Webb finished 2nd at this event last year, and definitely could go one spot higher this week.
Viktor Hovland – 25/1 (+275): Hovland is going a little overlooked this week because of the perception that scrambling is an important attribute at TPC Southwind, and he has a reputation as a pretty stinky scrambler. But since the return of the PGA Tour he actually has very much improved in this category. Over his last four tournaments he’s gained about 0.25 strokes per round on the field around the greens. While it’s not elite, it’s much better than what he was doing.
Even if the scrambling is mediocre this week, the greens are going to be very soft with all the rain the golf course will get, meaning we should be seeing some dart golf. Hovland is one of the best players when greens are soft because he’s so accurate with his irons to give him great looks at birdie many times a round.
Hovland will need to putt well if he wants to get his first legitimate victory (which I’ll concede is a big if), but he should be sniffing around the top of the leaderboard after 54 holes to at least give himself a shot to find magic on Sunday.
Other Positional Props
Collin Morikawa Top 10 – +250: Much of the positive sentiments I have about Hovland I share with Morikawa. The only difference is that Morikawa has been much more prone to blow up on and around the greens lately, which gives me pause on going all in at 25/1 to win the tournament. Despite all of that, I expect Morikawa to take advantage of the soft greens at TPC Southwind to put him inside the Top 10.
Xander Schauffele Top 20 – +100: Xander is the hot pick this week because of his final three rounds at the Memorial. He was superb tee-to-green to help overcome the hole he put himself in after a slow start. He also typically dominates these no-cut, limited field events because he usually has two or three monster rounds in his arsenal to put him in a great spot on the leaderboard by Sunday.
With all that said, I don’t love all the attention he’s getting this week from bettors and industry touts. He also has had a nasty trend of putting up a complete clunker round to ruin a high finish for him. Nevertheless, he should do enough over four rounds to muster a Top 20 finish, and at even odds that’s one of the best bets on the board this week.
Other Top 20’s to Consider: Abraham Ancer (+175) Sergio Garcia (+200), Kevin Na (+200), Matthew Wolff (+225), Sungjae Im (+275), Kevin Kisner (+350), Erik Van Rooyen (+400)
Erik Van Rooyen over Louis Oosthuizen (-110): Van Rooyen was a darling of everyone’s last week and disappointed all his backers with a missed cut. But his performance wasn’t as bad as advertised, as he really only made a mess on one hole in the 1st round and bounced back in the 2nd round by gaining 2.46 shots tee-to-green on the field. I think he’ll best Louis Oosthuizen head to head, who’s struggling in pretty much every statistical department at the moment. Alternatively, he also can be had at +1.5 strokes at -145 if you want to pay some juice for a bit of a cushion.
Kevin Na over Paul Casey (+105): Casey is his own worst enemy on and around the greens, where he’s lost almost 1.5 strokes per round since the PGA Tour returned. Meanwhile, Kevin Na has shown very good ball striking and putting since the PGA Tour returned, and I like him in an underdog role against Casey head to head. Like the matchup above, he can also be had at +1.5 strokes at -140.