Golf Betting: A Beginner's Guide to PGA Tour Betting

Golf Betting: A Beginner's Guide to PGA Tour Betting

ALLEN EYESTONE/FOR THE AUGUSTA C / USA TODAY NETWORK

Golf Betting: A Beginner's Guide to PGA Tour Betting

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Sports betting has been a part of American life for the past several decades. For most of the time period just noted, golf betting was not available to sports bettors. As a direct result, bettors were only placing wagers on major sports such as football, baseball, and basketball. Having stated that, the recent legalization of sports betting in many states across the country has allowed other sports to gain popularity amongst the sports betting community, including golf.

The purpose of this article is to educate the beginning bettor with the basic knowledge needed to identify which golfers to bet on at PGA Tour events and to gain a general understanding of the win odds that are provided by sportsbooks.

It should be noted that the vast majority of sportsbooks offer a number of different ways to bet on golf (Matchup, Prop, Futures Bets). However, due to the complexity involved with golf betting, this article will only focus on selecting golfers to win and the odds associated with that wager. 

How do I determine which golfers to bet on at a PGA Tour tournament? My research process in selecting which golfers to place a wager on at PGA Tour events involves multiple factors. I will discuss each factor in detail in an effort to give the beginning golf bettor the tools needed to be profitable when placing wagers on golfers to win on the PGA Tour.   

Course Form: Why Does it Matter?

Golf isn't like any other major sport that is bet on. In sports such as football, baseball, and basketball a game is played between two teams, and the team with the most points, runs, etc. wins the game. Golf is a sport that features 132-156 participants at any given tournament on the PGA Tour. Although posting the lowest score over the course of four rounds of competitive golf at an event is consistent week to week, the circumstances surrounding each individual tournament are often vastly different.    

Now that we have identified that golf is unlike any other sport in the betting space we can transition to the first factor in my research process, course form. Unlike sports like football, baseball, or basketball, every event played is not on the same football field, baseball diamond, or basketball court which are all the same dimensions. Not in golf. All the golf courses in the world have distinct differences that are quite relevant to the sharp golf bettor.

As the PGA Tour travels to various golf courses around the United States each week, the emphasis on a certain aspect of a golfer's skillset can change. For example, at a course like Bethpage Black, which hosted the 2019 PGA Championship, driving distance and superior ball striking are specific skills that are required for a golfer to be successful. The focus on driving distance and superior ball striking produces players like Rory McIlroy and Tony Finau. Why? Both Finau and McIlroy have historically ranked near the top of the driving distance category and correlating ball striking categories on the PGA Tour.       

Conversely, when the PGA Tour travels to Connecticut to play the Travelers Championship each year golfers are presented with a far different test than Bethpage Black. What pops off the page for me when comparing the two courses is that TPC River Highlands is approximately 600 yards shorter than Bethpage Black. The differences at each course influence which type of skillset a golf bettor should look for in a golfer to win.  

Course Fit

In contrast to course form, course fit is a term referring to a golfer's skillset being perfect for a course based on a golfer's current statistical data. Course fit is a great alternative to course form. When you have up to 156 players to research for a specific golf tournament you will soon learn that a number of those golfers that have never played the golf course. It should be noted that I do prefer course form to course fit when evaluating a golfer's potential to win a PGA Tour event. 

How do you determine if someone is a good or bad fit? Let's go through a few examples to shed light on the answer. If a golfer is ranked in the top ten in strokes gained approach, scrambling, GIR (greens in regulation), and strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour when that player arrives to compete at the Masters Tournament, I would say that the golfer is a good course fit. Why? Augusta National requires the skills just mentioned to succeed. 

Here is a second example. A golfer is set to play the Masters Tournament for the first time. That player is ranked 95th in scrambling and 87th in GIR (greens in regulation) on the PGA Tour entering play at the Masters. This golfer is clearly not a good course fit. It is imperative for golfers to get the ball up and down at Augusta National Golf Club. This golfer is ranked 95th in scrambling arriving at the event. That is not good.  

Current Form

Current form is a term used to define how a golfer has been performing in golf tournaments over a specific time frame near the start of the event you are interested in betting on. It should be noted that just like team sports, individual golfers can go through periods of positive and negative results in tournament play over the course of a PGA Tour season.

A recent example of positive current form is Rory McIlroy. McIlroy has won two consecutive events on the PGA Tour, including last week's 2024 Wells Fargo Championship. Having stated that, I think it's fair to say that Rory McIlroy enters play at this week's 2024 PGA Championship in positive current form.

An example of a golfer arriving at the 2024 PGA Championship in poor current form is Gary Woodland. Since the beginning of March, Gary Woodland has played seven events on the PGA Tour. In those seven tournaments just noted, Woodland accumulated five finishes of 64th or worse. Clearly, Woodland is not in good form.

Weather

Weather is an element that effects all sports in some way. However, golf is unique as golf tournaments are held over a four-day span. If a golf course receives rain the course can have "soft" conditions. Soft greens are generally more receptive for professional golfers. Additionally, the soft conditions allow golfers to be more aggressive by going at pin flags from the fairway. 

Conversely, when a golf course has not received any rain for a significant period of time the conditions can become "fast and firm". Shorter hitters off the tee prefer these conditions as they get more roll on the fairway. In soft conditions, the golf ball can stick in the fairway resulting in no increased distance for the golfer.

Wind is the next factor we look at with weather. Many golfers enjoy playing in the wind, others frankly don't. The sharp golf bettor will utilize the relevant player data that is available via the PGA Tour website to ascertain which golfers to bet on in windy conditions.

Understanding Win Odds

Now that we have learned how to determine which golfers to bet on at a PGA Tour event let's review how to read the win odds provided by sportsbooks.

Let's look at hypothetical odds to help us define win odds appropriately. Odds that are +300 (often referred to as American odds) indicates how much a bettor would win on a $100 wager. If you bet $100 on Rory McIlroy to win at +300, you would profit $300. 

Sportsbooks typically release win odds on the Monday morning of tournament week. It's important that all golf bettors pay close attention to the win odds that are posted by all sportsbooks that are available to you to ensure you are finding the best value in the number. Remember, as golf bettors our goal is to be profitable.

Why is it important to review opening odds? When the public starts placing wagers on golf tournaments once the initial line is posted, inevitably the line will change. Why? When bettors start placing large wagers on golfers it will have an impact on the win odds. The sportsbooks are trying to ensure that they are profitable as well. 

As you can see from the detailed nature of this article, golf is vastly different than the other sports in the sports betting space. Having stated that, golf is a sport that you can profit on long term if you put in the work needed to succeed!

The pick in this article is the opinion of the writer, not a PickDawgz site consensus.

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