“Drive for show, put for dough” – Old professional golfing maxim.
Last week Webb Simpson came back from 4 strokes off the lead going into the final day to take out the 2012 US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, CA.
Despite finishing -2 on his final round and +1 overall at the tournament’s conclusion, the field came back to him on the final round and Webb, the 26 year old from North Carolina, was able to capture his first major.
Those who liked Webb Simpson pre-tournament were able to snap up odds in the neighbourhood of 70-1 in the overall market. For ourselves here at professionalgambler.com.au we took Aaron Baddeley at 83-1 with a 3 unit investment, and he unfortunately missed the cut after poor opening rounds.
Obviously if you get your positioning correct and find low-margin markets, golf as a sports investment outlet can provide a substantial return. Let’s take a look at some of the markets and statistics that we consider here when framing our positions going into a PGA Major.
Markets: As has become the norm for all sporting contests, there seems to be no limit to the amount of markets that bookmakers frame for major sporting events – and PGA tournaments are no exception. Obvious markets, and the one’s we focus on are:
“Winner” markets. Self explanatory, this involves selecting the overall winner of the tournament. Taking a player before the start of the tournament will usually see decent double figures on offer for favoured chances, all the way out to 1000-1 for players that are not considered to factor into the finish. (Betfair generally has markets of close to 100% for most popular golf tournaments making it likely to be the first stop for winner markets.)
Tiger Woods is the exception here, who regularly opened as short price favourite during his hey-day, and was unbackable in the overall winner markets when a comfortable leader going into the final round, such was his domination.
Finding value in the overall winner market will involve taking a bigger picture approach to the handicapping of the tournament, and as is always the case, looking for value in the player’s price. For example, taking Aaron Baddeley for us last week involved looking at his statistics and playing history and applying it to the course he was coming up against at the Olympic Club. Historically, Baddeley is capable of playing some excellent golf on his day, is young and fit, and is a previously top-20 ranked PGA tour pro. Statistically his putting is excellent. 83-1 was a good number to take about “Badds”. It was unfortunate he had a bit of a shocker.
“Head to Head” markets in golf betting break down each round into a series of one-on-one match-ups amongst players who play together in the same group (generally). By doing this, we can then take a set against a player who we believe has showed signs of faltering coming into the tournament, may be losing his control, or has a game that we feel is unsuitable to the tournament for example.
As a two-outcome market, the odds offered usually approximate even-money provided there is not an outstanding player in the match-up. Head to head positions are round by round propositions, so to succeed it is almost essential that you be keeping abreast of the tournament as it unravels. Betting in round 2 for example, requires a knowledge of the round that preceded it and the drama that played out.
There are many angles to consider here. Are players taking risks with their game and attempting to force their way around the course? Is a player in the match-up playing exceptional golf, at a standard you think is unsustainable against a stronger player in the group? Weather is also a factor – heat/rain can affect some players more than others. Knowing a player’s history in these conditions is also key.
Statistics. Like most professional sports, golf has come a long way with the monitoring of player performance via statistics. Key statistics we like include putting average, now improved to strokes gained per round – a brilliant metric that measures putting ability across all PGA pros, scrambling – the percent of time a player misses the green in regulation but still makes par or better, and greens in regulation percentage.
Similar to all sports one can invest in, golf is a unique beast that requires its own dedicated approach to find value. As challenging as it is to play, golf is at least as difficult to accurately assess as a sports investment target. If you pay close attention and stay around the markets, you will find your own approach that works for you, but there is no escaping the work that needs to be done to make that happen.