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2023 U.S. Open Betting Preview

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Betting in golf is its own animal, its own test week in a week out. In no other sport do we have to evaluate how well a player fits the environment (course, field, court, etc.) in addition to how good he simply is. We are also typically working with longer odds — at least I am since I focus primarily on the outright market:

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My process always begins with an evaluation of the course and what skills are most likely to translate into success, so let’s start there.

Course Fit Model

First, a brief summary of the Course Fit Model for the US Open, from my Course Fit article:

“Every week, there’s a mad dash across the industry to try to figure out who best fits the course – you’ll hear everything from course history citations to quotes like “It’s a bomber’s paradise.” But what if we could actually mathematically measure which players are the best fits? We can.” 

In other words, there’s no need for speculation of which skills will translate into success at a given course when we can measure it directly.

Of course, this week we have no data on LACC, so it’s an “event” fit model instead. The US Open has historically and consistently boosted the predictive value of putting, short games and long irons, with equal weight to both distance and accuracy off the tee. 

Lastly, before we get started, it’s worth noting that we have completely redone our PGA Betting Model. We simulate the event 10,000 times based on my expected strokes gained projections and our variance estimates for each player, then blend the results with my generic win rate and top 10 rate models. This article will focus on the outright market, but there’s money to be made elsewhere through the model!

Outright Odds

Here’s what the top of the board looks like on DraftKings Sportsbook:

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It’s typically difficult to find value in this range since these players are the most known commodities, but there is one player I’m interested in…

Odds Shopping

As is always the case, the low-hanging fruit of the PGA betting world is odds shopping through the use of our prop shop. The differences in odds from one book to the next are often larger in PGA than you’ll ever see in leagues like the NBA or NFL. Simply shopping for the best odds can turn a losing bettor into a profitable bettor in PGA. This week, I have my eyes on:

 

Cameron Smith

Best available outright: 30-1 (FanDuel)
Worst available outright: 25-1

This isn’t a large spread, and Cam doesn’t stand out in the Betting Model, but there are several reasons why he’s at the top of my list. First, I think his course fit projection is a bit unreliable given his move to LIV. He was a shell of himself for months after his departure from the Tour, but has since bounced back, including a top 10 finish at the PGA Championship. He is still near the very top in my generic win odds model.

Most importantly, there exist two paths this week to him being a perfect fit for the course. I think the most likely aspect of the US Open Fit Model to not carry over to LACC is the predictive power of driving accuracy (his lone weakness). As I said, there are two potential paths to this being the case. It is possible that these fairways are wide enough such that even someone like Cam Smith is hitting most of them. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the slopes of these fairways make them effectively much smaller than they are, yet taking some of the control away from the most accurate drivers. In either case, the more the signal for driving accuracy is drowned out, the better Cam’s chances. There are few players in the world, if any, better from the fairway and in:

Keegan Bradley

Best available: 130-1 (FanDuel)
Worst available: 80-1

Now we’re talking! This is an enormous spread, and the bet becomes even better the more you look at the data. Let’s start with his fit:

Quietly, Keegan has developed one of the better short games on Tour, and he’s even making putts at a rate we’ve never seen from him. His long irons are the strongest part of his iron play and we know he drives the ball well. In other words, he checks every single box. 

We have his win odds at 1.6%, more than double the implied 0.76% of 130-1. Now that’s value.

Sam Burns

Best available: 75-1 (FanDuel)
Worst available: 55-1

Like Cam Smith, Burns’ outstanding win rate over the last few years makes him a lot higher in my generic win rate model than in the simulated results. Even so, we still have him at 1.3% to win, right on his implied probability at these odds. This is a bet on his ability to close when in contention, as well as the fact that his iron play has spiked for two consecutive events for the first time since his win at the Charles Schwab over a year ago. When Burns wins, it’s a simple recipe — dominant iron play and a hell of a lot of made putts. The putting hasn’t gone anywhere, and the iron play is back. It’s go-time.

As I said, I recommend using the Betting Model and the prop shop if you’re interested in betting other markets like top 10 odds or missed cut parlays. Additionally, our PGA product on both FTNBets and FTNDaily is reaching new heights each week, so it’s time to join either (or both!) for 20% off with promo code PRO. The sites are revamped and redesigned, and they are spectacular. The team crushed it.

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