Golf bettors eagerly shake off the rust.

It’s been three months since handicapping skills involved the PGA Tour. The layoff ends via the Charles Schwab Challenge next week on June 11-14 in Dallas.

Seeing the sportsbook board may carry the emotional lift of a 300-yard drive, dead straight, to the NJ sports betting community.

In other words, golf is back!

For next week’s tournament, the leaderboard looks something like this:

Rory McIlroy, the world’s top-ranked player, opened +750 at DraftKings Sportsbook early this week. He was followed by:

  • Jon Rahm at +900
  • Justin Thomas at +1400
  • Webb Simpson at +1800.

Some notable contrasts, good for wagering, occurred at other books.

FanDuel Sportsbook lists Rahm at +1200, a substantial difference versus DraftKings for one of his backers. That’s a $300 difference for a $100 wager.

Simpson is +2200 at FanDuel, a $400 swing.

Dustin Johnson has bigger odds at DraftKings (+2800) than at FanDuel (+2500).

Countdown week presents time to dig deeper.

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Longshots may have an edge in Charles Schwab Challenge

The tour layoff favors a longshot emerging.

If you find one, it’s a good idea to bet early, especially if it’s great odds on a big name, before the numbers change.

Some excellent prices abound. Patrick Reed is the fourth leading money winner of 2020, with $3.2 million. Yet he’s well down on the odds board, at 28-1 at DraftKings.

Reed has finished in the top 10 in four of the last seven starts on the PGA Tour, which includes his eighth career PGA Tour victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February.

He’s also in the top 10 for scoring average (69.6) and birdie average (4.50), hardly the numbers of a 28-1 tournament pick.

Reed is a longshot worthy of respect. So is Marc Leishman.

He’s fifth on the money list. And 40-1 at DraftKings (31-1 at FanDuel). Leishman finished second in the last PGA event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, in early March.

Do plus numbers on favorites seem unusual?

They happen because the winner must prevail in a field of 140 participants across four rounds.

As this tournament draws closer, watch to see if some attractive prop bets like a Top 5 or Top 10 finish is posted. They will add a betting dimension.

McIlroy is consistent

McIlroy, as the gallery would say if they could assemble, is “Da Man.”

He has appeared in six events this season, with top 10 finishes in all of them. McIlroy also notched a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He’s finished no worse than fifth and is averaging a tour best 68.6 strokes per round.

Keys to his success include a 320-yard driving average, second on tour, and a perfect 14-for-14 scrambling ability around the fringe.

He has been stellar either at saving par or stealing birdie when he hasn’t reached the green in regulation.

McIlroy presents another relevant variable. His $3.8 million in 2020 has been earned in just six events. McIlroy has averaged $633,000 per event, best on the tour.

And he plans to be active.

McIlroy will play this tournament, the upcoming RBC Heritage in South Carolina and the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, hitting three tournaments in a four-week span.

He should be cranking by the end of June.

Golf betting tips: players to keep an eye on

There are others who have made the most of their 2020 opportunities.

Thomas leads the circuit with $4.2 million in just eight events. That’s more than $500,000 per appearance.

Simpson earned $2.75 million in five attempts, also well more than half-a-million per tournament.

Reed has a respectable $3.2 million in eight events, a $400,000 average,

SungJae Im has been a grinder, annexing $3.8 million in 14 tournaments. He also has a victory this year.

These are players used to finding the leaderboard, regardless of whether they win.

The tour has a statistic regarding the percentage of available money earned for events entered. Among the best performers:

  • Simpson is 40.64%
  • McIlroy is at 38.26%
  • Thomas stands at 35.2%
  • Reed is 25.72%
  • Bryson DeChambeu is 22.98%
  • Leishman is 21.98%

This is interesting because it indicates that players may skip several tournaments but remain among the money leaders.

Another betting angle concerns players who have enjoyed success at this event.

The last five winners of the tournament all take part in this one and would pay substantially if they rediscovered the magic.

That list includes Kevin Na (55-1), Justin Rose (45-1), Kevin Kiser (80-1), Jordan Spieth (55-1), and Chris Kirk (200-1) at DraftKings.

Handicapping a golf shutdown

Who is ready? This is hard to tell.

When golf departed the scene in March, there was no projected return. There is no way to quantify who practiced more or remained in top form while the tour was in limbo.

It will be interesting to watch players evolve week by week. But for the first couple of tournaments, regardless of computer models suggesting who plays best on specific courses, golf’s shutdown is a great equalizer.

There are no bad hunches with this tournament.

On that basis alone, it’s not a bad idea to pick some mid-range longshots along with your top picks.

For relative guidance, one can incorporate recent performances from NASCAR and UFC during their May return. They show that small and mid-sized underdogs can triumph, favorites will do well even without winning, and athletes reach professional levels, even without fans.

As in NASCAR, PGA stars take turns winning. Very little separates them. The difference is usually the Blazing Blade. The player with the hottest putter in a given week usually wins.

And anyone can get hot. There are 231 tour players with putting averages ranging from 1.68-1.88. That means the entire tour averages less than two putts per hole. If one hit the green in regulation, a two-putt would produce a par. The putting average shows how solid players are on the green.

Predicting who will emerge from the pack won’t be easy.

But it will be profitable… if you are correct.

Dave Bontempo

About

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.