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Talking U.S. Open bets and the future of wagering on golf with a pro gambler

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We’ve been trying to catch up with Top Market Sports again since last year’s Masters, and I’m I pleased we were able to do so ahead of this year’s U.S. Open.

Dave, the owner of Top Market Sports, was kind enough to talk bankroll, futures betting, in-tournament plays, and what he sees on the horizon for legalized wagering on the game we all love.

Top Market, if you’re unaware, is the only sports advisory site in the world that’s owned and operated by real Wall Street traders and analysts, so they’re a cut above ye olde punter or so-called betting “expert.”

Anyway, check out our conversation, below.

GolfWRX: Let’s talk about bankroll management during major championships. Do you bet more? Less? About the same?

Dave: Well it’s never the same. And the amounts myself and my clients put in play have nothing to do with the prestige level of the tournament. We bet more when we think we have a big edge. We bet less when the odds are tighter and our perceived edge is smaller. Having said that, bookmakers offer a bigger prop menu during major championship weeks. I’m really starting to dig into these props this AM. There are a few that I’m advising clients to really step out on.

GolfWRX: What are you hearing about weather and course conditions? Any off-the-path angles bettors ought to consider at Pebble?

Dave: Pebble is one of the most weather-dependent courses in the world. So this is one of those weeks where I’ll be monitoring the doppler almost as hard as I’m monitoring play. As far as predicting the weather goes? Good luck. I’d pay a lot of money to know how these winds are going to blow. This truly is a second-shot golf course, so exceptional iron play and an ability to work the ball will be required. The combination of the small greens and the diabolical rough surrounding them means that if your approach shot isn’t perfect, you’re just asking to make a big number. And that’s a big theme for us this week…the week of the blow-up hole. All or nothing situations. You could play yourself out of this tournament with one bad miss. The key becomes figuring out which guys are more susceptible to blow-up.

GolfWRX: Taking a look at the betting favorites, who’s the most attractive to you in the futures market this week? 

Dave: He’s not a true favorite, but I like Molinari at 35/1. Considering he’s already got a major, I don’t think he’ll have any scar tissue from what happened at the Masters. He’s the type of guy that’s not going to get rattled by a tough rub-of-the-green bad break on some bumpy Poa Annua. I also like Fowler at 22/1. It’s hard to envision a scenario where he’s not at least in the mix. Rickie’s missed one cut in the past 12 calendar months. His soft hands around these tricky greens will be an asset. Admittedly, I’ve been betting Fowler almost every time he’s teed it up recently, and don’t have much to show for it other than a 20/1 winner in Phoenix in February. But he’s sneaky experienced. He’s definitely not a kid anymore. This could finally be his week.

GolfWRX: What about a player with longer odds? Who stands out to you and why? Any players you’re looking to fade this week?

Dave: I just hammered Bubba Watson at 125/1 this morning. People seem to forget that Bubba is still ranked 20th in the OWGR. He’s obviously not afraid of the big spot, having two green jackets in his closet. And his shot making ability makes him the type of wild card that could just play out of his mind on any given week. He’s also quietly matured over the past few seasons. We haven’t seen him go completely off the rails lately. Knock on wood. One of my biggest calls of the week is to fade Jon Rahm. I have him missing the cut at +220 and I’m also pounding against him in a basket of matchups. I’d tell you why, but then I’d have to kill you.

GolfWRX: Fair enough! As a final question, I wanted to get your take on the PGA Tour’s embrace of sports betting. It was a bit surprising to me. Does it surprise you? What do you think the future of betting on golf looks like?

Dave: I love the Tour’s honesty. It’s just so refreshing, compared to some of the halfhearted comments we’ve heard from other leagues regarding gambling legislation. Commissioner Monahan deserves credit for not beating around the bush. He knows that there’s no better way to increase engagement. He also knows that gambling and the game of golf go hand-in-hand. Even hackers like you and me enjoy playing for some pocket change when we’re out there, right Ben? I’m gonna get a couple of bucks back from you the next time you’re in Vegas, by the way.

Seriously though, the future of golf betting is extremely bright, and to me, it has nothing to do with legislation. It has everything to do with technology and the advent of in-play wagering. (In-play wagers are bets that are made while a game or event is already in progress.) Golf lends itself beautifully to in-play wagering. Think about it…the time between shots gives the house enough time to hang odds and time for punters to bet into those odds.

Imagine sitting on your couch this weekend watching Pebble coverage with your phone in your hand. Here’s Tommy Fleetwood with his approach on the 8th. Will he be inside or outside 10 feet? Or here’s Dustin Johnson on the 14th. Will his drive be over or under 303 yards? Bookmakers know that people are going to be wagering directly from their phones. That’s why they got developers working 24/7 to build out these betting apps. From insider contacts I have both in Vegas and at major offshore operations, it’s my understanding that we’re less than 24 months out from having access to expanded golf betting markets like those two examples I just gave. It’s going to be wild. I can’t wait to go head to head with these bookmakers.

You can check out Top Market Sports for free betting picks (not just golf…MLB, NHL, NFL, MLB and more, too), free articles, and a free real-time odds portal. They can also be found on Instagram @topmarketsports

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  1. JP

    Jun 11, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Spieth to return in proper form!

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 131: Tiger YES, Ryder NO, Horton Smith OUT

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Host Michael Williams discusses Tiger’s return, the postponement of the Ryder Cup, and the name change of the Horton Smith Award by the PGA of America. Guests include Mike O’Reilly of Whistling Straits and Mike McCartin of the National Links Trust.

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Note to Sir Nick: Does Bryson DeChambeau really need to improve his wedge game?

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I especially enjoyed the final round of last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic—watching the battle of the two big ballers. As always, I was interested in Sir Nick Faldo’s commentary about the weakness in Bryson DeChambeau’s game–his wedges–and that he should make an equipment switch to tighten up this part of his game. Indeed, our Ryan Barath made the same suggestion in an article July 3.

I was all in—not only as a big fan of Sir Nick and Jim Nantz—but Bryson’s 6-iron-length wedges have always looked awkward to me. On Monday, I received several calls from instructor clients/friends asking if I could support Sir Nick’s analysis. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed to take a deep dive into the difference between Bryson’s game in 2019 and thus far in 2020.

The data is a bit thin—69 Shotlink rounds in 2019 vs. only 42 in 2020 through Rocket Mortgage. Nonetheless, I’d submit that we have representative samples.

Here is what I found.

DRIVING

Strokes Gained # and (Ranking):

  • 2019: .412 (24)
  • 2020: 1.11 (2)

This is a giant leap in Strokes Gained and ranking.  OK, but Strokes Gained is an abstract number and not all about distance. Why the jump? 

Distance:  302.5 (34) => 323 (1).  Again, quite a jump. 20.5 yards in distance ON AVERAGE. Impressive!

Errors:  .4 per round => .15/round. I have worked with lots of Tour players and reducing errors is extremely difficult. Most do it by prudently cutting back on distance. To pick up over 20 yards AND cut ERRORS* by 62.5% is miraculous! For perspective, the average of the PGA Tour in 2019 was .62 errors/round. So, Bryson is outdriving EVERYONE by 21 yards AND making less than 25% of the ERRORS*? Extraordinary!

[*Driving errors are Balls hit out of play that require an advancement to return to normal play or penalty results.]

APPROACH SHOTS

Strokes Gained:

  • 2019: .236 (Rank 54)
  • 2020: .428 (Rank 38)

Not a great improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. This is mainly because Bryson’s accuracy from the fairway went from 62% to 70%.

PUTTING

Strokes Gained:

  • 2019: .372 (Rank 28)
  • 2020: .690 (Rank 12)

Another substantial improvement. Two things stand out:

  1. Reduced 3-Putts from .49/round to .33 (Tour avg. is .51) – excellent jump!
  2. In the always critical 6-10 ft. range, his makes went from 54% to 62% (Tour Avg. is 52%). Again, over 42 rounds, this is as much improvement in a Tour player as I have seen.

WEDGE PLAY

In my work with Tour players, I consider this to be shots from 50 to 125 yards. Bryson may very well extend this range with his length, but I chose to stay with it because I have years of data on the Tour level play for comparison.

I measure:

  • # shots – How many shots a player faces on average per round.
  • % Greens Hit – As opposed to the Tour’s Proximity that includes greens missed w/i 30 yards of the edge.
  • Putting distance when hit (My Proximity)
  • Down-in – The average shots needed to get the ball in the hole.

I am going to stick with shots from the fairway only as they are over 70% of these shots for everyone.

*Avg. Putting Distance when the shots hit the green.

**Avg. Down-in:  The # of shots need to hole out.

Mr. DeChambeau has performed an extremely noteworthy feat in that he has not only dramatically increased his driving distance BUT his accuracy to boot. Further, he has improved EVERY facet of his game, including his oft-criticized wedge game. And not just a little. If we do the math on his Down-In improvement: 2.84 to 2.68 = .16/shot X 114 shots in 2020 = 18 strokes saved this year.

In my studies of the value of a stroke on Tour, at Bryson’s current top-10 level, each stroke is worth $50-70,000. I tip my hat to him!

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Podcasts

TGD: Faldo, New TM Irons Drop, Bryson and Rickie scoop with Cobra Tour Manager Ben Schomin and the decline of my golf game

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On this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny goes in on the new TaylorMade MB, Faldo’s comment on Bryson’s wedges, the demise of his golf game and some nuggets on Rickie and Bryson with Cobra Golf Tour operations manager Ben Schomin.

Enjoy!

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