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Opinion & Analysis

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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Opinion & Analysis

Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf Innovation on Cobra Connect, new ways to evaluate good play, and the future of golf improvement.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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