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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Masters: Best prop bets



Augusta National

Funny ol’ game.

While we all look forward to majors, particularly the nuances of Augusta, the limited field causes its own problems.

With so much set in stone and so many proven formulae, it’s difficult to look beyond the obvious 20 or so, most of whom will take up a place inside the top-10, leaving us with very little.

Still, after a couple of enjoyable weeks, let’s see if we can add to wins at the Corales and Texas Open and make it a hat-trick.

Xander Schauffele Top 10 finish +185

As I bang my head against the wall each year, bemoaning my outright wager on Xander, folk chuckle and mention how he ‘can’t’ win anymore.

That debate is for another page, but in a limited field that requires form in majors and quality approach play, he is tough to oppose in a place market.

Not only is Xander playing well enough to compete, his record here and in Georgia, as a whole, is undeniably impressive.

East Lake is clearly the 28-year-old’s first love, with two wins, a runner-up, third and seventh places from five starts, but he repeats form at a couple of other places, including at the WM Pheonix Open, where he had chances to win in each of the last two years before finishing tied-second and tied-third, respectively.

At Augusta, the 28-year-old has a second and third from four attempts, the runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2019 courtesy of an impressive final round 68, whilst he held every chance last season until the 16th hole on Payday, where a triple-bogey ruined his chance of winning.

In between, an untimely rain delay put him off his stride during the softer conditions of the ‘lockdown’ Masters, and ultimately he did well to finish well inside the top-20 after making some strange decisions during a rain break during the second round.

The former top-10 amateur was, like so many, baffled by Kiawah Island last year but otherwise has a 16th at Bethpage Black and a 10th at Harding Park where, at both, he was never outside the top-20 at any stage. And he can boast even better at the US Open.

Only a victory is missing from Xander’s profile at the toughest of the US majors, with a record that reads 7/5/3/6/5, and in-running punters should note that in four of his five attempts at the title he has been closer at the end of Sunday play than he was at any stage.

Currently ranking in the top six for his approaches from 50 to 125, 100 to 125 and 175 to 200 yards, it seems that it is only his mental approach that’s the difference between another place and the big win.

For this bet to cop, though, the world ranked number 10 merely has to add an impressive 10th top-10 (how many 10s can one have?) from 19 major starts.

Paul Casey Top 20 +200

Playing arguably the best golf of his career at 44, the Englishman would surely be a few points shorter in all markets but for a slight injury worry.

Casey has been continuing some impressive ball-striking, consistently appearing in the top echelons of the tee-to-green stats. Indeed, in six completed events since the Dubai Championship in November, he has ranked in the top-10 four times, whilst at The Players his strong iron play led to being just inside the top-15.

Go back to 2020, around when the run starts and Casey boasts 10 front-page finishes that included a three-event run from Pebble Beach to Bay Hill and Sawgrass, while he also recorded a top-5 at Kiawah Island, The Olympics and at St Jude. All that leaving out a tied-seventh at the US Open at Torrey Pines.

The latest results have seen ‘Case’ finish 15th at Riviera, 72nd at Bay Hill (was sixth at halfway before the weather came in), and third at Sawgrass, an event that again was badly weather-affected and one that clearly took its toll and caused him to withdraw from last week’s Valspar.

For those that haven’t seen, the 19-time professional winner was extremely unlucky down the stretch at The Players, his perfect tee-shot finding the bottom of a pitch mark at the final par-5, and although the result on paper is still not far off being top-class, it could, and should, have been an even better guide to his chance at The Masters.

Results in majors? Five top-10 finishes and three further top-20s at Augusta; two top-7 finishes at the U.S Open with the last five years reading T7/T17/T21/T16/26, and a pair of top-4s in the last two runnings of the USPGA.

Looking at the Valspar, the event itself is an excellent guide to Augusta, with Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth and Charl Schwartzel winning both, whilst the likes of Jim Furyk, KJ Choi and Retief Goosen have strong places at each.

Casey, of course, went back-to-back at Copperhead in 2018 and 2019, preceding Sam Burns, who completed the feat over the last two years. The younger man is making his debut here, so is instantly red-lined, but Casey, now world ranked 25, has five top-10s and a further three top-20 finishes in 15 starts at Augusta.

He is keen to show the younger brigade that he can still hack it – after all, he was just behind Collin Morikawa in the 2020 PGA and could have beaten Cam Smith at Sawgrass – so it’s all about fitness.

Reports suggest he is moving absolutely fine this week, and he has already dismissed claims he was ‘injured’ – “Purely, it’s a thing when you get to your 40s. But that’s I guess what’s causing the pain in the spasms up the back. I’ve had it, I’ve probably had this like four, five times in 20 years, so it’s not an injury, it’s just, what is it? Fatigue? (It) could be back from the Players and the cold weather and all sorts of stuff and traveling.”

Padraig Harrington Top Senior +145

Bernhard Langer Top Senior +300

The market for top senior may well have eight runners, but, in reality, can be cut down to two.

Start with a few easy deletions, all of whom will be 100-yards off the pace from the tee peg:

Sandy Lyle, winner in 1988 but with 10 missed cuts here in his last 12 starts and doing nothing of note on the Champions Tour; Larry Mize, just as bad around here with three mid-50 finishes and nine missed-cuts in 12, and Jose-Maria Olazabal, better than those two but another too short off the tee and with no claim to doing anything bar miss the cut on a wet, long, Augusta track.

Mike Weir is a fourth that is far too short off the tee to count in this grade and whilst Vijay Singh has a handful of mid-20/30 finishes in the mid-2010s, latest efforts here have seen rounds of 76, 78 and three scores of 80, and current form is flailing.

Then there were three.

Freddie Couples went through a stage from 2010 to 2017 when top-20 backers were in clover but, as the event has increasingly relied on length, his frailties have come to the fore, particularly a career-long back problem that hinders his movement and is worse in damp weather. Having played just once in October and November, this is surely close to a last hurrah.

The column is here to make a profit, and whilst the 50-year-old Irishman is much preferred in this market after a host of splendid efforts, it’s hard to forget how Langer continues to churn out performances that often widely separate him from his peers.

Fourteen years the older man, Langer remains metronomic from tee-to-green and continues to win trophies and seasonal championships.

In 2021, the 64-year-old won the Charles Schwab Cup for the fifth time in seven years (six in total), whilst in 2022 he lists one win, a runner-up, eighth and 10th in just five starts, his last win coming at 64 years and five months – a record for the oldest winner on the Champions Tour.

Having made the cut at Augusta in three of the last four seasons, Langer looks the only danger to Harrington, rightly a short priced favourite.

Lest we forget Phil Mickelson winning the PGA at 50 years of age – why can’t Pod do the same at Augusta?

Yeah, ok, I know.

The three-time major winner comes here in significant form, with high finishes in better events to those his rivals compete in and all summed up with his current world ranking, some 1100 places higher than his principal rival in this market!

Tied-fourth behind Phil at Kiawah before tied-18th in the Scottish Open reads different level, but 2022 form is just as convincing. Over the last six months, Pod has tied in 12th behind Thomas Pieters in Portugal and tied ninth behind Viktor Hovland in Dubai – convinced yet?

The midfield finish at Bay Hill would win this market by a mile, whilst he warmed up for this with a runner-up last weekend on the Champions Tour, miles ahead of Langer.

Pod can still mix it off the tee at the higher level and still possesses the short game that keeps him alongside the younger players.

Whilst he hasn’t payed here since 2015, he looks refreshed after the pressure of being Ryder Cup captain and says he isn’t here to make up the numbers.

Making the cut might not be enough for him, but it may well be all he needs to do to win this market.

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  1. Augusta No Bueno

    Apr 7, 2022 at 12:08 am

    Everyone ready for The Massas?

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Scandinavian Mixed



There could hardly be a more distinct difference between two courses holding consecutive events.

Last week, 20-year-old Tom McKibbin pounded his way around the 7500-odd-yards of Green Eagle to break his maiden in impressive fashion, courtesy of this outstanding approach shot to the 72nd hole. Remind you of anyone at that age?

Fast forward not long and the DPWT arrives at Ullna Golf and Country Club for the third renewal of the mixed-gender Scandanavian Mixed.

The welcome initiative sees male and female players on the course at the same time, playing to the same pins. Only movement of the tee boxes distinguishes the challenge, and whilst there is water aplenty at this coastal track, yardages of no more than 7000 and 6500 yards should frighten none of the top lot in each sex.

Genders are one-all at the moment, with Jonathan Caldwell winning the inaugural event thanks to a lacklustre Adrian Otaegui, and the brilliant Linn Grant winning by a country mile last season.

Most will be playing their approach shots from the same distance this week and with neither particularly stretched, this may be the most open of mixed events yet.

Defending champ Linn Grant and fellow home player Madelene Sagstrom look on a different level to the rest of the European ladies this week, but preference is clearly for the 23-year-old winner of eight worldwide events, including her last two in Sweden.

Last season, the Arizona State graduate took a two-shot lead into the final round before an unanswered eight-birdie 64 saw her cross the line nine shots in front of Mark Warren and Henrik Stenson, her nearest female rival being 14 shots behind.

Since that victory, Grant has won two events on the LET, the latest being a warm-up qualifying event for the upcoming Evian Championship, held at the same course and at which she was 8th last year. The Swede is making her mark on the LPGA Tour,

Given the yardage advantage she has off the tee amongst her own sex, the pin-point accuracy of her irons and a no-frills attitude when in contention, this looks no more difficult than last year.  If there is a a market on ‘top female player,’ there may be a long queue.

He’s been expensive to follow for win purposes, but Alexander Bjork is another home player that will revel with the emphasis on accuracy.

There isn’t a awful lot to add to last week’s preview (or indeed the previous week’s) which both highlighted just how well the Swede is playing.

Recommended Bets:

  • Linn Grant
  • Alexander Bjork


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Opinion & Analysis

Winning and the endowment effect



A central concept in behavioral economics is the endowment effect. Coined by Richard Thaler at the University of Chicago, the endowment effect describes how people tend to value items they own more highly than they would if they did not belong to them. So how does this relate to sports, or more specifically, to golf? Let me explain.

Golf is hard. Winning is harder. Golf has created a lure where winning major championships is the hardest of all. The problem is that mathematically a win is a win. This means that valuing wins differently is actually an instance of the application of the endowment effect in golf.

Winning in golf creates an inverse normal distribution where winning can be very hard, then easy, and then very hard again. To win, players must evoke the “hot hand”; this is the idea that success breeds success. In golf, the reality is that birdies come in streaks; players typically enjoy a run of birdies over a couple of holes. The goal for every player is to hold this streak for as long as possible. The longer and more often they are able to do this, the more likely a player is to win.

Another question is, how much do players value wins? At the current moment, up to the PGA Jon Rahm sees winning as easier (or less valuable) with his recent win at the Masters and other early season events to accompany his U.S. Open win from 2021. However, that changed at the PGA, when he opened with a round in the mid-70s. All of a sudden the lure of the trophy distracted Rahm. Likewise, we saw both Corey Conners and Hovland hit extremely rare shots into the face of the bunker on Saturday and Sunday. These are shots that do not happen under distribution. In my opinion, the prestige of a major was at the root of these shots.

To overcome the barrier of becoming a champion, players must first understand that winning is not special. Instead, winning is a result of ample skills being applied in duration with the goal of gaining and holding the hot hand. The barrier for most players with enough skill to win, the endowment effect tells us, is that they overvalue winning. Doing so may prevent them from ever getting the hot hand. So maybe, just maybe, the key to winning more is wanting to win less. Easier said than done when one’s livelihood is on the line, but to overvalue a win at one specific tournament, be it the Masters or the two-day member guest, may be doing more harm than good.

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Opinion & Analysis

The best bets for the 2023 Porsche European Open



Green Eagle hosts the European Open for the sixth consecutive time, missing only the pandemic year of 2020.

Known for its potential to stretch to 7800 yards, this monster course in Hamburg is able to reduce itself to around 7300, a far less insurmountable proposition that allows the non-bombers to make use of their pin-point iron play.

Of the top 16 players last year (top 10 and ties) nine fell into the top 12 for tee-to-green, split into those that made it off-the-tee (six in the top-12) and those from approach play (total of four players). Go back to 2021 and champion Marcus Armitage won the shortened three-round event with a ranking of 40th off-the-tee, whereas four of the remaining top-10 ranked in single figures for the same asset.

It’s a real mix, and whilst I’m definitely on the side of those that hit it a long way, there are more factors at work here, particularly a solid relationship with the Italian Open, as well as events in the Czech Republic and Dubai, weeks that allow drivers to open up a tad.

Last year’s winner Kalle Samooja has a best of 2023 at the Marco Simone Club, a tournament won by Adrian Meronk, and with a top-10 containing the big-hitters Julien Guerrier, Nicolai Hojgaard and Daniel Van Tonder, with Armitage a couple of shots away in ninth place.

Like Armitage, the Finn also boasts a win in China (although at differing courses) where solid driver Sean Crocker (third) carries a link between the Czech Masters, being runner-up to Johannes Veerman (10th here, eighth Italy), and another bomber Tapio Pulkkanen, whose best effort this year has been at the Ryder Cup venue to be.

Of the 35-year-old Englishman, his only other victory came in the 2018 Foshan Open, where his nearest victims included Alexander Knappe, Mattieu Pavan and Ryan Fox, all constantly there in the lists for top driving, with Bernd Ritthammer (tied runner-up here 2019) in ninth place.

Amidst plenty of Crans and Alfred Dunhill form on various cards, 2022 Italian Open winner Robert Macintyre was the second of three that tied in second place here behind the classy Paul Casey in 2019, as well as tying with Matthias Schwab at Olgiata, Italy, in the same year.

The Austrian, now plying his trade on the other side of the pond, also brings in the third of three players that ran up here, a seventh place at Green Eagle, two top-10 finishes at Albatross and top finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and China.

Current favourites Victor Perez and Rasmus Hojgaard both disappointed last week at the Dutch Open, and whilst that occurred in completely differing circumstances, they give nagging doubts to what would otherwise be solid claims on class alone.

The Frenchman hadn’t recovered from a week away at Oak Hill when missing the cut, but probably should have won here last year when eventually third, and his ball-striking doesn’t quite have the same sound at the moment. On the other side, the Dane star again had a chance to prove best last week, but for the fourth time in nine months, failed to go through with his effort after entering Sunday in the final two groups.

If wanting a player to link up all the chosen comp tracks, then Jordan Smith would be the selection, even at 20/1 or thereabouts. However, having been safely in the draw for the weekend after 12 holes of his second round at Bernardus, the 2017 Green Eagle champ completely lost control of his tee-to-green game, dropping nine shots in his last seven holes. The 30-year-old is made for this place, as his two further top-11 finishes indicate, but last week’s effort needs a large bunker of forgiveness and I’ll instead nail my colours (again) to Alexander Bjork, the man that beat Smith in China in 2018.

I was with the Swede last week based on crossover form, and this week he makes similar appeal being able to back up that Asian form with top finishes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi (see Casey) and Crans (Armitage and shock winner of this event Richard McEvoy). Of that sole victory at Topwin, it has to be of interest that former China Open specialist Alex Levy won the last running of the European Open at Bad Griesbach before finishing second and 13th here, whilst impossible-to-read HaoTong Li, the 2016 Topwin champ, was 18th on his only try around the monster that is Green Eagle.

Last week’s top-30 made it 10 cuts in a row for 2023, with some impressive displays through this first half of the year, including top-20 in Dubai, second in Ras and back-to-back fourth placings at both the Soudal and Italian Opens.

The 32-year-old ranks fifth for overall performance over the last 12 weeks comprising 32nd in total driving, 24th for ball-striking and 12th for putting. He is exploiting his excellent tee-to-green game, and now ranking in third for scrambling, remains one of the rare players that can recover well when missing their target – although at 19th for greens-in-regulation, this isn’t that often.

Bjork has made all four cuts here, with his last three finishes in the mid-20s, but is in probably the best form of his life. With doubts surrounding many of the rivals at the top, his constant barraging of the short stuff should see him challenging over the weekend.

Home favourite Yannik Paul has been well backed from a far-too-big early price, and there is a case for making him still value at 30+, but Jorge Campillo needs forgiving for an awful display from the front last weekend, even if that was an outlier to his otherwise excellent run, that includes a victory and top-10 in Italy.

There seem to be an awful lot of doubts about the top lot in the market (save a mere handful) so take a trip downtown and try nabbing a bit of value prices that will pay nicely should they nab a place.

Whilst Gavin Green would seem to be an obvious place to go, he sits in the range between 50/1 and 100/1,  full of untapped talent and players, that have least not had too many chances to put their head in front.

Jordan Smith won on debut here, so it’s not impossible, and whilst Jeong Weon Ko may need another year or two to reach his peak, he is one that appeals as a ‘watch’ for the rest of 2023.

The French-born Korean dominated his home junior scene before taking his time through the Alps and Challenge Tours, eventually settling in during the second half of 2022. From July to September, Ko played 14 times, recording four top five finishes, two further top-10s and a pair of top-20s, those results including a fourth place finish at the Challenge Tour finale.

His rookie season at this level started well with a 30th and fourth place in Africa, and he has since progressed steadily as the DPWT ramped it up a level.

Top-20 finishes in Korea, India and Belgium, where he was in second place at halfway, suggest he should soon be competing on a Sunday, whilst in-between those, a third-round 67 was enough to launch him to inside the top 10 at St. Francis Links.

On the 12-week tracker, Ko ranks 12th with positions inside the top-30 for all the relevant stats.

15th for distance, 25th for greens, and top-10 for par-5s, he has a bit of Green about him but without the question marks. Whilst he hasn’t won on the professional stage, his second to bomber Daniel Hillier at the Swiss Challenge reads nicely, as does his top-15 at the Di-Data in 2021 when surrounded by longer hitters, and he appears to be of the quality that will leave these results behind in time.

Hillier himself can be fancied, especially after last week’s fifth at the Dutch Open, but I’ll go with the man that beat him by a single shot last week in the shape of Deon Germishuys.

The DPWT rookie has already had a season to remember, leading home fellow South African Wilco Nienaber at U.S Open qualifying at Walton Heath at the beginning of May, and securing his ticket to his first major.

Interestingly, two of the other five qualifying spots were won by Alejandro Del Rey and Matthieu Pavon, all four names being some of the longest drivers on the tour.

That may well have been the boost that pushed the 23-year-old to record his best effort on the DPWT so far, his third at the Dutch Open marking another step up from the 15th in Belgium just two weeks previous, and a top-10 in Japan when just behind Macintyre, Paul, Smith and Campillo.

In what is a fledgling career, this event starts just a few days after the anniversary of his first victory on his home Sunshine Tour where he beat some of the country’s longest hitters to the biggest prize for a non co-sanctioned tournament, before nabbing his DPWT card via a 20th place ranking at the end of the Challenge Tour season.

The three mentioned top-15 finishes have all appeared on his card since the beginning of April, and this rapidly-improving player now has last weekend’s finish fresh in the mind, finishing in front of Meronk et al, despite not being able to buy a putt on Sunday.

A lot of what Deon is doing on the course reminds me of compatriot Dean Burmester, who had a terrific record at the Di-Data at Farncourt, something being repeated by the younger man (20th and 7th). Now signed by LIV, Burmy also had a solid record at Albatross and in Italy, where a best of fifth place should have been higher at the bizarre Chervo track, biased towards long-hitters but won by a demon putter instead.

I’m tempted by the names Tom Mckibbin, nowhere near a finished article and keen to attack this course, flusher Dan Bradbury, and bomber Marcus Helligkilde (still not convinced he is absolutely one-hundred percent), but they may only make the top-10/20 bets.

Kalle Samooja should go well in his bid to defend his crown, but I’m taking fellow Finn Tapio Pulkkanen to improve on his 18th here last year with the chance to again make his length count.

Having won both the Nordic League (2015) and the Challenge Tour Order of Merit (2017), the be-hatted one was always going to be a player to look out for and, in truth, it hasn’t really happened.

However, his case lies with the best of his efforts, all of which combine to believe that should organisers stretch this course to over 7500-yards at any point, then he is one of a few that could handle the layout.

Silver and bronze at the Czech Masters, Pulkkanen thrived on the open layout of the Dunhill Links, finishing top-10 twice since 2019.  Add those to a second (Hainan) and 14th in China, top-20 finishes in Dubai and Himmerland, as well as good finishes at the classier BMW at Wentworth and he just needs to show something to make appeal at one of only half-a-dozen tracks that he could be fancied around.

The 33-year-old led in Chervo in 2019 before showing he enjoys Italy with his best-of-the-season 16th at the Marco Simone at the beginning of May, where he should have done better, having been in the top five for all the first three rounds.

By no means one to place maximum faith in, he is similar to the likes of Veerman and Joakim Lagergren in that they suit certain types of tracks, and they are the only ones they could be backed at. This one, Green Eagle, together with Pulkkanen, seems like one of those times.

Recommended Bets:

  • Alexander Bjork 
  • Dean Germishuys 
  • JW Ko 
  • Tapio Pulkkanen 
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