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Prop Farm: Las Vegas sharps, oddsmakers weigh in with top bets for THE PLAYERS

7 Min Read

Golfbet News


    Written by Brady Kannon @lasvegasgolfer

    It is the third stop, and the biggest stop yet, this week on the Florida Swing as a loaded field makes its way to TPC Sawgrass for the 50th anniversary of THE PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida.

    For 10 weeks now we have been working on the Prop Farm, digging into the betting soil with both hands, and speaking with bookmakers in Las Vegas and around the country. While our work on the farm continues, this week we are adding a look from the other side of the counter. Maybe drop the "p" and call it the "Pro Farm?" However you wish to spin it, it is THE PLAYERS this week and in light of the weight of this event, we thought it would be good to feature an alternate crop in this week's plow through the betting farm - so not only have we assembled an oddsmaker’s perspective but that of some professional bettors and handicappers too.

    Here in the fields of the Prop Farm, we have noted in recent weeks how oddsmakers have seen an increase in golf handle as we build toward THE PLAYERS and the first major of the season. Drew O'Dell, data analyst at BetMGM, has also taken notice.

    "There is considerably more handle compared to last week at this time for this week's event," said O'Dell. Hall of Fame bookmaker Chris Andrews pointed out, "The handle overall is good. Lots of head-to-head matchup action."

    Tristan Davis, senior manager at Mandalay Bay Race & Sportsbook, is seeing this in matchups too, with action coming in on Hideki Matsuyama over Max Homa and Justin Rose over Nicolai Højgaard. But he’s getting mixed messages from the betting public on Keith Mitchell.

    "We have seen sharp money on Mitchell to beat Christiaan Bezuidenhout," said Davis, who moved Mitchell from -110 to -115 in that matchup as a result. "We have had a lot of attention on Mitchell to miss the cut at +140, too. He has been a popular player in a positive way in his last few outings so it is unusual to see this out of the blue, especially after seeing the sharp money on his matchup with Bezuidenhout."

    Andrews listed several players that are being bet in matchup markets, including Mitchell. "We've seen money on Matsuyama, Byeong-Hun An, Mitchell, Justin Rose, Ryan Fox, Davis Thompson, Kevin Yu and Garrick Higgo - all to win their head-to-head matchups," Andrews said.

    Paul Stone is a professional bettor out of Texas. A multi-time handicapping contest winner who specializes in college football and golf, Stone passed along two head-to-head matchups he likes this week in Ponta Vedra Beach.

    "Tom Hoge over Chris Kirk is one," said Stone. "Hoge possesses solid current form and he's enjoyed success at this venue. He's 5-for-5 in cuts made at TPC Sawgrass, including a third-place finish last year that was highlighted by a course-record round of 62 on Saturday."

    For his second matchup, Stone landed on a former PLAYERS champion in Adam Scott. "I like Scott over Harris English. Scott finished among the top dozen players here every year from 2016 through 2019," Stone explained. "Meanwhile, English has missed seven straight cuts at THE PLAYERS."

    Adam Scott | Winner of THE PLAYERS Championship 2004

    World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler dominated the field last Sunday, shooting the low round of the day en route to his second career victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. That has bettors backing him to get it done again this week, though he’s not the biggest sweat for Davis.

    "Despite such a big hold on Scheffler (+550) he is not our biggest liability,” Davis said. “(Justin) Thomas and Will Zalatoris at the moment, are our most notables in that regard.”

    Davis added two longshots that have gained traction among bettors: former PLAYERS champ Rickie Fowler (+9000) and Nick Taylor (+10000), who won the WM Phoenix Open last month.

    A play on Russell Henley has surfaced among the professional ranks. This one comes from Wes Reynolds, a host and encyclopedia of golf knowledge at VSiN, a sports betting network based in Las Vegas.

    "He has two top-5 finishes already this season, at the Sony Open and last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational - both at courses that correlate to TPC Sawgrass," Reynolds said. "He was second in the field last week for SG: Putting, too, so give me Henley for an outright win as well as a top-30 finish."

    Russell Henley reaches green in two and birdies at Arnold Palmer

    Over a decade ago, Rufus Peabody was the first person to ever show me a golf handicapping model, one he built primarily on his own. A good golfer in his own right, Rufus is one of the more widely respected professional sports bettors in the world. As is true with most pros, they are diving into areas that are not always popular with the general betting public. But this week, Peabody noted that he’s bullish on Rory McIlroy (+1400) to win a second PLAYERS title.

    "I also like a couple of longer shots to win it this week in Tom Kim and Sungjae Im, if you can find them around +8000," Peabody added.

    Johnny Disimone is a professional bettor from Canada who often frequents Las Vegas.

    "I landed on two guys in the Finish Position markets who are playing well as of late," said Disimone, who like Reynolds is backing Henley - this time in the Top 10 market. "He finished fourth last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and he has four top-15 finishes in seven starts this year. Henley is very good at avoiding the big number, and that is key this week."

    With his second selection, he traveled a little further down the board for Erik van Rooyen in the Top 20 market. A winner last year in Mexico, van Rooyen has nine top-25 finishes in his last 11 starts to go along with a T13 finish here in 2022.

    Erik van Rooyen sinks a 34-foot birdie putt at Arnold Palmer

    Chris Fallica is known as "The Bear." The loveable kind, of course. Formerly of ESPN College GameDay and now a Fox Sports Analyst, Fallica is very adept at handicapping a wide range of sports and has landed on a longshot for TPC Sawgrass.

    "He's a dart throw to win it outright this week, but I like Doug Ghim to finish top 20," Fallica said. "His stat profile is one of the best on TOUR, but he's certainly not priced as one of the stronger players despite that profile. He has four straight top-20 finishes and has been sneaky good at TPC Sawgrass, too. In 2021, he was third here entering the final round before stumbling on Sunday and in 2022, he was second entering the final round before finishing sixth. I think he's live for a solid weekend in 2024."

    THE PLAYERS Stadium Course features one of the most recognizable golf holes in the world - the par-3 17th. The novelty of this hole has attracted bettors, and both O'Dell and Davis have taken notice.

    "Over 95% of the tickets on 'Will There Be a Hole-in-One'have been on the NO," said O'Dell. "This is for a hole-in-one on any hole over the four days. Inversely, 83% of bets are on YES for a hole-in-one for the Hole 17 specials."

    At Mandalay Bay, Davis is seeing support for an ace on 17 as well. "Will there be a hole-in-one on 17 is attracting a lot of attention for YES at +200," explained Davis.

    The bigger the event, the bigger the farm. Quite a few thoughts to harvest here from both the oddsmaker’s side of the window and the bettor's side. A wide range of professional opinions, from Texas to Canada, to Las Vegas - and a wide range of plays too - from McIlroy and Scheffler to Hoge to van Rooyen, bettors are casting a wide net on an unpredictable venue in search of value. On Thursday however, we power down the tractor and shut down the mill as we all will come together with all eyes focused on TPC Sawgrass and the 50th playing of THE PLAYERS Championship.

    “We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.” – Wendell Berry

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