Golf Handicapping Tips
by Josh Nagel - 01/24/2008
Golf handicapping can be daunting, even for seasoned bettors. Unlike handicapping team sports, where you can search for the little nuances and edges that one team might hold over another, in golf you're looking for the one guy who is going to beat everyone else in a given tournament, which easily consist of 100 opponents or more.
So how do you know who is going to have the week of his life and where to find him? It can be difficult, but is not necessarily impossible. In fact, if you take a little research and combine it with a little intuition, it's not too difficult to end up cashing at the cage after the final putt clunks into the cup on the 18th hole Sunday afternoon.
Unlike football and basketball betting, which offer straight bets, parlays, teasers and all sorts of options to satisfy the sport bettor's insatiable appetite, golf tournament betting usually only offers two types of bets. The most popular is the "to win" bet, where you simply take odds on one individual to win the tournament. The other is head-to-head matchups, where you can bet on one golfer's results against a specific opponent, and this is a money line wager in which you will usually either lay a price of -110 to -140 on the favorite or get even money or slightly better on the underdog in the one-on-one matchup.
I have long been of the belief that sportsbooks could do golf fans a big favor and generate much more action on the tournaments by offering horse-style betting in which you place exacta and trifecta-type bets that would combine the odds of each player and give you more action for your money. But unless or until that day comes, you're left looking for a diamond who won't hit it into the rough.
This gem isn't too hard to find if you know where to look. Long-time sports handicapper Rob Bazarnick, a former oddsmaker himself, believes the best way to handicap golf is by looking for "middlers" on the odds sheet. In other words, he says, don't look at the top or the bottom.
The reasons why are because the top is where you'll find favorites such as Tiger Woods, and others whose price doesn't represent a whole lot of value for your dollar. At the bottom, you'll find tempting longshots, notable names such as John Daly, whose 40/1 odds might look inviting but are simply indicative of the fact that it's been a long time since he was relevant or successful.
The bottom of a golf odds sheet also features the "field," which is where all golfers for whom individual odds are not posted are grouped. Betting the field gives you all the golfers in this category so this, too, can be tempting, but in recent years the price on the field has gone way down - because of the frequency with which the field players won -- to where you're often lucky to get even money with a field bet.
That's why, Bazarnick says, you should look for the "middlers," those players whose names appear in the middle of an odds sheet and whose price usually range from about 10/1 to 25/1. "That's really where you are going to find a couple of guys worth backing," he said.
The top-tier players rarely win enough to justify their price and, while Woods certainly does, the meager odds on him - usually 2/1 or worse these days - prevent him from being a real value. However, like betting on the Patriots or Duke basketball, you know that a bet on Woods is going to have a reasonable chance to win. Same with the field, the only place where you can get more than one golfer for your dollar. Talented up-and-comers and journeymen alike win on a regular basis, and the field is the betting home where they reside. But again, the odds are not a lot to get excited about.
So how do you find the best and most coveted middler to back? Bazarnick suggests a relatively simple formula; it involves players who consistently finish in the top 20 or better in tournaments but have yet to take home a title, those who possess a steady scoring average, and a golfer who has a significant strength, such as he is a noted putter or driver.
The early part of the year is the best time to do research because you can scan the previous year's results and get the best price on a golfer whose odds might go down once he wins a tournament or two. The poster child for this strategy is Mike Weir, who had several top 10 finishes in 2002 and a consistent scoring average but who had yet to break through with a win. He seemed destined to get a victory soon, and Bazarnick caught a great price on him at 15/1 for the Masters.
Other bettors weren't so fortunate. Those who did their research started throwing down on Weir, and his odds closed at as low as 8/1 before the first tee. Even so, anyone who had him enjoyed a nice cash, as Weir blistered the field for his first major win.
"Like anything else with sports betting, a little homework can go a long way," Bazarnick said.