Handicapping Low-Profile Golf Tournaments
by Trevor Whenham - 05/22/2009
There are two types of PGA tournaments in the world - those that feature Tiger Woods, and the ones that no one cares about. You can come to that same conclusion by a number of different measures - TV viewership, media coverage, attendance, betting volume, and so on. For most bettors, those tournaments that don't feature the great one don't even get a flicker of attention. If you are even remotely interested in trying to make money betting on golf than this is probably a mistake. Here are five good reasons why the smaller, off-the-radar tournaments are worth a look for bettors:
Smaller names - As a general rule, Tiger plays in the bigger tournaments. Those are the same tournaments that tend to draw a more star-studded field. That may make them more interesting to watch, but it also creates a problem for bettors - one of those big name stars is very likely to win the tournament. It's easier to win your bet perhaps, but it also means that the payoffs are going to be lower. Tiger is going to win a third or more of the tournaments he enters most years. Add in Mickelson, Singh, Scott and the others and the bigger tournaments are most often won by public guys that don't pay much. At the tournaments in which those guys largely are absent, though, the door is more wide open for other guys to come through, and to reward you at the betting window in the process. Golf is just like any other sports betting venture - you want to avoid swallowing chalk all the time, but only when you have a decent chance of a longer shot winning.
More data - Tiger picks and chooses his tournaments and often has several weeks off between them. So do the other stars. That means that it can be harder to determine what kind of form they are in for any given tournament unless you can somehow spy on them when they are practicing. The lower level tournaments are more stocked with tour journeymen playing for their lives, and these are the guys that are more likely to be playing almost every week to try to get the earnings they need. If you are willing to put in a little research, then, it is much easier to spot a guy that is rounding into form as evidenced by his improving play. That can be useful, and when you do find them then the prices on him are often high enough that you can afford to play him several times to try and time his peak.
Lower betting volume - The more people bet on a given event, the more the market is likely to correct any inefficiencies in terms of odds. In other words, the value will be bet out of the odds in popular events much more than it will be in less popular ones. That's why it is easier to win betting on obscure college football conferences than it is on the SEC, and why the WNBA is typically much softer than the NBA. Tiger-less tournaments attract far fewer bettors, so you won't likely be as subjected to swings in odds, and you are more likely to find value propositions you like.
Less attention from oddsmakers - This is really an extension of the last point. Oddsmakers are in the business of making money. As such, it only makes sense that they would put more care and attention into setting the odds that are going to attract more money and more sharp bettors. Sometimes you can look at unpopular lines - say Mountain West Conference basketball lines - and see numbers that just don't make a lot of sense if you are familiar with the league. The same is possible with golf - perhaps even more so because of the number of players involved in a tournament in any given week. Those errors are far less likely to appear when the big players are playing and attracting more betting attention.
Less media attention - When Tiger is playing in a big event the coverage is on the front page of all the major sports Web sites from Thursday through to Sunday. The analysts analyze what is happening, and the public is made aware of what is going on. When the stars don't come out to play, though, it can be easy to forget that there is even a tournament on. The media attention largely disappears, and what remains is buried deep on the sites and in the papers. That means that the general public has less access to information and will be less informed about what is going on. You can still find the information you need if you know where to look for it. The bigger the gap in knowledge between you and the general public, the better your chance of making money over the long term.