A lot of casual golf bettors only bet on four of five tournaments a year – the majors and the Ryder Cup every other year. When you are betting a sport so rarely you are inevitably not going to be as sharp as you would be if you bet it much more regularly. There are a lot of mistakes that are easy to make if you don’t bet on the sport regularly. Here are four of the bigger mistakes PGA handicappers want to avoid if they want to be successful betting on the majors in golf:
Betting more than you can win – Most people who are betting on golf tournaments are going to bet on more than one guy so that they have several rooting interests throughout the event. If you are doing that, though, it can be easy for you to bet on so many that you are losing money even if you make a winning bet, or just making an unacceptable rate of return for the risk you are taking. Let’s say, for example, that you make this group of picks: You bet on Tiger because he’s so good, a few guys at low to mid prices like Phil, Kaymer, or Harrington because they are always a factor, a couple of mid priced youngsters who seem poised to break through, and a couple of longshots for good measure. The problem with that – a logical collection of bets in a lot of ways – is that if Tiger and likely Phil win the tournament then you’ll still be losing money. There is absolutely nothing worse in sports betting than making a winning bet and still losing money – it’s not possible to feel more stupid.
Betting on the big names – Golf is a game of stars, and those stars draw the majority of the headlines, and as a result the majority of the betting volume in tournaments. Those guys – like Woods, Mickelson, Els, Singh, Harrington and so on – draw the majority of attention, so they draw the majority of betting action. That means that oddsmakers are going to be aware of the public attention, and they are going to set the odds accordingly, and that value will be much harder to find with these big names than it will be on some more obscure but still talented and viable golfers. More significantly, these golfers stay in the center of public attention longer than they remain a viable threat to win. Els and Singh, for example, are both frequently at 20/1 or lower in tournaments even though it has been a long time since they have been nearly the top level threat to win it all that those prices would suggest. Successful golf bettors need to look beyond the names that are great – and especially those that were great but aren’t any more – to find the golfers who are in strong form, playing with confidence, and offer significant value in their price.
Ignoring the course – It doesn’t matter how far you can hit the ball if the course you are playing is tight or short. Guys who play their wedges brilliantly won’t have much of an advantage if big hitters will be on the green in two on par fives. Great putters have a far smaller edge if the greens are small and hard to hit, or if the greens are soft and it’s easy to land the ball close to the pin. Guys who have had a lot of success on a course in the past won’t have much of an advantage if the course has been aggressively altered since the last time it was played. I could go on, but you get the point – if you are betting on a guy who is not well suited for the course that he is playing on then you are almost certainly accepting less value than you think you are.
Ignoring the longer shots – Since 2000 Tiger Woods has played 43 Majors, and won 12. That’s a remarkable rate of success, of course. Over that time, though, he has frequently been at odds of 3/1 or less – sometimes much less – and he has rarely been over 5/1. If you had bet on him in each of his 43 starts you may have made a profit, but it would be a very small one – certainly not an impressive ROI. Over that same stretch of time there have been 45 majors played. Ten of them have been won by guys at 100/1 or higher in the odds – sometimes much higher. A bet on any one of those guys in every tournament would have generated more than a 100 percent return on investment – often much more. That’s significantly higher than you could have gotten by betting on the best golfer in the history of the planet. I’m not suggesting that you should just bet on every longshot every time and hope for the best – that’s a quick way to go broke. What I am strongly suggesting, though, is that it’s not just the big name guys that offer good bets. In fact, guys like Tiger, Mickelson, Els, Singh, Harrington, and so on likely won’t produce the ROI when they are in their primes that more obscure but still skilled winners can. You need to be creative and look beyond the biggest names.