Many sportsbooks are kindly enough to offer “floating” futures odds-to-win major golf championships on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night during the events.
But we don’t see a whole lot of comprehensive advice for gamblers who prefer to wait and see a round or 2 before speculating on a potential winner.
Oh, sure, there will be plenty of weekend blog posts talking about Tiger Woods’ betting line to win the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. The fact that the tournament is teeing-off this Thursday – May 16th – and not in July or August is news in itself. Tiger Woods is the sports story of 2019 and will continue to be, even if he shoots 80 on Friday.
Saturday morning browsers will find lots of predictions and gambling advice on fresh lines for names on the PGA leaderboard. But those stories will only be reacting to the latest 18-hole scores out of New York. Wagers placed when reacting to today’s news instead of anticipating tomorrow’s news are gifts to the bookmaker.
If only the golf gambler had a road map, a concept of which players are likely to start strong, finish strong, and/or struggle in-between, then an above-par Friday or Saturday score for the right candidate wouldn’t be a bummer…but a betting opportunity.
When golfers fall back on the leaderboard temporarily, their payoff odds grow longer. Coming from behind to win The Masters in April, Tiger made a lot more money for Saturday night and Sunday morning bettors than he would have if front-running the entire 72 holes and shrinking his futures lines to 2-to-1.
It also might be a good idea to map-out a contingency plan for a rain-addled tournament. The famed “Black” course at Bethpage – the genius A.W. Tillinghast’s handiwork – has already absorbed a lot of water and could see more by Friday.
Will a sticky driving situation benefit only the longest hitters on an already-long, hilly layout? Who could potentially make a charge if the course dries by Sunday?
Here’s how some of the favorites are feeling. Continue to scroll for my thoughts on picking out a winner…and waiting for the right time during the tourney to place your bet.
Tiger Woods ((+1000) Current Odds-to-Win 2019 PGA Championship)
Tiger Woods 2.0 is not ideally suited for Bethpage Black, a course where mistakes are punished and finesse can only take you so far. It would take a Ben Hogan or Lee Trevino-level week of ball-striking and a putter like that of Walter Hagen in his prime.
The layout is even longer than Augusta National, which allows downhill approach shots to its longest Par 4s and 5s. In contrast, the 15th green of Bethpage is a torturous piece of turf Tilly built into the side of a 50-foot hill. The lowest level of the putting surface is more than 10 yards above the fairway, with punishing rough and sand front and left.
The 2019 Masters champion pistol-whipped the field at Bethpage in the United States Open in 2002, out-driving the average competitor by 15 yards and hitting green after green for tap-in pars. There are enough birdie holes on the layout that Tiger needed only to be patient and keep cranking long drives.
When the U.S. Open returned to Farmingdale in 2009, Tiger had episodes in the first 3 rounds and then worked his way into contention on Sunday afternoon. But his 2nd shot to the upper tier – the upper upper tier – of the 15th green ended with the ball skipping over the flag and snagging in the long fescue, as it is wont to do. Woods’ eyes closed and his cap covered his face. His tournament was over.
Tiger’s game is even less-suited to Bethpage in his 40-something years. For instance, the best way to avoid being too far up the hill on #15 is to slam a drive 350 yards off the tee and then hit a balloon-ball to the upper tier.
Dustin Johnson can do that this weekend. Tiger no longer can.
Woods’ futures line is simply there because gamblers want to believe he’ll win a calendar Grand Slam. I think his chances to do that are less than 1-in-75, but I do think he’ll have a run at another major win when the U.S. Open heads to Pebble Beach later this season.
Dustin Johnson (+1000)
Should there be any question that D.J. is a more-likely winner than Tiger?
Johnson began 2019 ranked #3 in the world but now sits on top of the rankings. His season has been highlighted by 6 top-10s, a 2nd place finish, and a win in the World Golf Championships.
The Cheetah only has a lone major to his credit, but has finished as high as 3rd at Bethpage. If Johnson were in a slump, he could miss the 36-hole cut while hacking in the trees and weeds waiting for inaccurate players. But he’s on his game in 2019, and I think the conditions will suit him handsomely. The Black Course is made for his game, with nothing but trees and hills and long distances everywhere.
Especially if there’s more rain, and the PGA turns into a power-and-distance-control competition with easier putting for D.J. than anyone else.
Very long putts can be nightmarish at Bethpage, but 10 to 15 holes will feature a relatively flat area around the cup.
Rory McIlroy (+1100)
McIlroy has been superb all season, finishing in the top 10 on 8 occasions in 10 events played. The Players Championship win in March was his 6th-consecutive top-10 finish at the time.
A consistent spring has elevated McIlroy from 8th to 4th in the world rankings.
Rory had a top-10 finish at the 2009 U.S. Open held in Bethpage but finished T-24th and T-31st there at the 2012 and 2016 editions of The Barclays. McIlroy has won an impressive 4 majors.
Brooks Koepka (+1100)
He hits the ball, he waits for it to come down, and then goes up to hit it again. Not a bad system when you can stick to it.
Koepka is not a consistently great PGA Tour player, just a constant devil at the majors like Lee Trevino used to be. If Tiger Woods continues an incredible comeback streak, Koepka will likely be a thorn in his side the entire way.
The underrated champion has fared poorly at Bethpage Black, however.
Betting the Weekend at Bethpage
Dustin Johnson is the true prohibitive favorite. His game suits Tilly’s old course best of all. Holes that cause all kinds of headaches for other golfers will be drive-and-flick material for D.J. even if wet fairways cut down on roll.
High-ball hitters will soar on the leaderboard. But if a marquee star who is unlikely to win, say Tiger or Phil Mickelson, flourishes on Thursday or Friday with Johnson or McIlroy a few shots back, that is a dream gambling scenario.
Let the public’s desire for Tiger (or another sentimental favorite) to pull away on Saturday cause the Friday night lines-to-win to lengthen for other golfers with a better chance.
Meanwhile, if the rains and dry breezes cause changing conditions on the putting surface, look for D.J. to have a bad round or at least a bad 9 holes in mid-tournament. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to win. But his putting skills are so fragile that any slight change in the conditions could knock him around for a few holes at a time.
If you’re feeling brave, withhold a wager on Dustin Johnson and pray he doesn’t shoot out to a 36-hole lead. He would have at least 1 chance in 4 to come back from a 3 or 4-stroke deficit on Saturday and Sunday…while his odds could be as high as 15-to-1 each morning.
Bethpage is the course where Johnson could potentially run away on Sunday afternoon. The short strokes aren’t always challenging when a great ball-striker is knocking the flags out. But nobody will dominate the tournament if storms blow through all weekend.
McIlroy is also likely to contend if the main challenges on the weekend are launching epic drives over oak trees to soggy fairways, then getting flatstick in-hand without having episodes in the gnarly wet rough first.
PGA greens are often easier than U.S. Open greens…but the long grass is always a nightmare in Farmingdale. Don’t be tempted to book those “rabbits” among the PGA teachers in the field who run into red figures on Thursday. They’ll be stuck in the hay by the 36th hole…just as the real power hitters are taking over the proceedings.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.