Finding Betting Value in the 2018 FedEx Cup Championship
The Masters, The PLAYERS and 30 other tournaments are now in the rearview, and the 2018 PGA Tour season is nearly 70% of the way home.
But with just one major decided, it really feels like the season has yet to hit full speed. There are 14 regular season tournaments remaining, including a trio of prestigious majors in the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship.
For one second, though, just forget about the past and the future and consider where the season is at. The Fort Worth Invitational (formerly known as the Dean & DeLuca Invitational) is now underway, and while it doesn't come with the hype of the Masters or the PLAYERS, it carries a prize of nearly $1.3 million and -- now fast forward back to the future -- 500 FedEx Cup points.
The money is great for wallets, but the FedEx points are working toward a much bigger prize -- a $10 million check to be awarded at East Lake Golf Club on September 23.
In addition to the remaining 14 regular season events, there will be four playoff tournaments (2,000 points each), including the TOUR Championship. And at the conclusion, whoever has the most points (regular season and playoffs combined) takes home the cash and the Cup.
The FedEx Playoffs are just 12 years old, but as with any single tournament, you have the ability to throw down some shekels on your favorite to win it all. The process is certainly more complicated with the points system and a series of cuts within the playoff events.
Nonetheless, this should help to simplify the process and point you toward some undervalued golfers in Vegas.
Sorted by current betting odds, here are the top 71.
|Golfer||January 2 Odds||May 21 Odds||Difference|
|Si Woo Kim||15000||12500||-2500|
|Charles Howell III||25000||25000||0|
Within the 71, we get three golfers -- Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren and Aaron Wise -- who weren't even listed back in January. Assigned +50000 odds (the maximum listed prior to this year's first tournament) to provide better context, these three have obviously climbed the board.
Outside of that trio, Brian Harman, Ian Poulter, Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are the five biggest climbers to show up on both lists. At the bottom of the list, Graham DeLaet, Hudson Swafford and Wesley Bryan are in a three-way tie for the biggest faller.
Last year's winner and golf's new number-one, Justin Thomas, has increased his odds and leads a four-man group of favorites, with Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and previous World number-one Dustin Johnson all nipping at his heels.
FedEx Cup Standings
Vegas' favorites are just that, but the leaders are the ones with the most FedEx points, plain and simple.
So, through the AT&T Byron Nelson, here are where things stand in comparison to where they were to start the year (sorted by current ranking).
|Golfer||January 2 Rank||May 21 Rank||Difference|
|Charles Howell III||22||32||10|
|Si Woo Kim||29||33||4|
Due to playing limited or no contests through the January 2 date, Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk were all outside the top-250, so their movement comes with a grain of salt. However, the same can't be said for Watson, who has put together two wins, a top-5 at the Masters and a top-10 through 10 appearances in the new year.
Jason Dufner and Jon Rahm have both followed Watson in his climb up the points rankings, and Noren has made his way into the top-25 as well. Meanwhile, Graham DeLaet, Brooks Koepka and Hudson Swafford have all dropped more than 50 spots, with only Swafford doing so without injuries as an excuse.
Once again, Thomas is at the top, having jumped six spots with 10 top-25s, including a win at The Honda Classic and a second-place finish at the WGC-Mexico. He's 341 points clear of Jason Day.
The movement over time tells us which players have played their way up or down the rankings, by both Vegas' standards and the FedEx Cup standings. But where do they differ, and what can we take away from this as far as finding valuable bets for the stretch run?
Let's take a long look at the current Cup rankings in comparison to Vegas' ranks, by today's odds (click to enlarge).
The trendline you see is statistically significant, and what that tells us is that players above the line have higher actual rankings than they do Vegas-implied rankings. Within that group, DeLaet (167th), Swafford (151st), Furyk (158th), Wesley Bryan (166th) and Bill Haas (143rd) make for the easiest stay-away spots, given their respective points deficits.
The opposite goes for golfers below the line. They're headlined by Patton Kizzire (4th), Webb Simpson (8th), Pat Perez (15th), Brendan Steele (20th) and Charles Howell III (32nd). With double-digit differentials (Cup minus Vegas ranks), all but Simpson (+6000) are at +10000 or longer odds, so they represent some nice value bets. And history is on their side, as the last three Cup winners have come from the top-40, with only two eventual winners outside that mark at this point in the season (through Byron Nelson).
As for the golden triangle you see above, that consists of three familiar names both inside the top-6 in points and inside the top-13 in Vegas odds. Currently 3rd in the race for the FedEx Cup, Phil Mickelson is tied for 10th with +2000 odds. He shares the same figure as that of Masters champion Patrick Reed, who is 5th and within 33 points of Mickelson. And to round it out, Bubba Watson is right behind Reed in sixth, with the potential for an even higher return at +2500.
Given the fact that 5 of the previous 11 winners ranked 5th or better in the year-to-date standings to this same point, it's hard to argue against a Mickelson or Reed ticket. And the same goes for Thomas and Day at one and two.
Although you would get smaller returns -- +900 for Thomas and +1200 for Day -- both studs fall under the trendline. For Thomas, it would mean a second straight $10 million payday, but for Day, it would be his first time hoisting the trophy at East Lake.
Who will ultimately take the cake? Only time will tell.