Gdula's Golf Simulations: THE NORTHERN TRUST

Patrick Cantlay's odds at FanDuel Sportsbook are quite juicy. Where else can we look to on the betting board?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the hiatus, I made some tweaks to my original golf model, which used a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour). The ultimate goal was to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

I liked it, and it worked, but it didn't isolate out tee-to-green and putting performance enough, so I made some alterations, this time leveraging strokes gained data and adjusting that for field strength.

After using an average of those two models, I've now swapped to the newer model, which has fared better and is capable of course-level adjustments.

Here are the simulation results for THE NORTHERN TRUST.

Golfer Simulated
Win Odds
Golfer Simulated
Win Odds
Justin Thomas 6.8% +1400 Rory McIlroy 5.8% +1400
Jon Rahm 5.5% +1600 Patrick Cantlay 4.7% +3000
4.4% +2000 Bryson
4.2% +1200
3.8% +2200 Hideki
3.5% +4000
Webb Simpson 3.4% +3000 Patrick Reed 2.8% +2800
Jason Day 2.4% +2500 Adam Scott 2.0% +4500
Tony Finau 2.0% +3000 Tyrrell Hatton 1.8% +6000
Viktor Hovland 1.7% +6000 Paul Casey 1.4% +4500
1.4% +4800 Brooks Koepka 1.4% +3300
Rickie Fowler 1.4% +5500 Dustin Johnson 1.2% +2000
Marc Leishman 1.2% +11000 Tiger Woods 1.2% +3500
Abraham Ancer 1.1% +6500 Billy Horschel 1.1% +5000
1.1% +6000 Harris English 1.1% +8000
Daniel Berger 1.1% +3300 Kevin Kisner 1.0% +7000
Gary Woodland 1.0% +6500 Justin Rose 1.0% +6000
SungJae Im 1.0% +5000 Scottie
0.8% +5000
Matthew Wolff 0.8% +5500 Jordan Spieth 0.7% +7500
Cameron Champ 0.7% +7000 Harold Varner III 0.7% +10000

[Update: Brooks Koepka has withdrawn.]

THE NORTHERN TRUST isn't a no-cut event, but it's also not a full field. That shifts odds around a bit. Bryson DeChambeau (+1200) is the odds-on favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook, but it's Justin Thomas (+1400) who won this most frequently in my simulations. There's a smidge of actual betting value on Thomas, whose tee-to-green performance is pretty much unmatched in 2020.

My model doesn't hate Rory McIlroy (+1400), Jon Rahm (+1600), Xander Schauffele (+2000), or Webb Simpson (+3000), but it's when we get to Patrick Cantlay (+3000) where things really pop off. Cantlay has the fifth-best adjusted strokes gained: approach numbers in 2020, via His recent finishes have been stymied by iffy short game, but the ball-striking is there regardless. I've already bet him.

There's a similar case to be made for Hideki Matsuyama (+4000). Hideki, like Cantlay, has problems converting elite tee-to-green play into wins, but we're getting a good number on Matsuyama. Even factoring in the weak putting, Matsuyama won this simulated event 3.5% of the time, compared to the 2.4% that his FanDuel Sportsbook odds imply he will.

There's a little value on some mid-range picks -- Tyrrell Hatton (+6000), Viktor Hovland (+6000), and Harris English (+8000) -- but this one is more about nailing the high-end and middle of the board. The past eight winners have been DeChambeau, Thomas, McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Henrik Stenson, McIlroy, and Simpson.

My bets so far this week include Cantlay, Matsuyama, and Hatton.