PGA Tour Betting: 6 Picks to Lead the 2020-21 Money List
While most of our efforts in golf speculation space are focused on individual events and analyzing shot-by-shot data over dozens or even hundreds of recent rounds, we can reset heading into the heart of the new season to make some wagers on how we think the season will shake out.
Specifically, who will stand at the end of the year with the most (official!) cash in the bank. FedEx Cup payouts at the end do not count toward Official PGA money, and last year it was Justin Thomas -- not the FedEx Cup Champion Dustin Johnson -- who topped the official money list with $7,344,040 in earnings. Johnson was third with $5,837,267, about $120,00 behind runner-up Jon Rahm.
Those names are not surprising given that they rode the carousel around the world number-one ranking for most of the season. And, not surprisingly, they are three of the top four names in the market on FanDuel Sportsbook heading into the New Year, with DJ leading the way at +200.
What we are looking for in a money leader are opportunities and victories, with the "s" on the end being the most important. PGA Tour win money is top-heavy, the winner rightfully earns the lion's share of the purse. And you'd have to go back to 2011 to find the last time a golfer led the official money list with fewer than three wins. Playing a lot of events matters -- but only if you can seal the deal. Wins equal not only more money but also more FedEx Cup Points and extra events at the end of the season.
Only three golfers played more than 25 events last year, and all three finished high on the money list -- Sungjae Im played 26 events and ranked 9th, Lanto Griffin played 27 events and ranked 16th, and Sebastian Munoz played 26 and ranked 21st -- but all three also picked up the ever-important victory.
At the Top
Bryson DeChambeau (+450) - It is important to note that the odds factor in the early lead that DeChambeau and Johnson have due to wins in the fall at the U.S. Open and Masters, respectively. But we'll punt the top two spots and look for value further down the board. If we had to pick one, we should lean toward DeChambeau given the better odds just $600,000 behind and a historically busier schedule. Last season, Bryson played 17 tournaments to Johnson's 14, and in 2018-19, he played 21 to Johnson's 19. Those extra events could very well matter, and with both starting at three events played thus far, we can project DeChambeau to tee it up more than DJ the rest of the way.
Rory McIlroy (+1200) - Even with a soft spot for Thomas (+800), we can't pass up the McIlroy at the better price. Rory closed 2019 as the best player in the world and really never found his touch coming back from the COVID-19 layoff. He's a thoughtful guy, and perhaps the weight of impending fatherhood and an empathy for those suffering around the world had more of an effect on him than others. That may still be the case heading into 2021, but at 12/1 he's worth a flier that he gets back to his best. He has a slew of top talent in front of him for the first time in a very long time, and McIlroy should relish the "underdog" role behind Johnson, Rahm, and Thomas for the Tour's top dog.
Brooks Koepka (+2900) - Speaking of golfers with a chip on their shoulder! Perhaps no golfer is more invested in defeating the other golfers personally than Koepka. He used to bemoan his share of the limelight (or lack thereof) and now finds himself facing harsh criticism when he fades on a Sunday at a major, a once unthinkable event. It cannot be denied that Koepka has proven his A-plus game to be as good as anyone's; the question is really just whether we'll ever see those peaks again. A bonus for is that is Koepka's best events often have the highest purses -- WGC events and majors. He and McIlroy each won three times in the 2018-19 season, but Koepka bested Rory's official money by almost $2 million
Matthew Wolff (+3300) - The ultimate champion at the collegiate level, Wolff's winning ways translated almost immediately with a victory in just his third start as a pro. He struggled to find consistency for the rest of his rookie season but looked like a star in the making last year. He was second to DeChambeau at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and fourth at the PGA Championship and also posted two more runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to start this new season. Thanks to those finishes he's already earned over $2 million this season, good for fifth on the money list heading into 2021.
Sungjae Im (+6500) - Im was ascendant right as the Tour was put on hold, having won the Honda Classic and placed third at Bay Hill. He came back with a T10 at Colonial but struggled the rest of the season. He started 2020-21 with a couple notable finishes at the majors -- T22 at the U.S. Open and runner-up at The Masters -- and he's 13th on the current list with 8 events played. Im was in such pristine form that he likely had a run of strong finishes and a great chance at another win before the Florida swing was cut short. If he can get in a groove he can rack up a string of strong finishes, and we know he's going to play a ton of events. We can be sure he will be dialed in this season and in good form when the Olympics begin in July: a medal there will exempt him from mandatory military service in South Korea.
Webb Simpson (+6500) - Simpson won twice last year and finished fifth on the money list, his third straight season as one of the top-10 earners. Notably, he achieved that in the two prior seasons with just one win in 2017-18 and none in 2018-19. With a terrific resume, it is easy to forget Simpson has just seven PGA career wins. Getting two in the same year could signal regression, but that's not the case with Simpson. He'd been ascendant since his 2018 PLAYERS triumph; he just was on the wrong side of luck when it came to closing tournaments out (he should have eight to ten wins by now). He had four runner-ups before his win in Phoenix. His second win of the season came at Harbour Town, a coastal South Carolina course that should prepare him for this year's PGA Championship venue, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort. Good fit at a major venue and strong history at Augusta National means Simpson has big earning potential this year and is a great bet at long odds, even as he starts well behind the early leaders this season.