Gdula's Golf Simulations and Betting Picks: ANA Inspiration

The LPGA's first major is on tap for this week at Mission Hills Country Club. Who has the best chance to win?

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

Unfortunately, data for the LPGA Tour isn't nearly as robust as it is on other professional golf tours, so my simulations are based on long-term, round-by-round scoring, with each round adjusted for the field average for the given day. Golfers without a robust sample will have their data regressed to a Tour-average mark to avoid any extreme outliers.

Unsurprisingly, the Women's World Golf Rankings (WWGR a.k.a. the Rolex Rankings) correlates strongly to adjusted strokes gained average, so with simple regression analysis, I can apply it to generate an estimated strokes gained average. I combine the two and use it to simulate out the event.

Here are the most likely winners for the ANA Inspiration, according to the model.

Golfer Simulated
Win Odds
Inbee Park7.2%+800
Nelly Korda6.6%+1100
Danielle Kang5.4%+1400
Jin Young Ko5.1%+900
Sei Young Kim4.5%+2000
Lexi Thompson4.2%+1200
Brooke Henderson3.5%+2000
Lydia Ko3.4%+2000
Minjee Lee3.3%+2200
Hyo Joo Kim2.9%+1200
Jessica Korda2.0%+2700
So Yeon Ryu1.9%+2000
In Gee Chun1.7%+2900
Austin Ernst1.4%+5500
Carlota Ciganda1.4%+6500
Amy Olson1.3%+5000
Sophia Popov1.3%+8000
Ariya Jutanugarn1.3%+4100
Charley Hull1.2%+4100
Jeongeun Lee61.2%+5000
Moriya Jutanugarn1.1%+7000
Ally Ewing1.1%+7000
Jennifer Kupcho1.1%+6500
Stacy Lewis1.0%+6500
Nasa Hataoka1.0%+6500
Hannah Green1.0%+8000
Jennifer Song0.9%+10000
Mel Reid0.9%+10000
Anna Nordqvist0.9%+10000
Jenny Shin0.9%+8000
Caroline Masson0.8%+10000
Georgia Hall0.8%+10000
Jodi Ewart Shadoff0.7%+10000
Brittany Altomare0.7%+10000
Cheyenne Knight0.7%+9000
Sung Hyun Park0.7%+9000
Amy Yang0.7%+9000
Gaby Lopez0.7%+10000
Lizette Salas0.7%+12000
Megan Khang0.7%+10000
Yealimi Noh0.6%+12000
Xiyu Lin0.6%+12000
Marina Alex0.5%+10000
Hinako Shibuno0.5%+12000
Nanna Koerstz Madsen0.5%+27000
Celine Boutier0.5%+21000
Mi Hyang Lee0.5%+15000
Ashleigh Buhai0.5%+21000
Katherine Kirk0.5%+21000
Leona Maguire0.5%+12000
A Lim Kim0.5%+9000
Emily Kristine Pedersen0.5%+10000
Sarah Schmelzel0.5%+15000
Azahara Munoz0.5%+18000
Brittany Lincicome0.5%+12000
Mi Jung Hur0.5%+12000
Yu Liu0.5%+15000

Inbee Park is understandably the chalk at +800 on FanDuel Sportsbook. She's a seven-time major winner (including the ANA Inspiration back in 2013) and just won the Kia Classic last week. Still, +800 odds are hard to get behind from a strict, value-based standpoint.

Nelly Korda (+1100) and Danielle Kang (+1400), according to the model, are both a bit overrated but less so than Park and Jin Young Ko (+900). A win for Korda would be a breakthrough victory for the 22-year-old, as she has a top-10 in four of the five LPGA majors and a top-25 at all five already. Kang won the Women's PGA Championship in 2017 and has finished top-11 at the ANA Inspiration in each of the past two seasons.

Sei Young Kim (+2000) rates out as the strongest value among the favorites (despite still being a tad overvalued). Kim won the 2020 Women's PGA Championship by five shots over Park. She finished 14-under par, and only eight total golfers were under par.

Really, the value starts to pop up around Carlota Ciganda (+6500) and Sophia Popov (+8000). Ciganda as finished top-10 in all five majors at some point in her career by age 30. Popov won the AIG Women's Open at Royal Troon last year at seven-under par. Only four other golfers were better than even.

Other long shots who could be in the mix for top-10 bets the major is keeping me off of many long shot bets) include Jennifer Song, Mel Reid, Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Masson, and Georgia Hall.

Because it's a major, I don't want to dig too far down the board. My favorite outright plays this week are Danielle Kang, Sei Young Kim, Carlota Ciganda, and Sophia Popov.