Gdula's Golf Simulations and Betting Picks: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
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.
Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses 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 is 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.
In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.
I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.
I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.
Here are the most likely winners for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, according to the models.
Brooks Koepka (+1100 on FanDuel Sportsbook) is always hard to get right with a model because of how he doesn't really play at the same level week-to-week. I love him from a daily fantasy standpoint, but the sheer numbers suggest he's very overrated at his 11/1 odds.
However, everyone seems to be a bit inflated based on my numbers here because of how good and deep the field is.
I've got the most interest in Jordan Spieth (+1400) and Daniel Berger (+2200) among the favorites. They fit the course well (Berger has two wins here and Spieth doesn't need to be dialed in with the driver).
Patrick Reed (+3400) is a positive expected value, but I think I'll stay away due to the sheer travel. I think he's a good daily fantasy play but perhaps not for an outright win this week.
Given the travel involved for virtually the whole field (and because the WGC events are usually won by the best in the field), I'm relying less on the model and am honing in on Spieth, Berger, Scottie Scheffler (+3100), and Jason Kokrak (+4200) to start the week.