That’s right boys and girls. Loot Sports golf coverage begins at The American Express, a pro am event that utilizes three different courses and the rare cut after day three. The make up of this tournament has led to many long odds turning into big wins, with last years winner, Hudson Swafford, teeing off round one at 150-1 odds. Despite not being an “elevated event”, the field is loaded with five players ranked in the top ten and ten players ranked in the top 20 of the Official world gold rankings (OWGR), including last years Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, and the man who’s quote headlines this article, Jon Rahm, who enters as a heavy and justifiable favorite. While the courses are easy and the birdies will be dropping, approach play will reign supreme in our models. Golf is a great place to find value at the sportsbook, where you can bet not just the winner, but head to heads, finishing positions, even what Sam Burns will do on the second hole of round one (birdie +150 on the short par four). You could scour the data, listen to experts, build your models, and hunt the sportsbooks for the best odds. Orrrrrr you can keep reading because I already did that.
Matchup to hunt
Will Zalatoris over Sungjae Im (-115)
Sungjae is coming off a terrible week, missing the cut at the Sony Open despite having the second smallest odds to win and while favorite Tom Kim also missed the cut, their poor performances were very different. Sungjae had an abysmal week ball striking, losing 3.59 strokes to the field, and his approach play was not much better, losing 2.66 strokes on approach. Look, Sungjae is still an excellent player and I do not think his poor performance last week is indicative of a larger issue with the man, at least it better not be as I am a proud owner of a Sungjae to win the Masters future, but I do not think he will right the ship completely this week. Zalatoris is coming up later in the article so I will save the bulk of my why for there, but the guy is good and I do not think he would be here if his back issues weren’t behind him.
Cameron Young Top 10 +230
What’s not to like about last years rookie of the year? Elite ball striker, world class off the tee and can sink big time putts. If Cam does not win a tournament this year, I will buy and a hat with the MLB logo on it (Cam is sponsored by Major League Baseball so this reference is not that random I promise). The things in his profile that really stand out are his birdie or better percentage (6th best in the world with a birdie or better on 25.27% of the holes he plays) and being third on the tour in approach from the rough. Taking Cam at top 10 could be me leaving money on the table, but a top 10 makes it very likely I have a relaxing Sunday knowing at least of my bets is cashing.
Favorite or Fade it
Jon Rahm +650
Jon Rahm is the best golfer in the world right now and my main trepidation is the fact that he won the last tournament he played in. I do not like back to back winners, I think it is tough to win once and to ask everything to go right in back to back weeks is a tall ask ever for the best players in the world in this day and age. That said, all things (especially odds) being equal, give me Rahm. Unfortunately the odds are not equal and I just cannot bet a 6.5-1 favorite when there are so many excellent golfers out there this week. I recommend two things if you want some Rahm action this weekend. Take Rahm to lead after one and win is +2800 on DraftKings. Rahm is kicking his week off at the La Quinta course, the easiest of the three courses being played this weekend, so a hot start could be in the cards. If he can lead after one, he’s now +2800 to win a tournament when his live odds will be in the +300 range if were lucky. Watch the live markets. This will give you the opportunity to feel the tournament out and probably get around the same odds as right now if he does not end up leading after one. +650over two rounds is much easier to stomach than 4 days of low odds. This is called favorite or fade them so to answer the question I will begrudgingly fade him.
The Trophy Hoisters
Will Zalatoris +2000 Tom Hoge +3500
Will Zalatoris made his dramatic return to the golf course post injury at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and after a rough first two rounds, he found his stroke on the weekend, gaining 3.61 strokes to the field on Sunday alone to finish t11. Zal Pal, as his friends call him, is an elite ball striker, one of the best in the world, and while he lost strokes on approach at the ToC, the ball striking was there and the off the tee numbers were excellent. The new swing he debuted at the ToC put less stress on his back and the putter appears to be in form. I expect Zal to have a big week in California. He has shown time and time again that he can run with the big dogs and while this is not an elevated event, he is primed to show he is one of the big dogs.
Can you name the best approach player in the world over their last 36 rounds? Wrong, its Tom Kim (don’t be scared off Tom’s missed cut last week. All it was was an awful putting week. the ball striking was still there and the putter cannot be that bad again). Can you guess number two? Hopefully you nailed this one as it is the subheader of this winners picks, Tom Hoge. Maybe it’s the name, maybe it’s the face but its definitely not the swing that keeps Hollywood Hoge from being mentioned as one of the worlds best but he certainly is. Tom finished second last year and has been in excellent form of late, flashing 6 top 15’s in his last 9 rounds and positive strokes gained on approach in every tournament (even the ones he missed the cut in) since last August. Look for Hoge to compete and if the putter comes alive, look for Hoge to win.
Hole-in-one and done
One and done is a year long pick ’em like a survivor pool in football. Every week I will pick one golfer knowing I cannot pick them again for the rest of the year and their weekly earnings measures how well I did in the pool. This week’s pick is Tom Hoge for the reasons mentioned above. Last week I went with Cam Davis so I am a little behind and will need Hoge to bring me back into contention.
The Jesster’s laughably good pick of the week
Week by week this could be anything I find on whatever site I am using, most likely draftkings though I absolutely can be bought *cough cough fanduel*. Sometimes it might just be a simple matchup or finishing position. Sometimes it will be a ridiculous parlay that only hits through the grace of god and my charming smile. Either way,, no explanation, just vibes on these. This week I am going with a two man parlay of Cam young over Sam Burns (-155) and taylor Montgomery +100 to beat Aaron wise for a +229 return.
About the writer
Born in Hollywood, Florida, growing up the only local sports team that stuck was the Miami Dolphins. That fandom has taught me how to get my hopes up and how to be disappointed. Luckily, the abysmal Marlins never got my attention like the Boston Red Sox which did at least allow me to understand what winning felt like. Having spent time in Colorado and North Carolina as well, I have developed an eclectic base of knowledge that is perfect for trivia night and little else. The pandemic led me to get my M.B.A in data analytics and my interest in data led me to golf and golf gambling.
-Cody “The Jesster” Jess