Photo By: Mike Ehrmann
There are two types of avid golf gamblers. This week, if you’re Gambler A you’re saying: I’m saving my money until next week. This is an unknown course and a new event—I’ll save my bankroll for Torrey Pines. We don’t blame you. This field, well, leaves a lot to be desired (though we assure you the course should be awesome to watch).
Or, if you’re Gambler B, you’re digging in and saying: I can gain a real advantage this week if I do enough research to gain an edge over others. Damn right. Whichever gambler you are, of course, you’re welcome here. But even if you planned to go light this week before clicking this article, we’ll see if our experts can convince you of a proper bet. (A good time to remind you to gamble reasonably here. Seriously.)
Our betting panel—the most impressive collection of experts in the industry—is here to help as it is every week. Though we didn’t pick Patrick Cantlay in this column, we did have Jason Kokrak the week before … and we’re feeling good about this week. Our Stephen Hennessey had the chance to play and scout Congaree a couple weeks ago, so he feels like he has a good feel for this week—which probably will mean his picks will miss the cut. And hey, whether you’re Gambler A or Gambler B, you know that’s how it goes, because betting on golf is so dang hard.
Here are our favourite bets (and fades) from our panel, which includes an anonymous caddie; Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network; Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel; Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com and Lee Alldrick of FanShareSports.com.
Palmetto Championship 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Sungjae Im (22-1) — The comparisons of Congaree to Royal Melbourne are warranted. Royal Melbourne was so firm and fast that week … and so far, that’s what we’re seeing at Congaree. Yes, it’s a little softer than what some expected. But I think back to how Sungjae excelled at Royal Melbourne and the deft touch he showed there, and I think this place will suit him better than most.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Tyrrell Hatton (14-1) — This course strikes me as a Middle East Swing/Scottish links crossover where there are multiple ways to attack the greens. The creativity angle and sandy experience points directly to Hatton, who has experienced most of his career success on these two types of layouts.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Tyrrell Hatton (14-1) — Hatton comes in at good odds and could dominate Congaree if driving distance is not totally necessary. Either way, Hatton isn’t short off the tee by any means and is the field’s second-best golfer in my database over the past year, trailing only Dustin Johnson. There’s value here.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Sungjae Im (22-1) — There are certainly concerns around Im, which is not uncommon in this field. He’s coming off two straight missed cuts but his metrics have been stabilizing since a rocky start to 2021. He’s flashing the type of play that we saw from him at the end of 2020, where he was piling up top finishes. Congaree should ask golfers to lean on their short-game which is where Im has thrived recently.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Tyrrell Hatton (14-1) — I think Mayo is spot-on here: Congaree was designed to play very links-like. And that should suit Hatton. The Englishman’s No. 1 in my model for all the things he does well … his approaches; his short game, etc. But the thing that put me over the edge: Hatton ranks first in this field in strokes gained/approach on firm greens over the past 24 rounds, per Fantasy National. That’s a crucial stat to look at … even if the course will be softer than it usually is, this stat is indicative of the precision needed to hit the ball exactly where you need to. And that will serve Hatton well.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Tommy Fleetwood (25-1) — In two of his last three starts, Fleetwood has lost strokes on approach and thus missed the cut. The one week he gained strokes, at Wells Fargo, he finished 14th. The short game will always be there for the Englishman, which will be huge for him around these Congaree greens. If we can just get the same mediocre iron play he gave us at Quail Hollow, he could be in line for a breakthrough win against a weak field.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Brooks Koepka (17-2) — Koepka comes into this event ranked second in the field for SG/tee to green over the last two months, mainly due to his performance at the PGA Championship. I believe this course setup will play like a major, which as Koepka quite often explains takes half the field out of contention. Koepka is also an excellent putter on Bermuda greens.
Palmetto Championship 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)
Caddie: Luke List (66-1) — Yes, it’s true—Luke List is one of the few golfers to not only see Congaree prior to this week but really enjoy playing … he fired a low 65 a few months ago. His ball-striking has been trending up over the past few months—I think he’s worth a look here.
Mayo: Rafa Cabrera Bello (66-1) — Another European player who has had experience in the Middle East, who has quietly recaptured some of his past form. The Spaniard has gained on approach in three straight events and has the highest upside of players in this range.
Gdula: Luke List (66-1) — List is long off the tee and just an elite tee-to-green golfer. He’s equally non-elite with the putter in his hand, ranking in the fourth percentile in SG/putting over the past year, based on my database. Still, a modest putter with his best tee-to-green play make him enticing at this number.
Gehman: David Lipsky (100-1) — Lipsky has been playing on the Korn Ferry Tour full-time this year and has found plenty of success. He has a win, two runner-up finishes and has accumulated enough points to secure his PGA Tour card for next season. He’ll be looking to hit the ground running this week with plenty of opportunity in this weak field.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Kevin Kisner (40-1) — I’m sticking to my guns here. When I walked off Congaree a few weeks ago after playing it twice, I said to myself: This is the perfect place for Kiz. Not only does the short-game imagination and deft touch required suit Kiz’s (usual) strengths, but it’s the whole vibe. Congaree is country—as remote as it gets—and that lowcountry, Southern hospitality will put Kiz right at home, quite literally. He’s been playing quite poor, but I still think he can control his ball as well as anyone in the world.
Powers, Golf Digest: Camilo Villegas (100-1) — Villegas’ redemption tour has come to a halt over the last few weeks, but if you go back and look at the weeks he popped, they were all on courses in the south with Bermudagrass greens. He should be pretty comfortable at Congaree, then, where his elite around-the-green play should shine.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Garrick Higgo (40-1) — This man has been on fire on the European Tour and this course will suit his game. Higgo is an elite driver of the ball, which will help on this extremely long course. He is also the best putter, statistically this year, on the European Tour, hence why he has two wins in his past four events.
Palmetto Championship 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Alex Noren (35-1) — Did Alex Noren win a golf tournament recently? Am I missing something? I know he’s playing much better golf, but he’s being priced in a super elite range. There’s a lot more consistent long-term form in this range than a returning-to-form Alex Noren.
Mayo: Harold Varner III (35-1) — I’d love to see HV3 finally break through, but these odds are simply too steep. He’ll have to win without me.
Gdula: Brooks Koepka (17-2) — Brooks is always hard to figure out because it’s hard to build his level of interest in an event into a betting model, but the super-high odds and lingering major (and off-course buzz) make me okay missing out on a +800 winner either way.
Gehman: Tyrrell Hatton (14-1) — I’m generally a fan of Hatton, but it’s difficult to find an investment this week in the Englishman. While he’s been making cuts this year, he doesn’t have a top-15 finish in any individual event. His ball-striking has been suspect at times, but most of all—I just don’t like his price. I believe there are better options at shorter odds and more enticing options at longer odds.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Brooks Koepka (17-2) — There’s likely to be a lot of randomness to this course. Balls will just miss finding the proper slopes; good shots won't always be rewarded the way players think they should be. I don’t think this is a week to pick a sub-10-1 favourite, and we know Koepka will be working on shots he needs for Torrey.
Powers, Golf Digest: Alex Noren (35-1) — Great short-game player and a proven winner on the European Tour, but not prepared to bet him at 35-1 with his unreliable approach play.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Harris English (30-1) — English does not come into this event in particularly good form, so I'm not sure why he's 30-1. He ranks just 47th for SG/tee to green over the past two months and just 101st in Fantasy National's Opportunities Gained stat over the same period.