Even at the highest level, golf is a cyclical game. A player’s performance ebbs and flows like the tide — or perhaps in a more visual analogy, it features all the twists and turns of a roller coaster. Not just ball-striking or putting; even lucky breaks and good bounces tend to come in bunches — and fail to come in bunches, too.
I’m not specifically referencing Will Zalatoris here, but he certainly fits this narrative. He coulda/shoulda/woulda won two major championships this summer and another last year, if just one more putt had decided to squeeze into the edge of one more cup during each of those weeks.
As he recently said prior to winning last week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship, “I would pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half in those three majors considering that I’ve basically missed out on three majors by three shots. But that’s what motivates me. It’s why I get up early. It’s why even on off weeks I’m still grinding.”
New customers only. Must be 21+. AZ, CO, IA, IL, IN, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY only. (Welcome Offer not available in NY & PA) Full T&C apply.
New users only, 21 or older. NY, CO, DC, IA, IN, IL, MI, NV, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WV only. Full T&Cs apply.
21+. New customers only. AZ, CT, IA, IL, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, WV, WY only. T&C apply
And therein lies the rub. Depending on your Google search, it was either Arnold Palmer or Gary Player or neither one of them who first coined the term, “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
Surely, Zalatoris didn’t practice par-3 tee shots which dance atop a rock wall border and stop there, but the idea is essentially that he’s put himself in positions to win so frequently that at some point he gets into a playoff and one of those lucky breaks occurs, as it did during the third extra hole against Sepp Straka on Sunday. And while, no, he didn’t hit the shot from those rocks that everyone wanted to see, simply having his ball stop there meant that Straka had to first play from the drop zone, giving Zalatoris the upper hand in his decision-making process.
For as much as we all study the analytics and metrics and stats which can help correlate player to course on a weekly basis, bettors sometimes need to take the roller-coaster effect into account. There’s no such thing as the law of averages, yet the golf gods often tend to counterbalance, ensuring those scales of justice find some equilibrium.
That’s one of the reasons why I’d been on Zalatoris over the past few weeks and why, with just two events left in the current PGA Tour season, I’m seeking other players who haven’t gotten the results to justify their performance. Like a pitcher with a 2.50 ERA who owns a 6-10 win-loss record, at some point we can expect the oxymoronic “positive regression” to take place.
Betting on golf?
As such, I’m looking for those players who haven’t quite gotten that bump from the golf gods yet this year. The most elite class of professional golf is often like a deli counter, which means our job is to figure out whose number is going to get called, so he can order up a big trophy.
And if you don’t think every name gets called at some point, then you haven’t been paying attention to the fact that even Delaware gets to host a mighty FedEx Cup playoff event.
Only some 30 miles from the greater Philadelphia area, Wilmington Country Club will play host to the BMW Championship for the first time. At 7,534 yards on the scorecard, it seems daunting, though we should remember that the PGA Tour often — not always, but often — errs on the side of caution when setting up a new venue.
Sound familiar? This is the same script as last year’s BMW host, Caves Valley, which similarly played lengthy, but yielded a pair of 27-under 261 scores over four days.
In fact, despite rotating through different courses, this tournament has had a winning score of at least 20-under (and at least 265 total strokes) in every year since 2015, save for the Open-ish 2020 edition, where a 4-under 276 winning number was a clear outlier.
With that in mind, I’m seeking players who can make birdies in bunches, in addition to those due for some positive regression — and it all leads me down a similar path as last week.
BMW Championship outright winner picks and predictions
Collin Morikawa (20/1)
Only one player (Lucas Glover) posted more circles than Morikawa last week, who was my favorite outright in that preview, as well. (And yes, after a few weeks of picking Zalatoris, I also listed him as one of my favorite plays.)
There’s no denying that Morikawa hasn’t been the world-beater that he was in each of the last two years when he won major championships, but he hasn’t been in the “slump” that some have suggested, either. One of the game’s elite iron players, he ranks third in strokes gained on approach shots. He’s also 30th off the tee and a very respectable (for a player not known for his flatstick prowess) 75th in putting. He owns five top-five finishes during this calendar year without a victory, including a T-5 at the FedEx St. Jude.
Quite simply, there were too many mistakes in his overall performance at TPC Southwind, as he counteracted those 22 birdies with a double and nine bogeys — and even some of the pars weren’t great ones, as he missed putts from 6 and 3 feet down the stretch on Sunday.
That said, only two of those bogeys occurred in the weekend rounds, suggesting he figured out a way to at least clean up those errors. He also remains the prime candidate for that positive regression idea, as he’s the lone player within the top-16 on the current OWGR who hasn’t won a trophy at some point, somewhere, this year.
With just a 69-man field this week, odds aren’t great for any of the big names, but this price — right around 11th on the board — feels like it offers a nice window of opportunity on a player who was close last week.