Way back in 2016, I wrote about an idea called Vegas Bargain Ratings, which might sound more complicated than it actually is.
The basic premise: DraftKings salaries are highly correlated with odds to win the tournament, but it’s not a perfect fit. By highlighting the golfers for which it’s not correct — and this assumes that the liquid betting market is more efficient than static DFS salaries, which isn’t a hot take — we can identify mispriced golfers, or ones that the betting market thinks are undervalued.
We can do this exercise with a variety of metrics, including our catch-call metric, Long-Term Adjusted Round Score, which is the average strokes on a course with adjustments made to account for the difficulty of the course and the strength of the field.
It’s one of the best catch-all metrics in the industry, and notably it has more data points than Strokes Gained (no shade there, I’m a big fan), which isn’t available for all tournaments.
So I can also compare Long-Term Adjusted Round Score to odds to win to identify which golfers are underpriced in the betting market relative to their long-term play.
That shouldn’t be the end of the betting story — course fit and history are also important, as is recent play when there’s not a layoff like we’ve had — but it is a valuable data point in researching for this week.
Let’s start with the DFS side of things; betting will be in the section below.
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The Best & Worst DFS Values According to the Betting Market
The thing that stands out every time I do this exercise is that DraftKings cannot properly price the top of the board. Rory McIlroy has implied odds in the double digits, and yet he’s ‘just’ $11,800. Given the regression, he should be priced around $16,000, which obviously isn’t possible given the salary cap.
Of course, it’s not that easy: Sure, the betting market is likely more efficient than DFS salaries that operate within a cap, but it’s also heavily juiced — and the hold (percentage taken by the book) is not evenly distributed among all golfers. It’s possible, nay likely, that Rory has more of the hold than other golfers; they don’t want to lose money on him, in other words.
Still, if you believe in the market, DraftKings almost always sets up for a stars-and-scrubs approach, especially in GPPs, where you almost always must have the winner in your lineup. Think of it this way: If you optimized a lineup by highest total implied winning probability (according to the market), it would always have Rory in it. And probably Jon Rahm, too.
That gets to the challenge of this week: I wrote earlier today about how hard it is to handicap this tournament because of the unique situation. It’s the first tournament off the long COVID-19 layoff, and Colonial is already a difficult track to predict.
Stars-and-scrubs is the right play by the data, but I likely won’t find myself too heavy on some of the favorites due to the uncertainty.
Playing devil’s advocate against myself, though, even if Rory or Rahm are overpriced to actually win due to the situation, they still likely hold much more safety than the rest of the field. And the way DraftKings is set up, if you like a bunch of longshots, you’ll have to take some studs to fill out your cap.
All in all, I would be more cautious with this data — any data really — given the uncertainty of this week. In tournaments, I would almost sell out to the ownership game: If it’s way more of a toss-up, which I believe, you definitely shouldn’t roster anyone at 30%+ ownership. Take pivots everywhere you can find them and try to create unique lineups.
The Best & Worst Betting Values According to Adjusted Round Score
Now this exercise suggests that, according to Adjusted Round Score, Rory and Rahm are actually overvalued in the betting market. I do think Adj Rd Score probably underrates their upside, but it does suggest that in a field this big, no one should be a double-digit favorite. Given the uncertainty this week, I agree with that premise.
The best values are longshots, which fits with the theme of this week. Again, this is only one part of the puzzle — I’ll be weighting course history and fit more than usual — but it’s an important one.
It could also help identify guys to take shots on in tournaments. Take Vaughn Taylor, for example: He’s had up-and-down history at Colonial, but he rates pretty well in my FantasyLabs model. That’s because, while he’s not long at all, he has a very impressive short game. Even before the layoff, his putter was pretty hot.
Adam Hadwin is another guy who fits that mold: He’s been erratic at Colonial, but he does have upside (see his fifth-place finish a couple years ago) and has the chipping and putting game to compete in the field.
Perhaps these guys don’t have it in them to actually win the tournament in this huge field, but they might be undervalued in the market — and perhaps as DFS values as well. They’ll be very low-owned on DraftKings, and you can likely find them with sizable odds to swing a top-20 or win a head-to-head matchup.
Again, I’ll lean more on Colonial data than anything this week, but it’s always good to find as many angles as possible to research and get an edge.