It’s never easy for a PGA Tour golfer to spot a ball in the rough.
Nor is it easy for New Jersey sports bettors to find a gambling diamond in the rough.
With the US Open taking place Thursday-Sunday, Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, guides New Jersey gamblers toward the hidden nuggets of this PGA major.
According to Avello, the gems can be found, even after the tournament starts.
“Sometimes a guy records a poor score on Thursday, but you can see he actually didn’t play too badly,” Avello noted. “Things didn’t go his way. Now that guy who was 20-1 (or +2000) is now 50-1 (+5000) and you feel he can recover.
“Even if you are down 10 strokes after the first day, that is not insurmountable.
“If you can pick up three shots each of the next two days, you are right there. If you feel that player can do that, there’s your opportunity.”
Avello uses the same barometer for measuring a player perhaps five or six shots off the pace after round two. Some pros have even rallied from seven strokes back on the final day to win at betting odds of 75-1.
“You wouldn’t think they can be able to do that, but they actually can,” Avello said. “Golf is a game of confidence. When a guy gets it going, he gets the feeling he can overcome anything. And if it’s not there for him, he can’t overcome anything.”
‘People love to bet guys like Scottie Scheffler’
To his point, one recent victim of this rallying concept was New Jersey-born Scottie Scheffler, the top player in the world.
Scheffler may have peaked in winning the Masters in April, for an astounding four wins in six weeks.
The Ridgewood-born Scheffler, who took his first golf swings in New Jersey and later moved to Dallas, was on the verge of establishing a major record a couple of tournaments back. He was about to become the first tour player since Tom Watson in 1980 with five wins in a PGA tour season before the start of June.
But his buddy Sam Burns came from seven strokes back, tied him and defeated Scheffler with a putt from off the green in the first playoff hole of the Charles Schwab.
Scheffler did not record a birdie all day, while Burns caught fire. And then he drained the tournament winner from off the green.
“Scottie is a great player, but he just couldn’t seem to put that one away,” Avello said. “He’s been on some run. The fans and the bettors love him because even though he gets himself in a lot of trouble, he has an excellent short game that helps.
“People love to bet guys like Scottie and they have some other choices based on who has been hot. He’s been one of the players getting money here. I think a good number of people believe he is going to regroup and make another run.”
As of Wednesday night, DraftKings had Scheffler’s odds of winning the US Open at +1400 (14-1). The three golfers ahead of him were:
- Rory McIlroy +1000 (10-1)
- Justin Thomas +1100 (11-1)
- Jon Rahm +1300 (13-1)
Speaking of Rory McIlroy at the US Open
McIlroy is playing his best golf in a long time. McIlroy fired a sizzling final-round 62 to capture the Canadian Open last week and he produced a betting rarity this week.
“Rory not only took a lot of money and became the tournament favorite (+1000 or 10-1), but there is something interesting with him regarding the first round,” Avello said. “He’s getting support to be the leader after the first round at odds of something like 20-1.
“That’s surprising. You don’t usually see a big name on top of the leaderboard after the first 18 holes but I think the sentiment of the bettors is that he is going to be able to carry that momentum from last week over to here.”
McIlroy has plenty of company in the sentiment department. Big names seem to rise at big tournaments.
“There are so many great players up there that you can’t bet them all,” Avello indicated. “They are betting Scheffler. They are betting Will Zalatoris, who is a terrific player.”
Avello noted sports bettors are putting money behind Jordan Spieth, who seems to have it going again. And Max Homa is up there.
“What I love about so many of these tournaments, and even more about the big ones, is the fact that there are some really nice odds out there for solid players.
“Guys like Brooks Koepka are 40-1. Hideki Matsuyama is 40-1. Billy Horschel just won a couple of weeks ago and he is 55-1. Patrick Reed is an excellent player. And he’s at 100-1.
“These guys not only have great prices, but they can win.”
Avello lists Matt Fitzpatrick, +3000 (30-1) as an outsider to contend.
“He is one of my outside picks that could win this thing,” Avello noted. “He played that course (The Country Club) when he was younger, in college and as an amateur. That doesn’t necessarily translate into playing it well again, but he is comfortable with the course, he has been around.”
Fitzpatrick is the only golfer in the field who has won at The Country Club.
He won the last big event that was held here, the 2013 US Amateur.
Avello also touts Cam Smith, who always appears unruffled.
The odds board of opportunity reflects Avello’s longtime belief that bettors should back longshots with confidence.
Avello further advises bettors to watch wind conditions. They are scheduled to be 17 mph on Thursday and in the vicinity of 11mph the rest of the week.
The Thursday number is in the vicinity of impacting play.
Avello said DraftKings has no comment on the burgeoning LIV tour at this time. But it looks like the tour has had zero impact on the book’s PGA betting handle.