Thank you, Charles Barkley! With no PGA Tour golf last week, our betting attention shifted to "The Match: Champions for Change," where Chuck - with help from Phil Mickelson - cashed us three plus-money tickets. Now, let's put those hard-earned bucks to good use.
The Mayakoba Golf Classic is the final PGA Tour stop of 2020 - a year going out with a bang thanks to the strongest field in tournament history. Justin Thomas enters as the betting favorite with Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, and Daniel Berger among the top contenders.
2019: Brendon Todd (-20) over three players
2018: Matt Kuchar (-22) over Danny Lee
2017: Patton Kizzire (-19) over Rickie Fowler
2016: Pat Perez (-21) over Gary Woodland
2015: Graeme McDowell (-18) over Jason Bohn, Russell Knox
2014: Charley Hoffman (-17) over Shawn Stefani
2013: Harris English (-21) over Brian Stuard
No one is here to convince you that Thomas can't run away with this tournament. In fact, +800 odds are as high as you'll find for the 13-time PGA Tour winner, so you could argue there is some value in that number. However, backing the favorite at a price below +1000 isn't the most effective strategy to cash in on picking a winner.
The rest of this range is also a pass. Koepka's motivation is always in question when a major championship isn't on the line. Now he's at a luxury resort in Mexico? No thanks. Harris English is playing very well and is a former winner, but +1600 is too short. And Finau isn't someone who will ever garner attention priced below +2000.
|Charles Howell III||+4000|
Ancer has performed well in his native country in the past and is fresh off playing in the final group at the Masters. Berger was arguably the Tour's best player coming out of the June restart but has since cooled off. Henley has racked up four top-10s in his last eight starts, suggesting he's close to breaking through.
However, it's Joaquin Niemann who deserves your attention at +3200. The 22-year-old Chilean was playing well before being forced to skip the Masters following a positive COVID-19 test. He ranks 10th in the field in strokes gained: tee to green in his last 50 rounds and tends to outperform his baselines on shorter courses.
You could also make a case for Viktor Hovland at +2500. He's a considerable value compared to English and Finau while possessing a lot of the same - if not better - skills and more winning upside. Only Thomas has been better tee to green than Hovland over the past 100 rounds in this field.
With more talent than usual at the top of the Mayakoba Golf Classic betting board, the less likely it is that a longshot will claim the final event of 2020. However, there are a few names that stand out as obvious values:
Marc Leishman (+5000): The Aussie tied for 13th at the Masters to indicate whatever recent struggles he was dealing with are behind him. He's a fantastic course fit and is priced among players with much less win equity.
Adam Long (+6000): He was a runner-up to Brendon Todd last year at El Camaleon and has gained over five strokes tee to green in his past two starts.
Chez Reavie (+7000): Historically, Reavie is one of the best performers in this field at the Sony Open (a comparable venue) and has never missed a cut at Mayakoba.
Doug Ghim (+9000): He's finished inside the top 25 in five of his last seven starts and gained 5.2 strokes on approach in his most recent outing at the RSM Classic.
Joaquin Niemann (+3200)
The motivation for top players at this time of year is tough to come by, especially while playing on the beautiful coast of the Caribbean Sea. But this week means everything for Niemann as he's donating all of his earnings to help his infant cousin fight for their life.
Add in the fact the Chilean is a great value at +3200, a PGA Tour winner, and owns all the attributes of a potential Mayakoba winner, and there might not be a better player to put your money behind.
Marc Leishman (+5000)
Leishman was lost when the PGA Tour restarted in June. His ball-striking ability disappeared, results suffered, and he looked nothing like the player that was a runner-up at Bay Hill right before the shutdown.
But he's coming off his best finish since March - tied for 13th at the Masters - which is a sign he's figured something out. If that result was an outlier, oh well, but we're trying to strike on Leishman before the market reacts. You're getting a five-time Tour winner at +5000 who has collected three top-10s at the Sony Open (a comparable venue) in his career.
Adam Long (+6000)
Long came up a shot shy of forcing a playoff with Todd last year in Playa Del Carmen and appears poised to make another run at the title. He's gained a combined 12.5 strokes tee to green in his previous two starts, backed mostly by his strong approach play. He also finished fifth just six starts ago in Punta Cana, his last event in the tropics.