2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic picks: Why Matt Kuchar isn't a good bet in Mexico, and not for the reasons you think
This fall portion of the 2019-'20 PGA Tour season has given us plenty of intriguing stories. Obviously Tiger Woods' win in Japan was the highlight, but victories by Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy were notable, too. Speaking of winners, our betting panel also has had plenty of them. Golf Digest's experts have correctly predicted six of the eight tournaments we've forecasted so far this season. In a sport as tough to predict as golf, we're proud of achievement, and looking to deliver on the last two official tour events of the calendar year.
Our expert picks this week, just like every week, include picks from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and it's growing its presence in golf; selections from two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; and Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic Picks To Win (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Harris English (31-1) — There are parallels between success at Mayakoba and at the Sony Open, both events where a little form goes a long way. And English has done well in each. He’s won at Mayakoba in the past, has three top-10s in his past seven starts at the Sony Open, and arrives in Mexico this week in his best form in years. English already has three top-six finishes in four starts this season, but dating back farther, he been on the plus side in strokes gained/off the tee in 11 straight events, strokes gained/on-the-greens in 13 straight, and strokes gained/approaches in five straight. And he’s just $8,000 on DraftKings.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Billy Horschel (22-1) — Horschel grades out well across the board and is the best value among the favorites this week in my model. It makes sense, as Horschel hits fairways and greens in regulation, and that’s the simplified recipe for what I’m seeking this week.
Lou Riccio, Columbia professor: Joaquin Niemann (27-1) — The young Chilean keeps popping in my model: He's at the top of my list of players this week, with projected odds of 17-1 (he's 27-to-1 on FanDuel). He's No. 1 in this field in strokes gained/overall in the past 36 rounds, and he's in the top 15 in three key proximity disances (75-100; 150-175 and 200-plus yards) per FantasyNational.com.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Aaron Wise (31-1) — At the beginning of the fall schedule, I wrote about Wise in one column as a player who could prosper at impending events, then I mentioned him a few more times. Prior to the Bermuda Championship, though, I missed him. Call it an oversight. I forgot to take my own advice. He finished T-3 that week, but I still think better results are coming. They could happen this week, as he was T-10 at this one last year, with closing rounds of 65-63-69. He’s my favorite play on the board.
Golf Digest editors: Viktor Hovland (14-1) — We don't often go chalk. But when the odds offer a discount, we're going to take it. We feel oddsmakers would be making Hovland a stronger favorite if he wasn't searching for his first PGA Tour title. Besides that, Hovland's stats are far and away better than anyone else in this field: He's first in strokes gained/tee-to-green in his past 36 rounds, per FantasyNational; first in strokes gained/approaches and first in strokes gained/ball-striking. If he had won, say, three months ago, we'd see Hovland's odds near 8-1 or 10-1. Take the discount, and you'll be cashing in Hovland lifts his first trophy.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Emiliano Grillo (31-1) — Grillo ranks fifth in the field in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months and ninth for Opportunities Gained as per FantasyNational. We also have him ranked seventh in our course-suitability metric.
Results from this season: We have correctly predicted six of the season’s first eight winners! FanShare Sports' Lee Alldrick picked Rory McIlroy at the WGC-HSBC Champions, giving him three winning predictions early in the season. FanDuel's Brandon Gdula also has three victories, netting +128 units in less than two months (the equivalent of being up $1,280 on $10 bets). Three members of our expert panel correctly picked the favorite a couple weeks ago at the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas (8-1), so we have a lot of positive momentum—with 11 correct outright predictions in eight events. Check out everyone's records in the betting card above.
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
Mayo: Zach Johnson (80-1) — ZJ hasn’t been as bad as his results lately. He’s gained on both driving and approach in five straight starts. Guy just can’t chip. Fortunately, chipping doesn’t really matter at El Camaleon. I mean, it does matter, it’s just less important than at other venues by comparison.
Gdula: Keith Mitchell (100-1) — Mitchell comes with a ton of risk, but the odds are enticing. He doesn’t actually fit the mold I’m looking for this week, as he is long off the tee and not super accurate. However, with less importance on the putter this week, Mitchell is a swing for the fences who makes sense.
Riccio: Pat Perez (50-1) — A past winner here in 2016, Perez has gained an average of nine-plus strokes at Mayakoba in his past three starts here, which includes another top-10. Perez can light it up on the greens in a hurry. He gained more than 12 strokes at the Shriners three starts ago, so he can keep those good vibes going, and my model thinks that'll happen.
Sobel, Action Network: Brice Garnett (70-1) — I wanted to go with Calum Hill, the young Scotsman who took the Challenge Tour by storm this year, but Garnett’s peripherals were too impressive to ignore. Though he hasn’t played in a month, Garnett does love this event, finishing seventh-or-better in three of his last four starts here. He’s a guy who’s better than most casual fans realize and should continue improving. Based on the track record at this one, he could wind up being a smash play.
Golf Digest editors: Brian Harman (50-1) — Harman has quietly has a resurgent fall season. He's first in strokes gained/overall in this field in the past 36 rounds, according to FantasyNational.com. And he's ninth in proximity over that time, which is a crucial stat to scoring well on these large greens at El Camaleon. Harman isn't a long hitter, so this is a tournament he can compete in. He can make birdies in bunches on a shorter course like this.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Scott Piercy (80-1) — Piercy ranks third in the field this week for Opportunities Gained over the past two months, and FanShare actually has him ranked third in our course-suitability metric. That's enough to take a shot on Piercy finding his form.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Mayo: Matt Kuchar (18-1) — In this column last year, I won big with Kuch at deeeeeeeep odds. This year, in his first start in three months, as the tournament favorite, go another direction.
Gdula: Matt Kuchar (18-1) — Last year’s winner carries some extra attention this week for good and bad reasons. The recent form is nothing to love, as it contains just a missed cut since the end of the PGA Tour season. Statistically, he rates out good but not great, and I’ll be avoiding him at the price.
Riccio: Matt Kuchar (18-1) — I'll join the choir: Kuchar doesn't make the top 25 players in my model this week. He's an easy fade at these odds.
Sobel, Action Network: Jason Day (18-1) — Day has just one top-20 result since the Masters (!!) and yet, he still ranks as the pre-tourney favorite this week. Some world-class players need these events to gain a little confidence and beat up on the proletariat. Day has often been the type who seems a bit bored when his major champion-winning buddies aren't competing alongside him. I'm not sure about his logic for choosing to play this one, but I am sure that there's very little logic in picking a struggling player with some of the lowest odds in the field.
Golf Digest editors: Matt Kuchar (18-1) — Last year, you could see a Kuchar win coming (at least our Pat Mayo did, at 60-1 odds). He had played the previous week and gained more than four strokes tee-to-green and on approaches. This year, Kuchar enters cold after a couple months off ... and he carries with him the other distraction of returning to the scene of Caddie-Gate. It's enough for us to steer clear.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Matt Kuchar (18-1) — Kuchar has not played a competitive round since Sept. 8. He will be coming in rusty, plus he also has to endure the repercussions of the last year’s El Tucan controversy. A huge distraction he could do without.
2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic: Matchups
Mayo: Danny Lee (-110) over Harold Varner III (Bodog) — Varner’s had two top-10 finishes at this course in his past three starts, but Lee can do better. He’s posted a pair of top-three finishes in his past four, has flashed at the Sony Open in the recent past, and enters in quality form, churning out consecutive top-10s during the Asian swing against solid fields.
Gdula: Emiliano Grillo (-116) over Aaron Wise (FanDuel) — Grillo has great course form and should be able to take advantage again. His ball-striking is excellent, but his putting is far from it. This week on the slow greens, we can embrace the risk he usually carries, especially up against Wise’s errant driver.
Riccio: Beau Hossler (+115) over Carlos Ortiz (MyBookie.ag) — My model puts Hossler in the top 10 this week: He charts out great on shorter courses where putting is key. Though Ortiz boasts a strong wind game, he's not in my top 40 in my model this week. Hossler, at plus odds, is very attractive.
Sobel, Action Network: Brian Stuard (-135) over Charley Hoffman (Sportsbook) When it comes to sexy selections and popular picks, well, Stuard doesn’t exactly fit the bill. He’s not a guy who gets too many mentions in pre-tourney previews, but he owns two career runner-up finishes at this event and could be just the kind of guy to hang around under the radar. I like plays on Stuard as a top-20 and low-cost DFS option, too, but especially as a guy who should be able to beat some similar players.
Golf Digest editors: Joaquin Niemann (+135) over Billy Horschel (Sporsbook) — It's dangerous to fade Horschel, who's riding one of his patented heaters right now. But give us Niemann, another player with great form, at plus-money, and we'll take that against pretty much any player. Horschel's way too big of a favorite (-165) here ... this is an easy play against those heavy odds.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Emiliano Grillo (-110) over Aaron Wise (Betway) — Grillo ranks first in my model this week and Wise ranks 56th. Wise's recent form is very average as is his course suitability.
Matchup results last week: GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Tyrrell Hatton (-106) over Jordan Spieth); Sobel, Action Network: 1 for 1 (Byeong Hun An (-118) over Matt Wallace); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Henrik Stenson (-120) over Bernd Wiesberger); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Justin Rose (-137) over Tommy Fleetwood); Mayo, Riccio: 0 for 1.
Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager): Tour Caddies: 5 for 6 (up 3.82 units); Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 5 for 7 (up 1.99 units); Mayo: 5 for 8 (up 1.82 units); Riccio: 4 wins, 3 losses, 1 push (up 1.14 units); GD Editors: 4 for 7 (down 0.57 units); Action Network: 3 for 7 (down 1.24 units); Gdula: 3 for 8 (down 2.31 units)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
Mayo: Hudson Swafford (+1900) — The Swafficer has had a brutal 2019. Following a T-3 at the corollary Sony Open, things went off the rails. In his next 13 event, Swafford missed nine cut and posted just one finish inside the top 30. No great. He finally took the proper time off for injury recover and returned, very quietly, in France a few weeks ago. Nothing special, but a solid T-29 result. Now, if you use the www.fantasynational.com long-term skills form, you’ll see a pre-injury Swafford was perfectly suited for this venue. His ball striking, long term adjusted, is in the top end of this field, and at these odds, you don’t need to invest much to get a large return on investment.
Gdula: Cameron Tringale (+650) — Tringale has good adjusted tee-to-green numbers since the start of the new season, which also carry over from the 2019 season. He has had a layoff since a 13th at the Houston Open, but he rates out well for the course.
Riccio: Scott Piercy (+850) — Piercy ranks in my top five this week, so I think he's a strong top-10 play at these odds. He gained more than 10 strokes last year and finished sixth here, so I like him to follow that finish up this year. Piercy tends to make a ton of birdies at shorter courses where iron play is crucial.
Sobel, Action Network: Emiliano Grillo (+380) — I’ve believed for a few years now that Grillo can potentially become a breakout star, but it just hasn’t happened for him yet – and it’s not difficult to understand why. So far this season, he’s posted three top-40 results in five starts, but his putting remains atrocious, ranking 226th out of 231 eligible players. Top-10 might be a lofty goal for a guy who struggles so much on the greens, but a 15th-place finish here last year has me thinking some good vibes could be just what he needs to get that putter a bit warmer.
Golf Digest editors: J.T. Poston (+500) — These seem like generous odds for a player who has gained strokes here in his previous three appearances, making every cut, including a 14th-place finish in 2017 and a 21st in 2018. Poston's now a better overall player, which we saw in his win just a few months ago at the Wyndham.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Joaquin Niemann (+320) — Niemann ranks first this week for Opportunities Gained over the past two months. He has continued his hot play since The Greenbrier into the Asian Swing, and one would expect him to continue that form at Mayakoba.
Top 10 results last week: Everybody: 0 for 1
Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 1 for 7 (up 9 units); Alldrick: 2 for 8 (up 6.5 units); Gdula 2 for 8 (up 2.3 units); GD Editors: 2 for 8 (up 0.85 units); Action Network: 1 for 8 (down 3.5 units); Riccio: 1 for 8 (down 4.5 units); Tour Caddie: 0 for 7 (down 7 units)
Mayo: My strategy this week: Fade the highest priced players and shoot for a balanced roster full of cut-makers.
Here's who I'd build my lineups around on DraftKings this week: Charles Howell III ($9,600); Danny Lee ($8,300); J.T. Poston ($8,200); Harris English ($8,000); Zach Johnson ($7,500).
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Here's a lineup I like for this week: Joaquin Niemann ($9,800); Emiliano Grillo ($8,900); Chez Reavie ($8,500); Scott Piercy ($7,600); Xinjun Zhang ($7,300); Matt Jones ($6,900).
FanShare Sports' Under The Radar DFS Pick of the Week — Jason Dufner (FanDuel: $7,700; DraftKings: $6,400) — Duff Daddy has missed the cut in last three events, hence the lack of interest in him this week from the DFS masses. However, he does rank first in our course-suitability guide this week. Last year he came into the week with similar form and still finished 21st. Not bad for one of the cheaper guys in this field.
Gdula: Viktor Hovland ($11,700) is my building block for the week on FanDuel, as he fits the course well. After that, it makes sense to have a bit of a balanced build because the win equity is pretty flatly dispersed throughout the field.
Cheaper plays who fit all types of constructions include Rory Sabbatini ($9,600), Brian Harman ($9,500), Cameron Tringale ($9,000), and Keith Mitchell ($7,900)
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. To read more of The Action Network's golf content, click here.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.
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