2019 WGC-HSBC Champions picks: Our experts’ best value plays this week in China
We took a well-deserved victory lap in the intro to last week's betting preview, as our expert panel was on an incredible tear of picking five winners out of the first six events of the season. We were humbled, which is what normally happens when you toy with the gambling gods, who came back to smite us. We won't run and hide. Yes, we (the Golf Digest editors) told you to fade Tiger Woods last week. How'd that work out?
It wasn't a completely lost week. Our experts still owned their matchup bets, and Brandon Gdula nailed his second top-10 bet of the season. By the way, Gdula explained his processes for picking winners last week: He has correctly picked three of the seven tourney winners, netting +129 units in less than two months (the equivalent of being up $1,290 on $10 bets). As he explains here, he has done so in part by looking at the larger sample size of data on golfers, and not focusing on short-term results. And that's what our panel is doing this week ahead of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, the final stop on the PGA Tour's Asian swing.
Our expert picks this week come from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; 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 WGC-HSBC Champions Picks To Win (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Hideki Matsuyama (12-1) — A no-cut specialist, on his preferred bentgrass, entering with consecutive top-three finishes? At a course where he’s won before, too? Let’s go Hideki.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Adam Scott (30-1) — While Rory McIlroy is a heavy favorite in my win model, there isn’t enough value to start my card there. Xander Schauffele (16-1) is also a bit too short. Scott, though, has a nice number here and ranks second in strokes gained/approach and in strokes gained/around the green over his past 50 rounds on Tour, via FantasyNational. He has the right profile and number to back this week at Sheshan International GC.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Justin Rose (18-1) — You’re getting a break on odds here due to Rose not playing much lately. Nobody has a better record in this tournament than Rose: He won here in 2018, finished third in 2019 and has two other top-10s (2014 and 2011). My model gives him projected odds of 8-1, based on his scoring ability on similar length holes to Sheshan, so take that odds discount and hope Rose finds his form.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Paul Casey (18-1) — Perhaps Casey’s struggles to win PGA Tour events (everywhere but in Tampa) has something to do with so few of them being played internationally. Since this became an official event, Casey has finished 20-23-12-11-16, which is to say, he’s been good, but hardly great. His current form—save for back-to-back results of solo third at the Tour Championship and a win at the European Open—consists of much of the same, all of which makes him a non-chalky outsider play, if we can say that for the fifth man on the odds board.
Golf Digest editors: Xander Schauffele (14-1) — Feels a bit square to take the defending champ, but also feels good taking him at 14-1 when he probably should be closer to 10-1 or lower. Over his last 50 rounds he's fifth in strokes gained/tee to green, 10th in sg/off the tee and ninth in sg/approach, via FantasyNational.com. Those numbers all bode well for Sheshan. We're throwing up the X this week.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Rory McIlroy (6-1) — Mcilroy ranks first in our course-suitability metric this week so it’s no surprise to see he has five top 5s in seven events here at Sheshan. A third-place finish last week shows just how sharp his game is right now.
Results from this season: We have correctly predicted five of the season’s first seven winners! (We did not pick Tiger last week.) Three members of our expert panel picked the favorite, Justin Thomas (8-1), the previous week at the CJ Cup (Riccio, Sobel and Alldrick). Riccio and Alldrick also won with Joaquin Niemann (22-1) at The Greenbrier, as did Gdula, who is riding a heater, having also picked Lanto Griffin (45-1) two weeks ago and Sebastian Munoz (65-1) at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Mayo also picked Niemann at The Greenbrier. And our Golf Digest Editors picked Kevin Na (70-1) as their sleeper pick at the Safeway.
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Mayo: Sergio Garcia (45-1) — I’m such a sucker for Sergio. A former winner of this event, if he can retain the ball-striking prowess that had him elevating to the top of leader boards during the pre-Asian swing, he’ll have a shot to contend once again.
Gdula: Louis Oosthuizen (55-1) — Oosthuizen offers a lot of value at 55-1 based on my win model, and he’s a strong all-around golfer, which is a profile I like for Sheshan. He has played this course plenty and knocked some rust off last week with a disappointing 46th at the Zozo.
Riccio: Louis Oosthuizen (55-1) — I'm with Brandon here. Oosty is a value play. You have to scroll past some lesser-talented players to get to the talented South African. He’s still 24th in the world, and he has finished in the top 10 twice here and the top 15 four times. Prior to his 46th at the Zozo, he had finished inside the top 20 in every start he had made since the Open Championship. My model says his odds should be half of what they are.
Sobel, Action Network: Kevin Tway (140-1) — Though he hasn’t played his best golf lately, Tway has three things going for him this week: 1) He’s cheap in DFS and has long odds; 2) He’s a solid play anytime total driving is an important stat, as it is this week; and 3) He makes a lot of birdies, as evidenced by his T-37 in birdie average this season (despite not playing his best), which will be more of a determining factor than usual when everyone is guaranteed four rounds.
Golf Digest editors: Bubba Watson (90-1) — A halfway decent round from Bubba last Sunday at Zozo might have gotten him in the top 20, but a 75 in the final round, which featured what will likely end up being the most insane tee shot of the year, dropped him to T-51. That won't scare us off at a place he's won before and a place that requires elite driving. Watson is third in strokes gained/off the tee over his last 50 rounds, and we expect him to continue to drive it well and hopefully rack up a ton of birdies. This 90-1 number is too good to pass up for a former World No. 2.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Phil Mickelson (90-1) — We have Mickelson ranked fifth in our course suitability guide. This suitability can be seen in a win here in 2009 and a further runner-up spot. He has just started playing better golf over the last two months and a return to Sheshan should kick start his season.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Mayo: Jordan Spieth (35-1) — Spieth doesn’t win anymore. Especially at elite driving tracks. Just keep fading.
Gdula: Bernd Wiesberger (35-1) — Wiesberger is coming off a win, his third in 12 events, but those fields weren’t quite what he’ll face this week. His ball-striking numbers are fine overall, particularly the approach, but priced where he is, he’s an easy fade.
Riccio: Adam Scott (30-1) — It’s a dangerous game to fade Scott, but we had success doing it last week. His off-the-tee stats are just surprisingly poor compared to what we expect of him. Prior to last week’s 33rd place at the Zozo, Scott had lost strokes off-the-tee in his last three appearances, which is the first time in the past five years he had done so. The larger sample size looks better for Scott, but if Scott’s swing is off compared to where it was at the end of last season, we’d rather stay away.
Sobel, Action Network: Henrik Stenson (35-1) — First off, his odds are simply too low, ahead of the likes of Scott and An and Wallace, each of whom I’d take ahead of Stenson in a head-to-head at even-money. Secondly, the last time we saw him, he’d admitted his game was rusty before MCing in Houston while testing out new 3-woods. I’m going to pass until he starts playing better and/or his odds go way up.
Golf Digest editors: Jordan Spieth (35-1) — We're with Mayo here. What has he shown us, and why should we trust him here?
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Tommy Fleetwood (22-1) — The last time Tommy Fleetwood finished top 10 in a PGA Tour event was back in March. His average finishing position here at Sheshan is just 20th. The seventh favorite for this event has his work cut out to return just a top 10 finish this week.
2019 WGC-HSBC Champions Matchups
Mayo: Shane Lowry (+350) over Rory McIlroy — It’s not technically a head-to-head matchup, it’s a wager for top Irish player, but since there are only two in the field, it’s essentially a H2H. Look, I don’t think Rory is going to lose to Lowry, but these odds are ludicrous. You get a recent major champion at higher odds than any H2H you’ll find even in a single round between the best and worst players in the field on a given week. It’s not the matchup, it’s the price, it’s wrong.
Gdula: Henrik Stenson (-120) over Bernd Wiesberger (FanDuel) — Stenson’s elite irons and accuracy should put him in a good spot this week to contend, while Wiesberger’s statistical profile is quite worrisome overall—even after his Italian Open win—based on how he’s being valued by the betting markets.
Riccio: Hideki Matsuyama (+130) over Rory McIlroy (Sportbet) — These are two players priced quite evenly in my model this week, so the plus-money seems like a bargain. Hideki has won here in the past, and sure, Rory played great on the weekend at the Zozo. But side by side, Hideki looked more impressive. We don’t have the Shotlink data to prove it, but I’m willing to take the larger sample size at how even these guys look on paper, and take the plus-money.
Sobel, Action Network: Byeong Hun An (-118) over Matt Wallace (DraftKings) — I might look back on this preview Sunday and regret not placing An’s name in a more weighty category, as he’s fresh off T-8 and T-6 finishes in the last two weeks. The problem is that he’s often a player who doesn’t tend to ride momentum from one week to the next, so I’m still a bit skittish betting him against the entire field. Matching up against just one other player, though, feels like a smart play, as we can hope that momentum-killer isn’t coming anytime soon.
Golf Digest editors: Tyrrell Hatton (-106) over Jordan Spieth (DraftKings) — If we're going to fade Spieth we might as well cash in on that, too. Great past results here from Hatton, and he's coming off a T-6 at the CJ Cup.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Justin Rose (-137) over Tommy Fleetwood (Betway) — Rose ranks fourth in our course-suitability metric and has a third- and a first-place finish here in the last two years . Fleetwood on the other hand has just one top-10 in five events here and has not finished top-10 in a PGA Tour event since March.
Matchup results last week: Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (Gary Woodland (+100) over Tony Finau); Riccio: 1 for 1 (Tiger Woods (+115) over Adam Scott); GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Joaquin Niemann (-110) over Billy Horschel); Tour Caddie: 1 for 1 (Sergio Garcia (-115) over Billy Horschel); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Justin Thomas (-132) over Brooks Koepka); Mayo, Gdula, Sobel, Alldrick: 0 for 1.
Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager): Tour Caddie: 5 for 6 (up 3.82 units); Mayo: 5 for 7 (up 2.82 units); Riccio: 4 wins, 2 losses, 1 push (up 2.14 units); Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 4 for 6 (up 1.26 units); GD Editors: 3 for 6 (down 0.37 units); Action Network: 2 for 6 (down 2.09 units); Gdula: 2 for 7 (down 3.14 units)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
Mayo: Ian Poulter (+470) — Poulter actually claimed a win at this event the one year he wasn’t held outside of Shanghai, but has equated himself nicely over the past decade, too. In his past starts at this WGC, the Brit has a pair of top-10s and no finish worse than T-30. Plus, he’s a form player who found something over the weekend in Japan, carding a -10 total over the final two rounds.
Gdula: Ian Poulter (+470) — Like Pat said, Poulter won this event the year it wasn’t held at Sheshan but has good results at this particular course regardless. After an iffy summer, Poulter has regained his form (consecutive top-16s in Asia) and has the right course fit this week.
Riccio: Jordan Spieth (+280) — He just finished top-10 at the CJ Cup (with another really strong putting performance propelling him). And I’m willing to back him at nearly 3-to-1 on a top 10 finish. He putts well on these faster, undulating bentgrass greens, which should be an advantage as he looks to right his game. My model says the stats point in that direction.
Sobel, Action Network: Matt Wallace (+300) — Maybe this is a better place for Matt Fitzpatrick, as I’ve been bullish on both for a while, though I’ve tended to support the wrong Matt on the wrong week. Wallace owns finishes of 8-7-15-41-3 in his last five starts, so last year’s T-50 shouldn’t bother us much.
Golf Digest editors: Charles Howell III (+300) — Is there a safer bet in all of sports than betting CH3 top 10? Maybe Alabama and the points, but that's about it. Only thing is that Howell has only played this tournament once in 2017. Naturally, he finished T-15.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Adam Hadwin (+550) — Hadwin has three top-five finishes in his last eight events including a second and a fourth in his last three. It should, therefore, be no surprise to see that he ranks first in the field this week for strokes gained/tee to green over the last two months. Plus he putts very well on bentgrass greens.
Top 10 results last week: Gdula: 1 for 1 (Billy Horschel, +500); Everybody else: 0 for 1
Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 1 for 6 (up 10 units); Alldrick: 2 for 7 (up 7.5 units); Gdula 2 for 7 (up 3.3 units); GD Editors: 2 for 7 (up 1.85 units); Action Network: 1 for 7 (down 2.5 units); Riccio: 1 for 7 (down 3.5 units); Tour Caddie: 0 for 7 (down 7 units)
Mayo: Here's who I'd build my lineups around on DraftKings this week: Hideki Matsuyama ($11,100); Charles Howell III ($7,900); Ian Poulter ($7,700); Erik van Rooyen ($7,500)
Constructing teams around this core four allows you the flexibility for any other combo of player. You can round out your team with balance, or still pay up for another top end talent after Hideki. Whatever you prefer.
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Riccio: This lineup is filled with ball-strikers (Rose, Sergio and Oosthuizen), a necessary strength translating to success in the past here. Followed by three guys who my model likes and who can birdie a bunch of holes in a no-cut format (Spieth, Phil and Bubba).
Justin Rose ($10,500); Jordan Spieth ($9,400); Sergio Garcia ($8,800); Louis Oosthuizen ($7,600); Phil Mickelson ($7,400); Bubba Watson ($6,800).
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Golf Digest Editors: Our pick to win is Xander Schauffele, but we’ll diversify our exposure and go with Matsuyama as our stud at the top. His recent form and course history speak for itself. He’s a true threat to win, and if not, rack up a ton of birdies. And we’re carrying over the recent form narrative through the rest of the lineup: Billy Horschel played great en route to a top-10 last week and finished T-11 here last year; Ian Poulter has back-to-back top-20 finishes coming into this week, and one of his three tour wins came in China; Corey Conners and Keegan Bradley are both ball-striking monsters. Keegan played in the final group with Tiger last week, and Conners hasn’t finished outside the top 25, other than an odd MC at the Sanderson Farm, since July. The last guy doesn’t follow our recent-form narrative, but he’s a threat to win here and his value is insane: Bubba Watson is our sleeper pick to win, and we’ll take the bargain price all the way down in this range. He’ll be chalky, as most of this lineup is, but it should ensure a cash.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,100); Billy Horschel ($8,900); Corey Conners ($8,200); Ian Poulter ($7,700); Keegan Bradley ($7,000); Bubba Watson ($6,800).
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Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Here's a lineup I like for this week: Rory McIlroy ($11,700); Tony Finau ($9,700); Adam Hadwin ($7,500); Phil Mickelson ($7,400); Chez Reavie ($7,000); Jason Kokrak ($6,700).
FanShare Sports' Under The Radar DFS Pick of the Week — Remember when Jason Kokrak in golf DFS was a thing? Well, it’s about to happen again. This course suits Kokrak’s strengths beautifully. We have him ranked eighth in our course suitability metric this week. This course suitability can be seen in his 16th-place finish in his first and only visit here in 2016. Kokrak is also playing some good golf right now. He has four top-20 finishes in his last seven events and ranks 10th for strokes gained/tee to green over the last two months.
Gdula: You’ll want to lock in Rory McIlroy ($12,400) in head-to-head and 50/50 lineups, and I actually think there’s merit to having him in a lot of tournament lineups, even though he should be on 50-plus percent of rosters. After that, you can take your pick on the large second tier of stud golfers.
Values who help round out the roster are prevalent around the $9,000 range, though some of my favorites are Tyrrell Hatton ($9,500), Corey Conners ($9,300), Ian Poulter ($9,000), and Louis Oosthuizen ($8,900).
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Riccio: I’m in favor of skipping Rory and Hideki at the top, which allows for a more balanced build of four studs at the top end. I round out my lineup with two guys who can bury birdies in bunches, Phil (who my model likes this week), and Bubba, whose stats are better than what his result results show.
Justin Rose ($11,200); Tony Finau ($11,100); Henrik Stenson ($10,800); Jordan Spieth ($10,400); Phil Mickelson ($8,500); Bubba Watson ($8,000).
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GD Editors: In terms of FanDuel lineups, we tend to like to build around one or two lower-salaried players, so we can stack at the top with studs, based on how the salary build is. That's what having Bubba Watson and Abraham Ancer allow us to do here. Ancer is a ball-striking tactician who really turned it on at the end of last season, evidenced by the runner-up at Liberty National. That skillset should translate well here. And Bubba Watson is just severely underpriced because of his poor form of late. But the stats point to a little turnaround. You can go to whichever studs at the top you like, but Horschel seems like a safe bet to play well after last week's finish. And we like Schauffele, Matsuyama or Fleetwood to win, so there's great win equity plus the ability to go low.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,400); Xander Schauffele ($11,300); Tommy Fleetwood ($10,900) Billy Horschel ($10,200); Abraham Ancer ($8,200); Bubba Watson ($8,000).
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 The Action Network's full betting breakdown for the Northern Trust, 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 UK 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.