Mayakoba Golf Classic 2020 picks: How to make money betting against Brooks Koepka
It felt strange last week having no PGA Tour event after 24 consecutive weeks of action. But we’re back for one more tournament to sweat to end 2020 with this week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, which boasts its strongest field in recent memory—and that’s even with Dustin Johnson dropping out over the weekend. The Masters party must be still going.
That means Justin Thomas, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, is now the heavy favorite at +650 (you’d win $65 from a $10 bet if he wins), with Brooks Koepka checking in next at 12-1 (bet $10 to win $120). After these two, the next-highest ranking player in the field is Daniel Berger, who will be making his first start in a month. Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer, Harris English, Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland will also be looking for much-needed victories.
But this event traditionally has belonged to some lesser-known names, save for Matt Kuchar in 2018, who was a 60-1 longshot (and picked by our Pat Mayo in our Golf Digest column back then, by the way). Shorter, accurate drivers who can putt the lights out thrive at Mexico’s El Camaleón. Will that trend continue, or will one of the big boys cap 2020 with a win?
Our experts will help you answer that below. We’ll tell you that one of those big names—Brooks Koepka—is someone our experts are looking to bet against. It can be profitable to identify a player you think will do poorly each week and bet matchups against him. This week, we think there’s value in fading the four-time major champion.
Our panel of gurus consists of an anonymous tour caddie reporting from sunny Playa del Carmen; Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network and DraftKings; Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel; Rick Gehman a data scientist who founded RickRunGood.com; and Lee Alldrick of FanShareSports.com. We went up more than 220 units last season—and we’re hoping to add to our win total this week.
Mayakoba Golf Classic 2020 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Viktor Hovland (22-1) — This kid is so good, and he’s quietly peaking at the end of the season with four top 15s in his past five starts. You need to make a bunch of birdies here, and Hovland can get streaky. He’s sixth in strokes gained/overall and ninth in birdies-or-better gained over the past 50 rounds, per FantasyNational.com. And he’s second in proximity from 125-150 yards. Give this man short birdie looks, and he can run away with it.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Justin Thomas (6½-1) — I’m not one usually to lay such a steep price, but the talent gap between JT and everyone else, Brooks Koepka included, at this layout, is too real. It’s an iron course, primarily wedges, which is Thomas’ strength. That doesn’t mean he’s going to win, but these odds are actually somewhat fair against most golfers in single digits.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Russell Henley (25-1) — Henley’s statistical profile overlaps almost exactly with Justin Thomas, and you can take Henley at significantly cheaper odds. Henley leads this field in strokes gained/approach over the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour, via FantasyNational.com. That’s the most important stat to predict week-to-week success. He also ranks 35th in strokes gained/off the tee by way of ranking 11th in fairways gained. It’s tough to make a case against Henley this week.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Abraham Ancer (18-1) — As the No. 22-ranked player in the world, Ancer holds the distinction of being the highest-ranked player without a victory on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour. That is both a dubious footnote and an accomplishment considering how well he’s had to play to achieve that ranking without the help of a victory. El Camaleón has been a feasting ground for shorter hitters—Brendon Todd, Matt Kuchar, Brian Gay and Fred Funk have all won here. There would be no better place for Ancer to break through than in his native Mexico at an event where he finished T-8 last season.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest deputy managing editor: Abraham Ancer (18-1) — This is a really low number on Ancer in a quality field—inflated by his solid Masters showing. It’s more of a narrative play, but I’ve been sucked in and bet this on Monday. He has solid history at Mayakoba (eighth, 21st, ninth in his past three starts) and is trending up, finishing fourth at a birdie-fest at the Shriners, too. I’m in on Ancer.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Rickie Fowler (30-1) — Simply put, Fowler has no choice but to play well this week. If he doesn’t, he could drop out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since February 2014. That would also mean he’s not yet in the 2021 Masters. This all seems unfathomable for a player of his caliber, but it’s the unfortunate truth right now. He’s shown some flashes lately, has played well at this course in the past and is double the odds of what he’d be if he was playing well. It’s back against the wall, do-or-die, put up or shut up, now or never, etc. etc.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Justin Thomas (6½-1) — Golf tournaments aren’t won on paper, but gosh, JT’s impressive stat profile just pops off the page. No. 1 in strokes gained/total over a long sample size in this field, plus No. 1 in approach play, which is why he’s first in the FanShareSports.com course-suitability ranking. This is a rare time when I’m willing to take the heavy favorite.
Results from last season: Golf Digest’s betting panel predicted 14 winners correctly last season. Collectively on outright winners, top-10 bets and matchups won and lost, our panel went up 225.30 units (the equivalent of being up $2,253 if you wagered $10 on all of our bets) last season. Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel correctly picked Patrick Cantlay last month at the Zozo Championship (30-1), giving our panel two outright winners in the fall portion of the 2020-’21 season, with Christopher Powers nailing Bryson DeChambeau (28-1 at the U.S. Open). Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!
Mayakoba Golf Classic 2020 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (odds from William Hill)
Caddie: Harold Varner III (66-1) — HV3 has burned me a couple times in this column. But scared money don’t make money. He rates out so well in so many essential stats here—birdies-or-better; strokes gained/approach; good drives gained. But this is more about me thinking it’s just time for him to get a damn win. I bet he feels it, too. Motivation plus a lofty number makes this a good bet.
Mayo: Chez Reavie (60-1) — Reavie has now gained strokes on approach shots in 11 of his past 12 events, and at a course where his lack of distance off the tee won’t really matter, he just needs some putts to fall to contend. He’s made the cut in his previous five appearances at El Camaleón and has top-20 finishes at the Sony Open in three of the past four years, a corollary course for me this week.
Gdula: Tyler Duncan (150-1) — Duncan has made three straight cuts at this event, and when you consider what he does best, it makes sense: He can hit fairways and strike the ball well. Over the past 50 rounds, via FantasyNational.com, Duncan ranks 27th in the field in strokes gained/off the tee and 20th in strokes gained/approach. He’s also seventh in fairways gained. That’s the right recipe at El Camaleón.
Gehman: Doug Ghim (100-1) — Ghim is one of the emerging stars at the end of this season. He has four top 25s in his past five starts, including his T-18 finish at the RSM Classic in his last event. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, there are only nine golfers on tour who are gaining more than one stroke per round on approach this season (minimum eight rounds). Ghim is one of those nine golfers and is one of only five who are actually teeing it up this week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Keegan Bradley (70-1) — OK, I know … betting an OG member of Team Can’t Putt in a birdie fest is scary. Hear me out. Bradley has great finishes in seemingly every corollary course. At the CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur, one of a handful of courses with paspalum greens, Keegan has played very well: a runner-up, a sixth, a 10th and T-19. At the Sony Open this year: T-12. And he has a T-8 and a T-15 at Mayakoba in the past. Get the man a putting lesson and let’s cash this ticket.
Powers, Golf Digest: Keegan Bradley (70-1) — Betting on a putter like Bradley is essentially burning money, but there’s nowhere to go but up for him with the flat stick right now. He finished 15th at the RSM despite losing nearly five strokes on the greens. That’s almost impossible, and it highlights just how good every other area of his game is right now. He’s gained strokes on approach and tee-to-green in eight (!) straight events, gained off the tee in six straight and gained around the greens in five of the past eight. He’s a complete player at the moment, except on the greens, which is the story of his career.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Russell Knox (66-1) — Knox has the lowest scoring average at Mayakoba of those who have 10 rounds or more recorded here in the past five years. In his 18 most recent rounds here he has only shot 70 or worse two times and has three 65s to his name.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Brooks Koepka (12-1) — This seems like the obvious fade, but it’s the easy call. It’s not the type of course that plays to his strengths—he can get in trouble if he stubbornly pulls driver on some holes. Pass.
Mayo: Brooks Koepka (12-1) — I love JT at his low odds, but I hate Koepka at his. Koepka’s distance isn’t something to lean on at Mayakoba, and we know he doesn’t get as motivated for these regular events than bigger tournaments. An easy fade.
Gdula: Brooks Koepka (12-1) — Koepka is, unsurprisingly, the clear No. 2 in the betting market, but the return is still quite small for besting a 130-golfer field. At a course where scores can go low and you don’t need to be long, a lot of golfers can contend. That dampens Koepka’s potential of overpowering a tougher course. He’s just overpriced based on the long-term data.
Gehman: Rickie Fowler (30-1) — With the end of the year looming, it appears Fowler might be playing a bit out of necessity. Currently sitting at 49th in the world, Fowler could lock up his 2021 Masters invite if he’s inside the top 50 at the end of the year. Of course, he would have other opportunities to qualify before April, but he’d love to punch his ticket right now. Fowler’s struggles this season have been well-documented. He doesn’t have a top-10 finish since The American Express last January when he was the 36-hole leader before fading to T-10.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Brooks Koepka (12-1) — I made fun of Powers in our podcast this week for saying he can’t make an argument against Koepka. I absolutely can. When you look at his proximity numbers in the key ranges this week in the past 50 rounds—100-125 yards and 125-150 yards—he’s worse than 50th in this field, per Fantasy National. He’s only 24th in strokes gained/approach in this field over the past 50 rounds. It’s going to take a really, really hot putter for him to win. The way to really make money betting on golf is matchups and picking against the right player that week. This week, it’s Koepka.
Powers, Golf Digest: Abraham Ancer (18-1) — Fading Ancer is a dangerous play especially with a lot of sharp folks liking him this week. But it just seems too easy to me. The home country angle, the final-group-at-the-Masters angle, the Carlos Ortiz-inspiration angle. It’s never this simple, so I’ll stay away. Ancer will win this season, but it will be in 2021, not 2020.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Harris English (16-1) — English does not rank very well in FanShare’s course-suitability relative to his price. He ranks just 23rd in strokes gained/tee to green over the past two months and 31st for Opportunities Gained—not the type of eye-popping stats that lead you to back the third-highest priced golfer.
Mayakoba Golf Classic 2020 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Daniel Berger (-125) over Brooks Koepka (PointsBet) — This is interesting—Koepka is 12-1 to win and Berger is 22-1. Yet the oddsmakers make Berger a favorite over Koepka head to head? That tells you the books are baking in Koepka’s popularity as an outright bet relative to Berger. It also tells you they’re aware that Berger is the sharper matchup play. He has motivation—and it’d be pretty cool if Berger started the restart with a win (Colonial) and punctuated it with another one in the last event of 2020.
Mayo: Doug Ghim (-112) over Lucas Glover (DraftKings) — The Ghim Reaper keeps churning out quality finish after quality finish during the swing season. Ghim has four top 25s in his past five starts, while Glover has only made one of his past four cuts.
Gdula: Corey Conners (-110) over Rickie Fowler (FanDuel) — Conners’ tee-to-green data is significantly better than Fowler’s, and Conners has shown life with the putter of late. Fowler still rates out with the better short game, but it’s not nearly as big a gap as you’d think at this point. The overwhelming ball-striking advantage puts me on Conners.
Gehman: Russell Knox (-118) over Alex Noren (DraftKings) — Knox heads into this week with a run of great, but volatile results. In his six events this season, he has finished inside the top 16 in half of them and missed the cut in the other half. I’m looking forward to pairing those flashes of brilliance with his event history at Mayakoba. He’s never missed a cut in seven trips and earned three consecutive top-10 finishes from 2016-2018. This should be a great spot for him to contend again.
Hennessey: Harold Varner III (+100) over Alex Noren (William Hill) — HV3 is seventh in my model this week, whereas Alex Noren is 84th in this field. The stats are overwhelmingly good for HV3: top 20 in every important metric—strokes gained/overall; strokes gained/approach; good drives gained, birdies or better gained. Noren is negative in most of all of those. At plus money, this is a strong bet.
Powers: Rafa Cabrera Bello (-106) over Byeong Hun An (DraftKings) — Our “Be Right” podcast guest and Euro Tour guru Ben Coley likes RCB this week, which is enough for me to back him here over Benny An, who is a historically bad putter and has missed four of his last six cuts.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Joaquin Niemann (-110) over Will Zalatoris (Betfair) — Niemann ranks sixth in FanShare’s course-suitability ranking this week and ranks fourth for SGT2G over the past two months. Zalatoris is a debutant here and ranks just 64th in Fantasy National’s Opportunities Gained metric over the past two months.
Matchup Results from the RSM: Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Russell Henley (+100) over Sungjae Im); Tour caddie: push (Webb Simpson over Tommy Fleetwood); Powers: push (Matthew Fitzpatrick over Sungjae Im); Mayo, Gdula, Gehman, Hennessey: 0 for 1.
Matchup Results this season: Alldrick: 9 for 11 (up 6.13 units); Hennessey: 6-1-3 (up 2.20 units); Mayo: 5 for 11 (down 1.23 units); Gdula: 5 for 11 (down 1.29 units); Powers: 3-3-5 (down 2.18 units); Gehman: 3 for 11 (down 4.98 units); Caddie: 2-1-9 (down 4.36 units).
Mayakoba Golf Classic 2020 picks: Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Caddie: Pat Perez (+1000) — Double P plays so well at Mayakoba—with a win and two top 10s in his past two starts. He can get it rolling with the rock here, and he knows this is a course he should contend, and he should.
Mayo: Keegan Bradley (+550) — Bradley has been the best in this field tee-to-green over the past 24 rounds (per FantasyNational.com). Like with most great ball-strikers, it all comes down to whether or not he can make a putt. Usually, with Bradley, that’s a hard no, but Keegs has churned out top-20 finishes in two of three starts at Mayakoba.
Gdula: Joel Dahmen (+500) — Dahmen’s got good odds for a top 10. The irons aren’t quite what they have been historically, but he’s still an above-average ball-striker for this field. He also has finished sixth, 41st and 23rd at this event over his past three starts.
Gehman: Brendon Todd (+500) — The defending champion has been dealing with a broken toe that has really been reflected in his results as of late. He missed the cut at the Masters and in Bermuda before finishing T-37 at the RSM Classic. With an extra week to rest and get back into playing shape, I expect Todd to rekindle his good vibes from last year. El Camaleón does not require distance, and it rewards great putting, which is basically the exact profile of Brendon Todd.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Corey Conners (+300) — I’m also invested in a Conners outright, so you should back it up with the top 10. The Canadian has two consecutive top 10s (Masters, RSM) and is back to being an elite ball-striker. He ranks third in my model this week for his incredible consistency—with an above-average putting week, he should contend.
Powers, Golf Digest: Ollie Schniederjans (+1400) — I’m officially addicted to Ollie right now. That bit me in Houston, where he missed the cut, but the third in Bermuda and some good finishes at seaside courses in the past have me back on him this week. Two course corollaries that help Ollie’s case are Sony (Wailae), where he finished seventh in 2018, and RBC Heritage (Harbour Town), where he finished third in 2017.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Keegan Bradley (+550) — Bradley comes into this event in some great form. He ranks second in strokes gained/tee to green over the past two months and fifth for Opportunities Gained. But this is the stat I love: 41 percent of Bradley’s rounds at Mayakoba have been 67 or 66s. He loves this place.
Top 10 results from the RSM: Everyone: 0 for 1.
Top 10 results from this season: Gehman: 3 for 11 (up 11 units); Powers: 1 for 11 (up 3 units); Hennessey: 1 for 11 (down 5 units); Tour caddie: 2 for 11 (down 5.95 units); Alldrick: 0 for 10 (down 10 units); Mayo, Gdula: 0 for 11 (down 11 units each).
One and Done pick
Gehman: Viktor Hovland — Hovland has quietly been racking up top-15 finishes since the end of last season. He’s now notched four top 15s in his past five starts, including a T-15 at the Houston Open in his last start. Those results could be attributed to his improved short game this season. He’s up 0.62 strokes per round in his 16 rounds around the green. There aren’t many courses on the PGA Tour that feature paspalum greens like here at El Camaleón, but one of those courses is Coco Beach Golf Club, which happens to be the site of Hovland’s lone PGA Tour victory.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson.
Hennessey: Abraham Ancer — This feels like the week to use Ancer—he’s my pick to win. I’d be weary of going with Justin Thomas or Brooks Koepka, I think there’s more of a chance they both miss the weekend than the oddsmakers think.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman.
Powers: Corey Conners — The Canadian has been sneakily great over the last two months, including very recently, with back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Masters and the RSM. He’s proven that he’s far more than a guy who randomly won as a Monday qualifier. He’s now on pace to become a top 50 player in the world very soon.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman.
By The Numbers:
Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:
18.8 — The average finish for Emiliano Grillo at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in his four starts. That’s the best of anyone in this field who has played this event at least three times.
274 — The number of days since Viktor Hovland last missed a cut, the Honda Classic. He’s played the weekend in all 16 starts since the tour’s resumption in July.
26 — The number of spots in the world ranking that Rickie Fowler has fallen this year (23rd to 49th). This would be the largest one year drop in his career.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing 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.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
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.