Category Archives: Golf

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The Masters: 2014 PGA Golf Betting Preview & Picks

By Joe Fortenbaugh

Course: Augusta National Golf Club

Location: Augusta, Georgia

Par: 72

Yardage: 7,435 yards

Architect: Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie

Defending champion: Adam Scott

In the eyes of many, The Masters lost a bit of its luster and a lot of its allure recently when reports surfaced that Tiger Woods would miss the season’s first major championship due to back surgery.  The news came as a blow to both the casual fan - who tunes in on Sunday when Woods is in contention - and CBS - who will no doubt suffer a hit in the ratings thanks to the absence of golf’s biggest draw.

But for the avid golf fans and gamblers, the lack of a Tiger Watch this spring at Augusta National is nothing more than a bump in the road.  The course will be in splendid condition, the rest of the world’s top golfers will still be in attendance and Sunday will no doubt feature some captivating television as the leaders enter Amen Corner.

Let’s begin with the fact that it takes a very low number to win at Augusta National.  With the exception of Zach Johnson’s win here in 2007 (+1, 289), each of the last 23 Masters Champions has fired a 7-under, 281 or better to win the tournament.  At the U.S. Open, it’s about making par.  At The Masters, it’s about making birdie or better.

In addition, winning The Masters requires a fast start, as each of the last six champions have opened play on Thursday with a 3-under, 69 or better.

I’ll be posting my favorite matchup plays on Twitter (@JoeFortenbaugh) as we get closer to the start of the tournament, but for now, here’s a look at five futures plays I intend to bet immediately.

Brian Blessing also breaks down The Masters field in the video below.

TO WIN (odds courtesy of the LVH SuperBook in Las Vegas)

Jason Day (10/1):  The price tag offers little value, but it’s hard to pass on J-Day considering the way he’s gone big-game hunting in the marquee tournaments over the last few years.  The Aussie has four Top-3 finishes over his last eleven Majors appearances, which includes a T2 at Augusta in 2012 and a solo third at The Masters last year.  Last season, Day was knocking on the door at The Masters, United States Open and PGA Championship.  He’ll break through soon enough.

Matt Kuchar (20/1):  Kuchar has been on an absolute tear since the calendar flipped to 2014, recording four top-10s in just seven tournaments so far this season entering the Shell Houston Open.  In addition, the 35-year-old knows what it’s like to be in contention at Augusta, as Kuchar finished T3 at The Masters in 2012 and T8 last year.  Has never finished worse than T27 in four starts at this tournament, with nine of 16 career rounds coming in under par.

Jordan Spieth (25/1):  2014 marks the 20-year-old’s first visit to The Masters, so don’t be shocked if the moment overwhelms Spieth a bit early in the tournament.  Just note that not only is this kid working hard on the mental aspect of his game, but he’s also posted four Top-10s in just nine events this season.  The upside here is that Spieth can go real low at any moment, as evidenced by the fact that he’s shot 67 or better seven times already this season.

Lee Westwood (50/1):  His game has fallen off a bit over the last year or so, but 50/1 is an awfully enticing price tag for a golfer who has finished 11th or better in five of his last six trips to Augusta.  Noteworthy is the fact that during said stretch, Westy posted a solo second at The Masters in 2010 and T3 in 2012.

Fred Couples (100/1):  The 1992 Masters Champion, “Boom Boom” has made a habit of making noise at this event in each of the past four years.  Couples’ schedule revolves around Augusta, where he finished sixth in 2010, T15 in 2011, T12 in 2012 and T13 last year.  Just watch.  At some point during the tournament, Couples’ name will be near the top of the leaderboard.  But at 54 years of age, endurance is the big question mark.

Follow Joe Fortenbaugh on Twitter @JoeFortenbaugh

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2014 PGA Golf Betting Preview & Picks for The Masters

 
By Joe Fortenbaugh

Course: Augusta National Golf Club

Location: August, Georgia

Par: 72

Yardage: 7,435 yards

Architect: Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie

Defending champion: Adam Scott

In the eyes of many, The Masters lost a bit of its luster and a lot of its allure recently when reports surfaced that Tiger Woods would miss the season’s first major championship due to back surgery.  The news came as a blow to both the casual fan - who tunes in on Sunday when Woods is in contention - and CBS - who will no doubt suffer a hit in the ratings thanks to the absence of golf’s biggest draw.

But for the avid golf fans and gamblers, the lack of a Tiger Watch this spring at Augusta National is nothing more than a bump in the road.  The course will be in splendid condition, the rest of the world’s top golfers will still be in attendance and Sunday will no doubt feature some captivating television as the leaders enter Amen Corner.

Let’s begin with the fact that it takes a very low number to win at Augusta National.  With the exception of Zach Johnson’s win here in 2007 (+1, 289), each of the last 23 Masters Champions has fired a 7-under, 281 or better to win the tournament.  At the U.S. Open, it’s about making par.  At The Masters, it’s about making birdie or better.

In addition, winning The Masters requires a fast start, as each of the last six champions have opened play on Thursday with a 3-under, 69 or better.

I’ll be posting my favorite matchup plays on Twitter (@JoeFortenbaugh) as we get closer to the start of the tournament, but for now, here’s a look at five futures plays I intend to bet immediately.

Brian Blessing also breaks down The Masters field in the video below.

TO WIN (odds courtesy of the LVH SuperBook in Las Vegas)

Jason Day (10/1):  The price tag offers little value, but it’s hard to pass on J-Day considering the way he’s gone big-game hunting in the marquee tournaments over the last few years.  The Aussie has four Top-3 finishes over his last eleven Majors appearances, which includes a T2 at Augusta in 2012 and a solo third at The Masters last year.  Last season, Day was knocking on the door at The Masters, United States Open and PGA Championship.  He’ll break through soon enough.

Matt Kuchar (20/1):  Kuchar has been on an absolute tear since the calendar flipped to 2014, recording four top-10s in just seven tournaments so far this season entering the Shell Houston Open.  In addition, the 35-year-old knows what it’s like to be in contention at Augusta, as Kuchar finished T3 at The Masters in 2012 and T8 last year.  Has never finished worse than T27 in four starts at this tournament, with nine of 16 career rounds coming in under par.

Jordan Spieth (25/1):  2014 marks the 20-year-old’s first visit to The Masters, so don’t be shocked if the moment overwhelms Spieth a bit early in the tournament.  Just note that not only is this kid working hard on the mental aspect of his game, but he’s also posted four Top-10s in just nine events this season.  The upside here is that Spieth can go real low at any moment, as evidenced by the fact that he’s shot 67 or better seven times already this season.

Lee Westwood (50/1):  His game has fallen off a bit over the last year or so, but 50/1 is an awfully enticing price tag for a golfer who has finished 11th or better in five of his last six trips to Augusta.  Noteworthy is the fact that during said stretch, Westy posted a solo second at The Masters in 2010 and T3 in 2012.

Fred Couples (100/1):  The 1992 Masters Champion, “Boom Boom” has made a habit of making noise at this event in each of the past four years.  Couples’ schedule revolves around Augusta, where he finished sixth in 2010, T15 in 2011, T12 in 2012 and T13 last year.  Just watch.  At some point during the tournament, Couples’ name will be near the top of the leaderboard.  But at 54 years of age, endurance is the big question mark.

Follow Joe Fortenbaugh on Twitter @JoeFortenbaugh

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2014 Honda Classic PGA Golf Betting Preview & Picks

 
By Joe Fortenbaugh

Course:  PGA National (Champion Course)

Location:  Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Par:  70 (35-35)

Yardage:  7,100 yards

Architect:  George and Tom Fazio (1981), redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1990

This week marks the start of the PGA Tour’s Florida swing, which means we’re now just six weeks away from the Masters.  The transition from the west coast to the southeast brings a myriad of changes for professional golfers ranging all the way from weather to grass.  Expect more humidity and wind in Florida than what we saw over the previous few weeks in Arizona and California and be sure to take note that the greens will transition from Bentgrass to Bermuda, which favors golfers with Florida, South African and Australian ties.

With a scoring average of 71.318 last year, PGA National ranked as the fifth-hardest course on TOUR during the 2013 season.  Yep, that means that outside of the four majors, this was the next toughest venue.  Golfers who excel in fairway accuracy, greens in regulation and putting should find some level of success over the next four days.

If you plan to tune in this weekend, take particular note of holes 15, 16 and 17, known affectionately as “The Bear Trap.”  These three holes (Par 3, Par 4, Par 3) make for a terrific closing stretch, even if they were tamed by the field in a rare occurrence last season.

Brian Blessing also breaks down the Honda Classic field in the video below.

HORSES FOR THE COURSE

Charl Schwartzel:  Has played this event three times, finishing T14 (2011), T5 (2012) and T9 (2013).  In 12 career rounds at PGA National, Schwartzel has shot par or lower nine times.

Graeme McDowell:  Five for five in cuts made at PGA National with three consecutive finishes inside the Top 10.  Has shot over par just once in his last eight rounds in Palm Beach Gardens.

Lee Westwood:  Like McDowell, Westwood is also five for five in cuts made at this event with three Top-10 finishes (2010, 2012, 2013).  Was six-under-par after 36 holes here last season.

Geoff Ogilvy:  Four Top-10s in seven appearances at this event, which includes three runner-up finishes.  Ogilvy played the Honda last season following a six-year hiatus, shooting seven-under-par to finish second.

FOUR-ROUND MATCHUPS (lines courtesy of William Hill)

Tiger Woods (+115) over Rory McIlroy (-135):  You offer me Woods at plus money on a Florida course and I’m not going to think twice about backing the 14-time Major winner.  Tiger has journeyed to the Honda in each of the last two seasons, finishing T2 in 2012 and T37 in 2013.  McIlroy won this event in 2012, but his other four appearances have been less than stellar, finishing T13 in 2009, T40 in 2010, T70 in 2011 and WD (withdrawal) after one round in 2013.  This is strictly a value play where I’m siding with the well-rested Woods.

Graeme McDowell (even) over Zach Johnson (-120):  McDowell has finished T17 or better in each of his last six starts worldwide (T7 at Pebble Beach and T5 at the Match Play), has finished in the Top 10 in each of his last three trips to PGA National and showcased some dynamite putting last week in Arizona.  Johnson hasn’t played in this event since 2008, when he shot 3-over en route to a T30 finish.

Charl Schwartzel (-102) over Adam Scott (-110):  Can be found at PinnacleSports.com since William Hill has yet to post their offering on this showdown featuring former Masters Champions.  As noted above, Schwartzel has played some lights out golf at this tournament over the last three years, while Scott’s three trips to PGA National have culminated in the following results: T11 in 2001, T65 in 2003 and a missed cut in 2011.  Take note that Schwartzel finished fifth at Riviera two weeks ago, while Scott hasn’t played since January 12 at the Sony Open.  There could be some rust here.

LONG SHOTS TO WIN (lines courtesy of the LVH)

Lee Westwood (40/1):  Hasn’t finished better than T20 (Northern Trust Open) since the calendar flipped to 2014, but has an excellent track record at this event, with three Top 10s in his last four appearances highlighted by a solo fourth in 2012.

Geoff Ogilvy (100/1):  100/1 for a guy who finished second here last season (as well as in 2001 and 2006)?  Sure, I’ll bite.

Freddie Jacobson (100/1):  Has made the cut in each of the last five years at the Honda, finishing T5 in 2009, T6 in 2010, T29 in 2011, T16 in 2012 and T25 last season.

Follow Joe Fortenbaugh on Twitter @JoeFortenbaugh

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2014 Northern Trust Open PGA Golf Betting Preview & Picks

By Joe Fortenbaugh

Course:  Riviera Country Club

Location:  Pacific Palisades, CA

Par:  71 (35-36)

Yardage:  7,349 yards

Architect:  George C. Thomas, Jr. (1926)

If recent history is any indication, we’re in for a great Sunday of golf when the final round of the Northern Trust Open kicks-off at Riviera Country Club.

Six of the last 13 Northern Trust Opens have resulted in a playoff, while the other seven years produced a winner by two strokes or less.  This is a tightly contested tournament held on a beautiful Southern California golf course that has played host to a United States Open and two PGA Championships.

In 2013, John Merrick and Charlie Beljan each fired a score of 11-under, 273 to qualify for a playoff that saw Merrick emerge as the champion on the second extra hole.  With a scoring average of 71.850 in 2013, Riviera checked-in as the 13th-hardest course on TOUR last season.

Brian Blessing also breaks down the Northern Trust Open field in the video below.

HORSES FOR THE COURSE

J.B. Holmes:  Eliminate the missed cut Holmes endured at Riviera last season and you’re left with six other appearances at the Northern Trust Open, four of which resulted in Top-10 finishes.  Beginning in 2008, Holmes put together a five-year stretch at this event that reads T7, T6, T3, T12, T8, respectively.  Note that Holmes has played in just three tournaments this season since returning from surgery, placing T23 at the Farmers, T58 at the Waste Management and T61 at Pebble Beach last week.

Jimmy Walker:  The TOUR’s hottest player at the moment, Walker’s last three spins at Riviera have all been impressive, with back-to-back T4s in 2011 and 2012 as well as a T16 in Pacific Palisades last season.  Of those aforementioned 12 rounds, Walker has shot 69 or lower six times.

Bill Haas:  Followed up his 2012 win at the Northern Trust with a T3 last season.  Has shot under par in eight of his last 12 rounds at Riviera.

Charl Schwartzel:  Has only played this event once (2013), but posted a T3 with all four rounds coming in under par (69, 67, 68, 70).

FOUR-ROUND MATCHUP PLAYS (lines courtesy of William Hill)

Bill Hass (-120) over Bubba Watson:  If you read the ‘Horses for the course’ section above, you already know why we like Hass.  But this is just as much a PLAY ON Hass as it is a PLAY AGAINST Bubba, who in seven appearances at the Northern Trust has missed the cut three times (2007, 2010, 2013) and never finished better than T13 (2012).

Graham DeLaet (-130) over Justin Rose:  Since October 27, DeLaet has played in five TOUR events.  The results:  T7, T6, T8, T2, T2.  Not only is this guy red hot at the moment, but he’s matched up here with an elite golfer in Justin Rose who will be making his first start of the season thanks to a case of mild tendinitis in his right shoulder.  This line may cause some to scratch their heads upon first glance, especially when you consider the fact that the United States Open Champion and fifth-ranked golfer in the world is a sizeable underdog to a player many average viewers have never heard of.

LONG SHOTS TO WIN (lines courtesy of the LVH)

Webb Simpson (15/1):  He’s certainly not a long shot by any stretch, but Simpson has exceled so far this season in three key categories required for success at Riviera: Greens in regulation, scrambling and putts from 10-15 feet out.  Finished T6 in this event last year, shooting par or lower in all four rounds.

Charl Schwartzel (35/1):  Too good a price to pass up on a player of his caliber.

Pat Perez (50/1):  Has finished 11th or better in four of his last five events, which includes a T2 at the Farmers and a T7 last week at Pebble Beach.  Perez has notched only one Top-10 in 12 attempts at the Northern Trust, but finished T13 at Riviera two years ago.

Follow Joe Fortenbaugh on Twitter @JoeFortenbaugh

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2014 Pebble Beach Pro-Am PGA Golf Betting Preview & Picks

By Joe Fortenbaugh

Course:  Pebble Beach Golf Links

Location: Pebble Beach, CA

Par:  72 (Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill), 70 (Monterey Peninsula Country Club)

Yardage:  6,816 yards (Pebble Beach), 6,953 yards (Spyglass Hill), 6,838 yards (Monterey Peninsula C.C.)

Architect:  Jack Neville and Douglas Grant (Pebble Beach)

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is one of only two tournaments (Humana Challenge) on the golf calendar that is played on three different courses.  Every golfer in the field - along with his amateur partner - will play one round each at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club before a 54-hole cut will determine who advances to play the final round at Pebble Beach.  Take note that unlike most tournaments, the AT&T cut falls on players ranked in the low 60s and ties, as opposed to the low 70s and ties.

Defending champion Brandt Snedeker fired a 21-under, 267 in 2013 to take home the championship, but the 33-year-old from Nashville enters this year’s trip to the Monterey Peninsula if different form, having carded just one Top 20 in four starts this season.  Snedeker rode a tidal wave of momentum into Pebble Beach last February that consisted of three Top 3s in four starts prior to winning the AT&T.

It’s worth noting that at just 6,816 yards, Pebble Beach is the shortest course on the PGA TOUR.  But that lack of length is offset by greens that measure 3,500 feet in square length, making the putting surfaces some of the smallest on the TOUR.  GIR (greens in regulation) and scrambling will serve as two key stats to study entering Thursday’s first round.

Brian Blessing also breaks down the Pebble Beach Pro-Am field in the video below.

HORSES FOR THE COURSE

Dustin Johnson:  Has finished in the Top 10 in four of six appearances at the Pro-Am, which includes back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010.  In addition, Johnson finished T8 in 2010 when the United States Open was held at Pebble Beach.  Missed the cut here last season, but that came shortly after the news broke that Johnson was dating Paulina Gretzky, a distraction capable of derailing the best of us.

Jason Day:  Finished sixth, T14 and T46, respectively, at this tournament from 2008-2010 before taking a two-year hiatus.  Returned to Pebble last season to finish sixth.Hasn’t played since finishing T2 at Torrey Pines two weeks ago.

Phil Mickelson:  Four-time Pro-Am winner (1998, 2005, 2007, 2012) with eight Top-10 finishes in 17 career starts.  However, be advised that Mick is battling a back injury (more on this below).

Aaron Baddeley:  Has finished T12 or better in each of the last three years at Pebble, with a fourth-place finish in 2012.  But it’s worth noting that Baddeley has really struggled on TOUR over the last few seasons.

FOUR-ROUND MATCHUP PLAYS (lines courtesy of William Hill)

Jason Day (-140) over Phil Mickelson:  Mickelson is battling a back injury that forced him to withdrawal from the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago and led to a T42 at the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale last week, a tournament Lefty dominated last season en route to a four-shot victory.  Day is well rested after a T2 at the Farmers and finished sixth at Pebble Beach last season.

Dustin Johnson (-115) over Phil Mickelson:  Another play against Mickelson, but this time we’re backing the long-hitting Johnson, who finished T6 at Kapalua to open the year and has won this tournament twice (2009, 2010).

Matt Jones (-125) over Ryan Palmer:  Jones’ T12 at the Waste Management Open last week marked the second time in three outings that the Aussie has finished T13 or better.  As for Pebble Beach, Jones finished T10 in 2010, T15 in 2011, missed the cut in 2012 and T30 last season.  Palmer finished T48 in Scottsdale last week and has found plenty of trouble at Pebble during his career, missing the cut in three of his last five starts, including 2013.

LONG SHOTS TO WIN (lines courtesy of the LVH)

Jason Kokrak (50/1):  Since the start of his season in October, Kokrak has made four of a possible six cuts, finishing T20 or better each time, which includes a T15 at last week’s Waste Management Open.  Missed the cut at Pebble last year, but finished T9 in 2012.

Spencer Levin (60/1):  Four for four in cuts made at this tournament, with Top 10s in each of his last two starts (T4 in 2011).

Follow Joe Fortenbaugh on Twitter @JoeFortenbaugh

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2014 Farmers Insurance Open PGA Golf Betting Preview & Picks

 
By Joe Fortenbaugh

Course:  Torrey Pines

Location:  La Jolla, California

Par: 72

Yardage:  7,698 yards (South) and 7,052 yards (North)

Architect:  Billy Bell, Jr.

Note: The first two rounds of the tournament take place on two different courses, as every member of the field will play one round at Torrey Pines South and one round at Torrey Pines North.  Following the cut, the final two rounds will be played on the South course.  At 7,052 yards, Torrey North plays both shorter and easier than its nearby brother.  In 2013, the Farmers Insurance Open field posted an average round score of 70.667 on the North course and 72.665 on the South.  Note that at a monstrous 7,698 yards, the South course is the longest on the PGA TOUR.

TIGER WATCH

Make no mistake about it, Torrey Pines is Tiger Woods country.

The Famers Insurance Open defending champion has recorded 12 Top-10 finishes in 13 appearances at this tournament, with an average finishing position of 5.8 and a per-round scoring average of 68.61 through 51 career rounds.  And let’s not forget about the fact that the last time the United States Open stopped at Torrey (2008), Woods hoisted the trophy after defeating Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff.

But here’s the thing any golf bettor — sharp or casual — has to remember when it comes to Tiger Woods:  The bookmakers KNOW you love Tiger Woods.  They know you love to cheer for him and they especially know you love to bet him.  That’s why Tiger is installed as the favorite to win every single tournament he chooses to play whether he deserves this distinction or not, as the books simply can’t afford to offer a true price on Woods because their exposure would be too great.  What this means is that if you want to back Woods — whether it be a futures play or four-round matchup wager — you’re going to pay a premium for the right to do so.

What this also means is that there’s value to be found in betting against Tiger Woods.  Although speaking from experience, I can assure you that there is nothing more frustrating than fading Tiger, only to spend four days watching in agony as the world’s greatest golfer decimates the competition.

HORSES FOR THE COURSE

Tiger Woods:  See above.

Phil Mickelson:  Finished T51 at Torrey last year, but has had a plethora of success at this venue which includes 10 Top-10 finishes in 23 starts with three victories (1993, 2000, 2001) and eight Top-5s.  Finished second in Abu Dhabi last week and is an enticing four-round matchup play vs. Tiger at +250.

Brandt Snedeker:  Followed up his 2012 win at the Farmers with a T2 last season.  Has finished T9 or better in each of his last four starts at Torrey, shooting under par 14 times over those 16 rounds.  Holds a share of the course record at Torrey North, where he fired a 61 in 2007.

Bill Hass:  Has notched five Top-20s in seven starts at the Farmers since missing the cut in 2006.  Last three trips to Torrey read T9, T4, T9 with a 69 or better carded in five of his last 12 rounds.

Nick Watney:  Five Top-10s in nine starts with a win in 2009.  Finished T60 in 2011 for his only non-Top-9 finish at this event over the last five years.

Bubba Watson:  The 2011 Farmers champion (-16) skipped this event last season due to illness, but is back in Southern California this week looking to make a splash.  Has three Top-10s in seven career visits to Torrey and possesses the length off the tee required to conquer the TOUR’s longest course.

Ricky Fowler:  Four starts at the Farmers, four Top-20 finishes.  Finished T6 in 2013 for his second-best showing at Torrey (T5 in 2010).

FOUR-ROUND MATCHUP PLAYS (Based on opening lines from LVH)

Charles Howell III (-110) over Marc Leishman:  Howell’s T9 at the Farmers last year marked the fifth time in 11 career starts that the 34-year-old from Augusta, Georgia finished in the Top 10 at this tournament.  In addition, Howell has never missed the cut at Torrey Pines and has shot par or better in 30 of his last 36 rounds at this venue.  Not only does CH3 deserve “Horse for the Course” status at Torrey, but it’s also worth noting that he’s the only golfer with four Top-10s on TOUR so far this season.  Leishman posted back-to-back Top-10s at the Farmers in 2010 and 2011, but after that went T52 in 2012 and missed the cut last year.  To have success on a course like Torrey Pines, you’ve got to be able to scramble, which is a category where Howell ranks second on TOUR (72.8 percent), while Leishman ranks 62nd (60.29 percent).

Nick Watney (even) over Hunter Mahan:  There’s some risk involved here as Thursday marks Watney’s first competitive round in two months.  But the Sacramento native has been lights out at Torrey Pines during his young career, with five Top-10s in nine starts that features a win (2009) and a T4 last season.  Mahan is no bum when it comes to the Farmers (T15 in 2013), but this is his first start of the season and he’s matched up here with one of the most consistent golfers this tournament has seen over the last five years.  I’d likely pass on this option if Watney was listed as the favorite, but at even money or better, this is worth a play.

LONG SHOTS TO WIN

Charles Howell III (50/1):  See above.

Ricky Fowler (40/1):  Has an averaging finishing position of 11.0 through four career starts at the Farmers, with just one round carded over par since 2012.  Broke through for his first career win at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012 and is due to find himself back on the podium in the very near future.  Based on his career history at Torrey Pines, 40/1 looks enticing enough to take a shot.

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Golf Odds & Picks for PGA BMW Championship from September 12-15

This week's PGA event is covered at DonBestAdvantage.com with updated golf odds and picks from Brian Blessing, who previews the betting field at the BMW Championship from September 12-15, 2013.