Monthly Archives: March 2010

SHELL HOUSTON OPEN

Els v. Couples
There seems to be this emerging school of thought Fred Couples is a favorite for the Masters. This is preposterous. I have Couples as the 60th best player in the world based on PGA Tour rounds. Obviously, he has dominated the Senior Tour, but there has to be a HUGE adjustment to equate those rounds to a PGA Tour event.

Couples could win the Masters, but it’s important to remember that golfers 1-59 will be in the field with him. I don’t think there is a better than 200-1 chance that it happens.

Els, on the other hand, could be considered a legitimate threat. I have him 12th in the world, but more importantly that puts him in a tier of players that isn’t Tiger Woods, isn’t Furyk, Stricker or Mickelson, but is right there after that. Els might be 1 in 40 to win at Augusta, which puts him among the best players, but makes him far from the favorite.

Another point about Els, is he seems to have turned the corner on putting, making everything this week. If you’re counting on that to continue, I wouldn’t. First, the greens at Bay Hill were flattened during the re-do; Augusta’s, however, were not. Second, this reminds me of Phil who magically turned around his putting with Dave Stockton late last year and made everything for a few weeks. Then, it stopped, and Phil has been pretty overrated based on his marginal results so far this year.

Master’s Odds

-I’m glad I took Allenby without Woods last week before he dropped back down to 50-1. Call it a gut feeling that I can’t explain, but something about Allenby strikes me as the 2010 version of Kenny Perry. I just hope when he falls apart and bogeys the last four holes, he loses to Woods in the playoff.

-Tom Watson. 375-1??? That seems like a stretch. Especially considering you can get him at 2000-1 to win the British Open where he finished SECOND last year. One in 400 might appear to be good odds, but the average of players that are not regular tour members puts them closer to 10,000-1 to win. Maybe Watson is better, but I’m not buying it based on the British Open and one good showing on the Euro Tour.

-No one is talking about Sergio Garcia, at all. Crap.

-Other ideas include Na, Hurricane Steve and AK, but I don’t see any reason to act now.

Funniest thing I read online this week
It’s a toss-up between the nonsense in this article, which literally had 0 substantive points in it, this poll, pointed about by 17483 over at C-ville or reading this about Alex Prugh:

you hate to yell at a rookie that started the year on fire, but Prugh is currently in that uh-oh area for young professionals. After starting the year making six of six cuts, Prugh missed his third cut in a row at Bay Hill, playing the last six rounds of golfer 13-over par.

Or, he’s a slightly above average player who had a few good weeks in a row and was due to miss some cuts at some point. Either one. It cracked me up that Alex Prugh was a player that 99% of people had never heard of coming into this season, now people are bashing him when he misses a cut.

Risers
Numbers from my rankings
Ernie Els(19 to 12), Edoardo Molinari (252 to 206), Chris Couch(177 to 125), Kevin Na (45 to 37), Louis Oosthuizen(105 to 86)

I bring up this group of players for one reason: I have constantly discounted recent performance in my mind, but my rankings do give some bonus to playing well last week. Of course it’s small, and in most cases worth only fractions of a shot per round. Also, and this is important, the players aren’t getting a bonus for playing well last week, their getting a bonus because last week’s good play gives us a more accurate picture of their overall ability in the past 2 years.

I’m way too low on Molinari, because I haven’t factored in his dominance of the European JV Tour last year. Keep that in mind before you make any judgments on him. Couch made a big jump, but had under 70 rounds so it’s not like we have as complete picture of him as some other golfers.

Major winners you might not expect
I was thinking about this as part of my Marino Mania planning. I doubt these will be my actual picks for the contest, but here were my ideas.

Masters: Robert Allenby
US Open: Luke Donald
British Open: Alex Noren
PGA Championship: Steve Marino
Northern California PGA Tour Member-Guest Championship: Mitch Lowe.

A little random, but who knows?

Adjusting Couples:
File this under huge estimation, but I tried to adjust Couples based on his senior tour dominance. To do that, I took the 14 players in last week’s senior field that had 20+ rounds on major tours in the past two years, calculated their senior tour averages for this season and compared that to their two year rankings.

The average player was about .85 standard deviations better on the senior tour, which equates to around two and a half shots. I added in Couples senior play to my rankings and came up with an adjustment. He doesn’t have that many regular rounds(61) and he has been quite dominant so he got a huge bonus, but he still only gained around .2 shots.

Match-ups:

Ernie Els has won his last two starts, so I’m obviously looking to go against him. Couples’ senior dominance must have white middle aged America very excited right now, I think he is way overpriced this week. Sadly, J.B. Holmes(working with Dave Stockton!) isn’t in the field, because he finished in a playoff last year with Casey and is playing way over his head so far this year.

It was pretty hard to find someone that I outright liked this week, but looking at the match-ups Phil is undervalued. It’s hilarious how Phil had one sleeve in the Green Jacket following a nice round on Friday, now with a terrible weekend he can’t play anymore. I’m not sure I follow that logic.

Anyway, Phil v. Els, Phil v. Casey, Trahan v. Couples and Love III v. Couples is what I came up with. Prices are posted here.

Winner

Na and Marino contending last week takes away two of my automatic looks after that. With those two out, I don’t think the options are nearly as exciting.

Aaron Baddeley has played like garbage this season, but 400-1 is intriguing. Baird and Goggin are undervalued as always, but those two clowns don’t seem like they will ever win. Throw Pampling and Sutherland in that group as well. If you’re looking for a Euro, Chris Wood isn’t getting nearly the attention that he would if this event was played on the other side of the pond. I’d add in Merrick and Westwood, whose price is out of line with other headliners as people I thought about.

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NA GA HAPPEN

These odds are probably best described as estimates.  I based this off the hole-by-hole stats I’ve been recording for some live Masters odds.  Hole averages come from this week, I used the standard deviations based on what I had for the Masters.  I can’t really verify the accuracy, but they did appear pretty close to what WSEX was offering earlier in the day.

Na is not very likely to win, although he is about 17 times more likely then when Els was at -14.

PLAYER rem % to win ODDS AVG SC
Ernie Els 4 75.3% -305 277.1
Kevin Na 4 17.7% 464 279.2
Retief Goosen 1 0.0% 237036 280.2
Ben Curtis 4 3.4% 2810 280.2
Chris Couch 5 3.0% 3254 280.5
Kevin Streelman 3 0.4% 23039 281.0
Edoardo Molinari 4 0.1% 169895 281.4

rem:  Holes Remaining
avg sc: =Players number of strokes + average score for remaining holes.  Calculated on  2-year rankings and hole averages.

To be fair to Els, we probably need to adjust Na’s score because he faces an 81-foot putt right away.  I’m estimating that makes his score about 4.5(I have a lot of experience with Na putting)for the 15th hole.

PLAYER rem % to win ODDS AVG SC
Ernie Els 4 79.0% -377 277.1
Kevin Na 3 11.8% 745 279.4
Retief Goosen 1 0.1% 106440 280.2
Ben Curtis 4 4.5% 2128 280.2
Chris Couch 5 3.8% 2507 280.5
Kevin Streelman 3 0.6% 15835 281.0
Edoardo Molinari 4 0.1% 103569 281.4

Na probably won’t win tomorrow, but it’s sure been one hell of tease.  Els was around 93% to win when he was at -14.  Na was almost dead at that point.  A few lucky breaks and he’s right back in this. Will he win?

Na ga happen.

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FINAL ROUND ARNOLD PALMER

Ernie Els 46.23% 116
Ben Curtis 27.64% 262
Kevin Na 5.27% 1797
Chris Couch 3.97% 2417
Jim Furyk 3.02% 3210
Retief Goosen 2.79% 3482
Kevin Streelman 1.94% 5052
Derek Lamely 1.79% 5476
Boo Weekley 1.40% 7027
Davis Love III 1.40% 7062

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ARNOLD PALMER ROUND 2

A lot more red scores on the board yesterday than last year, so the course obviously played easier right?

Wrong.

Yesterday’s scoring average was up a couple fractions of a shot from last year’s(72.55 from 72.33), despite the change in par from 70 to 72.

While some people might fall in love with the notion of more birdies, I still have the winning score projected between 275 and 276(275.8), which is in the same range Tiger was in last year when he won it at 275.

ODDS

Steve Stricker 12.10% 726
Mike Weir 8.33% 1100
Henrik Stenson 8.23% 1115
Davis Love III 7.29% 1271
Robert Allenby 7.13% 1302
J.B. Holmes 6.27% 1494
Ernie Els 6.01% 1564
Kevin Na 4.55% 2100
Kevin Streelman 2.81% 3457
Phil Mickelson 2.76% 3521
Jim Furyk 2.60% 3743
Pat Perez 1.78% 5533
Sean O’Hair 1.68% 5866
Hunter Mahan 1.63% 6031
Retief Goosen 1.57% 6287
Paul Goydos 1.45% 6803
Ben Crane 1.43% 6901
D.J. Trahan 1.42% 6922
Zach Johnson 1.35% 7332
Jason Dufner 1.19% 8319
Ben Curtis 1.18% 8395
Nathan Green 1.08% 9121
Steve Marino 0.99% 9962
Heath Slocum 0.99% 9977

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ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL

Movers and Shakers
I thought I’d add this part in to my weekly breakdowns, time permitting. Since recent performance seems to be such a big issue in determining odds I wanted to look at some people that rose and fell in my rankings.

Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi: Furyk obviously won, but jumped a whole lot because he was so far out in front of the field. I know it got close in the end, but through no fault of Furyk’s after a hot K.J. Choi chased him down a bit. Those two were so far out in front of the field that they both got a lot of credit for their good play. Furyk moved to basically equal to Stricker over two years and Choi jumped up 12 spots to 52 in my rankings. What does that mean? Well Furyk dropped from around 18-1 to 16-1. Choi now is about 130-1 to win this week, when he would have been 185-1 last week.

Rhys Davies:
Davies dropped about 83 spots or roughly .3 of a shot per round. To be fair, most of this is because he went from 62 rounds to 66 rounds so his score is certainly more variable than some of the top players with more rounds but that is still a pretty significant drop. By my numbers, Davies would have been about 177-1 to win this tournament this week before winning the Hassan Trophee, but should now be around 77-1.

Jeev Milkha Singh: Singh missed the cut with rounds of 74-71 at the Transitions Championship. He fell 13 spots to 66 in my rankings. I only bring this up because my rankings have been very optimistic on Jeev, and it’s possible that is unwarranted.

Arnold Palmer Top-10 with Odds:

At this point, I’ve basically agreed to disagree with the rest of the world about the second best golfer. I have two years of objective numbers that say Furyk and Stricker are better than Mickelson against the general consensus that Mickelson is Tiger’s closest rival. I tried to be patient with this, but I’m running out of viable reasons why Phil should be considered number two, much less a clear-cut number two.

I really have no idea how to break down some of the options here. I thought about Stricker, Marino, Na, Baird, Sutherland, Goydos, Clark, Gillis, Zach Johnson, Mallinger and Curtis(as well as Noren in Europe). I wasn’t more than lukewarm on any of them, so I’ll wait and see what happens after one round of play.

Match-ups are posted here.

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TIGER MASTERS PROPS UPDATE

Tiger to win the Masters +400/-600

There are obviously a ton of unknowns here, but this is a really good price considering you are getting the world’s best golfer who has won on this course four times. I don’t doubt that the media circus that will be this year’s Masters will have some effect on him. I don’t doubt that he probably won’t be in mid-season form his first time out. I do doubt how much of an effect that really has.

Adjusting Tiger in my rankings from his true 2-year rankings(-1.20), to get the fair price(+500, with no juice at the Greek) bumps him down to around -1. That makes him about .6 strokes worse per round than his 2-year average. Seems a bit high to me, but with Tiger not returning to the course before the Masters I doubt there is any rush to take this.

Tiger Major Count
Zero: +115(G)
One: +205(G)
Two: +625(G)
Three: +1600(5d)
Grand Slam: +3200(5d)/-4250(G)
Best Price available between the 5dimes/Greek.

Let’s just assume Tiger is 25%(3-1) to win each major regardless of venue. That puts some decent value on Tiger winning 1(+137) or 2(+374) majors using a binomial distribution. I wasn’t quite sure earlier, but I have no doubt now that 5dimes was offering some ridiculous prices considering Tiger had to tee it up at Masters for action.

As it stands now, I’m not sure those odds are crazy enough to be worth taking from now until the end of August. The other obvious issue is if Tiger shows any signs of life, by June he is going to be incredibly overpriced at St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. I think it’s safe to say the Vegas odds will give him a better than 25% chance of winning those tournaments.

I’m going to set his fair price at somewhere between 28-30% to win each major, which leaves about a 25% chance that Tiger wins two majors this year. That gives a pretty decent edge on Tiger winning exactly two majors, though I have yet to decide if that is truly worth my sanity for 5 months.

Tiger Woods to Make the Cut -800(Bodog)
The Masters has a weird 10 shots rule, which means the number of people who make the cut varies(regular tour is top-70 and ties every week). The past two years, 45 and 49 players have made the cut. Based on my rankings, I think that seems like a reasonable number considering the weather and other factors aren’t as crazy as the year Immelman won.

Tiger has around a 95% chance of finishing in the top-46 slots. That seems pretty reasonable and appears to have value on Tiger making the cut, though this prop should be pretty widely offered Masters week and I doubt Bodog ends up with the best price.

Tiger’s lowest scoring round(Bodog)

First -7/2
2nd-2/1
3rd 2/1
Final 2/1

I would lean to the first round here, since, contrary to public opinion and Sunday Steve Marino, I haven’t seen any proof that a golfer is any different on a different day of the week on average. Also, it seems that Tiger will really struggle in his first round is the public sentiment, which seems to be underrating the first round. Still, that’s a lot of juice.

Tiger First Round Score(Bodog)
Over 70- +110
Under 70- -140

Again, if there wasn’t this whole debut, after massive tabloid scandal under 70 is the way to go. Based on the last two years, I have Tiger at 58% to shoot under 70 in round 1. I might be backing Tiger in the first round a lot, but this seems like a prop that will be widely available and found at a better price Masters week.

Tiger finishing position(Bodog)
1-3: 2-1
4-6: 2-1
7-10: 3-1
11+: 9-4

It appears ties count in this, so a t-3 would be 3. That makes two ways to do it by my numbers, one is to just use the standardized ranking to calculate the top-3, the other is to convert the rankings to scores and do it with ties worked in.

This is what I got(scores):
1-3: 51.6%
4-6: 16.3%
7-10: 7.1%
11+: 24.7%

Rankings:
1-3: 54.9%
4-6: 15.6%
7-10: 10.7%
11+: 18.5%

Once again, it appears the value lie on Tiger playing well. I have a feeling if Tiger is being offered at 2-1 to get in the top 3 and ties come Masters week that is something I might be interested in.

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BREAKING DOWN MY BRACKET

Midwest Region:
So much for Kansas being the #1 overall seed. It’s pretty clear they got a brutal road to the final four as Ohio State was thought to be a possibility for a 1 and Georgetown could easily have been a two. I’m not quite sure the math that led to Ohio State being the last number 2 seed, though I guess the Hoyas are probably the strongest 3(Sorry, Pitt).

I don’t see much reason to break with the chalk in this bracket in the long run. Kansas, tOSU, G-town, Maryland and Michigan State are all easy picks. Tennessee as only 3 point favorites is a tough one and depends on the size of your pool, but in a larger pool(~200) I’m taking the shot that an 11 seed winning is more beneficial to me against the field than losing one point with the six seed. With a strong G-town team lurking, neither of those teams are much of a bet to get past the second round so I think it’s +EV to take the TECS, who somehow slipped from the 4th number one discussion to 11.

The 8/9 and 7/10 games are both pretty close with small spreads, no real reason but I’m taking UNLV and Georgia Tech.

For the second round it get’s easy, Maryland, Georgetown, Kansas and tOSU are a step above the other winners and easy sweet 16 picks.

Kansas is clearly the number one team in the field, but at this point you have 4 of the top 11 teams in KenPom. I think at this point, size of your pool matters. If its a small pool play the odds and take Kansas(-128 at pinny). In a larger pool, G-town and tOSU might be options. If you’re going for the ESPN contest, or some huge pool, I think the best option is Maryland. Sure, they’ll have a tough road and are from favorites, but they are a strong team and to win a big pool you’re looking to hit the somewhat crazy bracket for a high score, not necessarily the best average score.

For me, I’ll take KU over tOSU, who has a slightly better team and a slightly easier path than G-Town, in the regional final. Rock Chalk.

West Region:

Syracuse has drawn a tough first round opponent and won’t have Onuaku, but let’s not get crazy. Kansas St. is strong as well, and are an obvious first round pick. Pittsburgh on the 3 line is hilariously bad, but Oakland is also an easy 14 draw, so I’m not going against a 10 point spread there. I’ll fade the name of Gonzaga in round 1, because Florida State is better(-1.5). BYU may have been the easiest pick in that bracket.

The rest of this bracket is nuts. 4/13, 5/12 and 6/11 are all very close games, and both of those teams are capable of winning multiple games. Minnesota is favored over Xavier and it’s possible, although not likely, they could be favored over Pitt. I hate Pitt, but neither Xavier and Minnesota are comfortable sweet 16 options. In the end, I’ll take Minnesota and hope what I could gain from their sweet 16 run is +EV against my pool.

I’ll take Butler and Vanderbilt both as -2.5 point favorites in the 4/5 game. After that, I’ll side with KenPom and Butler in what shouldn’t be too important as neither is a great option against ‘Cuse.

Minnesota and Butler can be justified into the sweet 16, but after that, Cuse and Kansas are much stronger and easy picks to meet in the regional final. At that point, I’m taking Kansas St., mainly because I think the Orange will be pretty popular picks to win the bracket, and Onuaku’s injury could make the first weekend tougher than expected, though K-State meeting BYU will be no walk in the park. If you’re looking for crazy but could happen, BYU could be a decent final four option, as they will almost certainly be favored in the sweet 16(in Salt Lake!) . Still, getting past K-State and ‘Cuse is no easy task and that’s why they sit at 10-1 to win the West.

South:
As soon as this region was out, I knew my winner: Duke. They are very good, and due to a history, both with Villanova and “choking” in general(West Va, Maynor!) they are going to be far less popular to win this region that they should be.

Alright, that leaves the rest. I think Baylor has emerged as the “sexy” final four pick this year as Villanova is the weakest two, and everyone hates Duke. I’ll keep that in mind for later, but it’s easy to advance the Bears as double-digit favorites. Let’s throw Villanova in as well as a quick decision to put them onto round 2.

Purdue is an easy choice, as well, even though they are only favored by 4. Siena’s recent tournament history and Purdue’s sluggish play A.H.I is enough to make Siena arguably the most attractive underdog pick of the tournament.

I heard @chadmillman tell me early this week that sharps love Texas A&M’s coaching, so give the Texas A&M major points for that. This one is another tough one to pick because given Purdue A.H.I. it’s likely that the winner of this could be favored to go to the sweet 16. I think it’s worth going outside the box, although not all that much less likely and putting Utah St into the sweet 16. Hopefully 2010 Heisman winner Diondre Borel shows up to cheer on the boys.

Old Dominion, again, I think is close enough to an overrated and overseeded Notre Dame team to warrant the upset. I don’t, however, think they are a good option to take down Baylor. Richmond is favored by 2 over St. Mary’s so I’m taking them in round 1. Cal coming out of the underrated Pac-10(at least compared to the BigEast) is a good choice as a PK against Louisville, but I’m only looking for the round 1 points there as Duke is penciled into the final four already.

That makes Duke easy winners over the improbable(although, less so than the public thinks) Utah State run, and Baylor easily over Old Dominion, because they are a lot more likely to get out of the first round. Villanova will be a favorite over the 7/10 winner and since they should have an easier path to the sweet 16, I think that gives them the nod over Baylor in what should be a close game. Obviously, both of those teams are losing to the Blue Devils.

East:
I hope everyone else was laughing at Kentucky’s draw as much as I was. Texas is an easy pick over Wake as 5 point favorites in round one. That leaves an interesting situation, where Kentucky will be really short favorites in round 2 against Texas and Wisconsin lurks as a really strong 4 seed in the sweet 16 match-up. I think this is a great chance to go outside the box, considering how egregiously overrated people have Kentucky. Texas for sure into the sweet 16 from that pod, and ETSU in the first round over Kentucky. Taking ETSU is crazy and mostly influenced by my hatred for Wall, Cousins and Calipari, but having Kentucky eliminated early makes sense, considering they aren’t that much more likely than Wisconsin to advance to the region final, current odds be damned.

Sorry Jay Bilas, but I’m taking Temple(-3.5) in round one over Cornell. Wofford could be tough for a 13, but Wisconsin is a double digit favorite and an easy pick. The Marquette/Washington/New Mexico/Montana presents no really good options. Marquette is way less likely to advance out of round 1, but would be favored over New Mexico should they meet in the second round. Tough call, and I would hear a case for New Mexico, Washington or Marquette advancing to the sweet 16, but I’m taking Marquette over New Mexico. West Virginia over Clemson follows the odds.

At this point, I think there are widely divergent paths you could take. I’m going with Wisconsin over West Virginia in the regional final, since Wisconsin is probably just as likely as Kentucky or West Virginia to win this region and figures to be far less popular. If you’re going for the home run bracket, why not Texas or even back track and take Clemson. They aren’t likely, but stand a reasonable chance of happening for those looking to be the center of attention at the water cooler. I’m taking Wisconsin, but the overwhelming theme of this bracket is NOT Kentucky.

Final Four:
Kansas is the best team in the country, Duke has the easiest path. It’s as simple as that for me. Kansas over K-State and Duke over Wisconsin to get to the title. Obviously, Duke would be the underdog in this scenario, but the odds of that actually being the match-up are slim enough that I think Duke’s easier road is a much safer bet.

Add in that Duke is by far the least popular number 1 seed to win, and I think that makes them the smart choice to win it all. 71-69, in fact.

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