With the year’s final major in the books and the FedEx Cup Playoffs still weeks away, the caravan rolls into Motor City for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, at Detroit Golf Club.
We’re in something of a lull in the PGA Tour schedule.
But just because the field is not the season’s strongest doesn’t mean the handicapping has to slow.
To No. 4 in the world, Patrick Cantlay is the highest-ranked player. He is also the odds-on favourite, but red-hot Tony Finau is close behind as he looks to bag his second win in as many weeks.
Other notables include Will Zalatoris, Open Championship runner-up Cameron Young and Rocket Mortgage defending champion Cam Davis.
And let’s not forget Andy Lack, GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator. A data analyst for Odds Checker, and the co-host of The Scramble, a twice-weekly golf handicapping show, Lack does not base his plays on random guesswork.
And this week, in a change of format, we’re tapping deeper into his expertise by asking him to give us his four favorite wagers. His picks, along with the reasoning behind them, are laid out below.
Lack is a pro. But if you also want to know where public opinion is leaning, keep reading. Below his picks, we’re sharing data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform (and GOLF.com affiliate) that allows you to engage with the action through a range of games.
Andy Lack’s Expert Picks:
Wine roof: Sahith Theegala (+4600)
Odds available on Bet365
I’ve had Theegala earmarked at this event for months, and I am far from deterred by his missed cut last week at the 3M Open. The former Haskins Award winner’s ball-striking remained steady, and he only missed out on the weekend due to a faulty putter. Now, he travels to a golf course that should be a better fit for his game.
Theegala’s biggest weakness is the occasional big miss with the driver, a flaw that will be exposed often at a course like TPC Twin Cities, but little at Detroit Golf Club. We’ve seen Theegala go head-to-head on Sunday with players such as Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and Schauffele again at the Travelers Championship. Some may view these near misses as scar tissue. I see them as worthy learning experiences for a towering talent who is due to break through.
Top 10: Scott Stallings (+600)
Odds available on FanDuel
Stallings has quietly been playing some excellent golf this season, and he’s coming off a fourth-place finish at the John Deere Classic where he gained four strokes off the tee, and 3.7 strokes on approach. Before that, he finished eighth at the Travelers on the bent/poa greens, the same type he’ll face this week.
Stallings checks the rare box of a player coming in with great ball-striking form, who is also an ideal course fit. The three-time PGA Tour winner has above average distance off the tee, is a great wedge player and has shown an ability to catch fire with the flatstick. Most of his best finishes have come in tournaments with easier scoring conditions, and I have little doubt about his ability to keep up in a birdie-fest.
Top 40: Taylor Pendrith (+110)
Odds available on DraftKings
Pendrith has been on my radar since he competed at the Bermuda Championship during the fall swing. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed his season and he was sidelined for four months between March and July. The Canadian returned to action at the Barbasol Championship with a 13th-place finish and backed it up the following week with an 11th-place finish at the Barracuda Championship.
Pendrith is known for his elite driving ability, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s currently the longest player on Tour. Detroit Golf Club is a course we’ve seen overpowered before. There’s an interesting parallel between Detroit GC and Winged Foot, as Bryson DeChambeau and Matthew Wolff were able to use the same strategy at both courses of aggressively wailing away with driver to get as close to the green as possible, knowing that even from the rough, they would be able to stop their shorter irons on the back to front sloping greens.
As a relative unknown, Pendrith gained more than four strokes off the tee at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot deploying a similar strategy. While I’m worried his spotty iron play could hold him back from contending, I’m confident his dominance off the tee will carry him to a top-40 finish, at the very least.
Matchup: Rickie Fowler (+100) over Jason Day
Odds available on DraftKings
It’s hard not to categorize both players in this matchup as disappointments this season, but I remain far more bullish on Fowler. The former Players Championship winner quietly gained three strokes off the tee last week en route to a 36th-place finish at the 3M Open.
While swing changes have contributed to Fowler’s spotty recent form, one aspect of his game that has improved is his distance off the tee. Fowler ranks top-30 in this field in driving distance, and we’ve begun to finally see his work on distance gains come to fruition. The 3M Open was his best off the tee week since the CJ Cup in October. Now, he returns to a course that he has never missed a cut at in three appearances.
I find Jason Day much harder to trust right now, as it’s difficult to tell if he’s ever fully healthy. He recently withdrew from the John Deere Classic, and while he started out strong last week at the 3M Open, he was one of the worst players in the field over the weekend, fading to a T64. Fowler is simply a safer bet to make the cut and put four rounds together right now, and I will gladly back him at plus money.
Who the betting public likes to win
Some 600 users have already made their picks for Chirp’s free-to-play Trifecta game, a healthy sample that gives us a sense where public sentiment stands. As a reminder, the Trifecta game calls for players to make three picks: a favourite, a contender and a long shot, all categories based on the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s a look at the three top vote getters in each category, along with the percentage of votes they received.
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Favorites (players ranked 1-20):
Patrick Cantlay (33.39 percent)
Will Zalatoris (23.04 percent)
Tony Finau (14.19 percent)
Contenders (players ranked 21-60):
Denny McCarthy (24.21 percent)
Stewart Cink (11.35 percent)
Emiliano Grillo (7.01 percent)
Long Shots (players ranked 61 or higher):
John Huh (18.86 percent)
Nick Hardy (14.19 percent)
Scott Piercy (7.68 percent)