Another week, another Fall Swing winner from the Golf Digest expert picks column, with both Rick Gehman and Brandon Gdula hitting on Viktor Hovland’s title defense at 19-1 in Mayakoba. Picking up right where we left off in 2020-’21. Not to brag.
This week, we like our chances again, even with just one year of course history at second-year Houston Open host venue Memorial Park. Not sure if you’ve heard, but Brooks Koepka did have a little bit of input on the massive renovation project, which was largely overseen by Tom Doak. It’s made Koepka anything but a sneaky play this week among the gambling community.
While Koepka deserves plenty of attention, there are a ton of intriguing names at the top of this week’s odds board, which the scorching-hot Sam Burns sits atop as the solo favorite. Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith, Sungjae Im, Talor Gooch, Matthew Wolff, Tyrrell Hatton and Tony Finau fill in the space between Burns and Koepka. Our experts aren’t straying too much further down the board, because if the Fall Swing has shown us anything it’s that elite players usually win golf tournaments.
Houston Open 2021 picks: Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Sam Burns (12-1, DraftKings) — It’s crazy to think four-time major champ Brooks Koepka is double the odds of Sam Burns. But Burns has really put on tee-to-green exhibitions all year. He doesn’t get enough credit. He got the win at Sanderson, and I could absolutely see him winning again. He’s motivated to be a star.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Brooks Koepka (28-1, DraftKings) — Forget all that business about him helping redesign the course, that matters not. What matters is that you’re getting the best player in the field at 28-1. Sure, he’s been playing like trash, but this is really no different than his horrendous play before winning in Phoenix in February. And, in the outright betting market, there’s no difference between second place and a missed cut. Go with the guy who churns out those firsts at the highest rate in the field.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Cameron Smith (23-1, FanDuel) — Last year, we saw Memorial Park reward those with great wedge play, and that sets up well for Cam Smith. He’s my win simulation model’s most likely winner but isn’t listed as a betting favorite; there’s value here. The course played moderately tough a year ago, and Smith has a combination of birdie ability and bogey avoidance.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Russell Henley (45-1, DraftKings) — Are there better players in the field? Absolutely. Are there better players at better prices? Probably not. Memorial Park will be stout, checking in at 7,400 yards as a par 70—but that shouldn’t intimidate Henley. He’s made 13 starts in his career on par 70s that are at least 7,250 yards. He’s gained strokes on the field in every start and has four top-10 finishes. His 1.31 strokes gained per round is second to only Koepka of golfers in this field who have played at least 40 rounds under those conditions, per the RickRunGood.com golf database.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Joaquin Niemann (30-1, PointsBet) — It’s tough coming off a few ShotLink-less weeks—we’re flying a little blind without the data. What we do know is Niemann’s playing some great golf this year, with runners-up at Rocket Mortgage and the Sony Open. And he finished fifth after a hot Sunday at Mayakoba. I just think Niemann’s peaking toward another win soon, and his length should be a big advantage at Memorial Park.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Brooks Koepka (28-1, DraftKings) — Will go to war with Brooksy one more time before we don’t see him again until 2022. As Pat said, he missed three straight cuts before winning at Scottsdale last year, so the poor recent form doesn’t scare me at all. He’s the best “flip-switcher” in the world, and at 28-1 that’s absolutely worth the risk.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Talor Gooch (30-1, FanDuel) — Gooch comes into this event ranked second for strokes-gained/total over the last two months and ninth in the FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking. His fourth-place finish here last year will ensure he comes brimming with confidence too.
Houston Open 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses
Caddie: Sahith Theegala (150-1, BetMGM) — You’ve seen his name on the leader board a few times already in the fall. It will be a continued sight all year. This loaded field might be a tall task for him, but 150-1 just seems too high.
Mayo: Danny Willett (130-1, DraftKings) — The king of mixed results, Willett has started to play much more consistent golf the last two months and even won the Alfred Dunhill Links event a month ago. A terrific scrambler, Willett tends to play better in more difficult conditions, and a par 70 playing over 7,400 yards will afford him that luxury.
Gdula: Charley Hoffman (90-1, FanDuel) — Hoffman finished 29th here last year, giving him course knowledge and success at a still-new track. He’s got the right combination of Bermuda putting and tee-to-green ability to pull off a win as a long shot.
Gehman: Denny McCarthy (180-1, DraftKings) — We are seeing signs of life from McCarthy lately, making the cut in Bermuda then following it up with a T-15 last week in Mayakoba. Now he gets to travel to Houston where he will find Bermudagrass greens. McCarthy has gained 0.82 strokes putting per round on that surface, making him the best Bermudagrass putter on the planet.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Shane Lowry (46-1, FanDuel) — Andy Lack’s Inside Golf podcast is always a great listen, and that’s true this week despite him having my guy CP on his show. CP and Andy make the case for a bunch of guys who play hard, long golf courses well … Tyrrell Hatton, Marc Leishman, Grace (below). Lowry’s in that category, too, and his price is finally starting to creep above the 30s and 35-1s we were seeing this summer. The Irishman finished T-11 here last year, too. Take the drift.
Powers, Golf Digest: Branden Grace (95-1, FanDuel) — Friend of the “Be Right” podcast Andy Lack convinced me on the South African this week. Grace plays his best golf on tougher courses, evidenced by top 10s at Zozo, Wyndham, the U.S. Open and Memorial, which all came in the last five months.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Denny McCarthy (180-1, DraftKings) — Not only is McCarthy the best putter in the field on fast Bermuda greens, he ranks seventh in the FanShare’s course-suitability ranking this week. A pair of 69s last year here at Memorial Park shows just how well he can navigate his ball around here. Two top 20s in his last four events shows he’s current form is solid too.
Houston Open 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Brooks Koepka (28-1, DraftKings) — That long range session Koepka put in at Mayakoba is probably not a good sign. I’m sure Jena was none too pleased.
Mayo: Sam Burns (12-1, DraftKings) — The betting favorite is likely to have a good week, but generating the same favorite number he saw at Sanderson isn’t quite the same when you glance at the other higher-end options in the field this week.
Gdula: Scottie Scheffler (16-1, FanDuel) — It’s really nothing against Scheffler in particular but more a statement of the value at the top of the field. Aside from Cam Smith, the top of the field rates out as overvalued, via my model, and so it’s hard to recommend a favorite. I’m more worried about Sam Burns than Scheffler, so Scheffler is the least likely bet I’ll have this week.
Gehman: Adam Scott (28-1, DraftKings) — It’s a bit jarring to see Scott’s price shorter than Aaron Wise, Joaquin Niemann, Carlos Ortiz and even Patrick Reed. All of which have either played much better in the short-term or own more historical win equity than Scott. Scott has been a little volatile recently and Bermudagrass is his worst putting surface.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Aaron Wise (30-1, DraftKings) — Who is going to bet Aaron Wise at 30-1 in a field like this?
Powers, Golf Digest: Matthew Wolff (25-1, DraftKings) — This could end up looking very dumb come Sunday, but I’m not prepared to overpay for Wolff just yet. Would love to see him drift back to 40- or 50-1 this winter and pounce then.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Tony Finau (25-1, DraftKings) — Finau ranks just 78th in the FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking this week and didn’t even make the top 20 here last year. His recent form has not been great too, ranking just 69th for SG/total over the past two months.
Houston Open 2021 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Mackenzie Hughes (+115) over Maverick McNealy (Bet365) — McNealy’s playing some solid golf in the past few months, but Hughes embraces the long, tough golf course—like we saw at Torrey Pines. McNealy is more of a shorter course savant.
Mayo: Patrick Reed (-110) over Christiaan Bezuidenhout (DraftKings) — Very similar players outside of one very clear difference: When running well, Reed can really drive the ball. Bezuidenhout never really can. That’s a BIG advantage for Reed this week at a longer track . . . assuming he’s not spraying it all over the course.
Gdula: Kevin Streelman (-112) C.T. Pan (FanDuel) — Long term, Streelman separates in this head-to-head in tee-to-green play and in overall ball-striking over Pan. Each are similar putters, so I’ll be taking the edge in tee-to-green here.
Gehman: Matthew Wolff (-130) over Marc Leishman (DraftKings) — We are seeing signs of positive play from Wolff, who has finished T-17, runner-up and T-5 in his three starts this season. His style of play couldn’t be any more different than Leishman’s style and on a 7,400-yard par 70, it’s Wolff’s natural skill-set that creates the edge.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Sam Burns (-122) over Scottie Scheffler (FanDuel) — Burns is playing as well as anybody in the world right now, and sure, Scheffler had a great week last week—but he also had a T-38 and a MC in his two previous starts. I’ll take the consistency of Burns here.
Powers, Golf Digest: Talor Gooch (-110) over Tony Finau (DraftKings) — Gooch is absolutely cooking right now with four straight top-11 finishes, plus he finished fourth here last year. Finau has hit the ball quite well in the fall but his putting has been abysmal and Bermuda appears to be his least favorite putting surface according to the numbers.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Sungjae Im (-122) over Tony Finau (FanDuel) — As you can see above I don’t like Finau this week, Im on the other hand comes into this event ranked second in the FanShareSports CSR and fourth for SG/total over the last two months and third for SG/total over the last two years.
Matchup Results from the Houston Open: Caddie: 1 for 1 (Hovland (-143) over Finau); Mayo: 1 for 1 (Thomas (-105) over Ancer); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Grillo (-120) over Harman); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Scheffler (-120) over Koepka); Powers: PUSH (Fowler (-120) over Rose); Gehman: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1
Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Mayo: 6-1-0 (up 4.52 units); Caddie: 5-2-0 (up 2.66 units); Powers: 4-2-1 (up 1.82 units); Gehman: 2-4-1 (down 2.26 units); Alldrick: 2-4-1 (down 2.32 units); Hennessey: 2-5-0 (down 3.20 units); Gdula: 1-6-0 (down 5.07 units)
Houston Open 2021 picks: Top 10s
Caddie: Sam Burns (+150) — I might as well back up our Burns outright with the top-10.
Mayo: Branden Grace (+550, DraftKings) —The more difficult and gusty the conditions, the better for Grace. While the ball striking is never consistent, he’s seen spike weeks with his irons and his short game is always reliable.
Gdula: Tyrrell Hatton (+310, FanDuel) — Hatton is trending back up and is available at a good number for a top-10 finish. Hatton has great wedge play and is sixth in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green in my database over the past year.
Gehman: Jason Kokrak (+350, DraftKings) — On paper, Memorial Park should be a perfect fit for Kokrak. When things are going well, he’s long off-the-tee and has a putter that allows him to reach his ceiling more frequently than his peers. He’ll need to shake off a run of bad form recently, but his price is depressed and too good to pass up.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Max Homa (+700, FanDuel) — It seems like oddsmakers regularly forget how good Max Homa is, even after he keeps winning. A difficult, long course is typically where Homa has had success (Riviera, Quail Hollow, for example).
Powers, Golf Digest: Brandon Hagy (+1600, DraftKings) — A bit of a Hail Mary here, yes, but Hagy has so much upside, particularly off the tee, that he’s worth a flyer every week because of how ridiculous his odds always are.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+550, FanDuel) — Bezuidenhout ranks third in the Fanshare’s course-suitability ranking this week. One of the main reasons for this is his excellent putting on fast Bermuda greens. He ranks second in the field this week for SG/putting on fast Bermuda over the last two years. His form is also good having recorded a 15th, fifth and third-place finish in his last four events.
Top-10 results from the Houston Open: Everybody: 0 for 1
Top-10 results from this season: Powers: 2 for 7 (up 12 units); Mayo: 1 for 7 (up 8 units); Caddie: 1 for 7 (down 4.3 units); Hennessey: 1 for 7 (down 1.5 units); Gdula: 0 for 7 (down 7 units); Gehman: 0 for 7 (down 7 units); Alldrick: 0 for 7 (down 7 units)
Houston Open 2021 picks: One and Done
Gehman: Sam Burns — Every arrow points directly at Burns this week. He’s gained 2.14 strokes per round in his last 24 rounds, second on TOUR to only Jon Rahm. He hasn’t finished worse than T-21 in any of his last seven events while earning a win at the Sanderson Farms Championship in the process. Now he heads back to Bermudagrass greens, which is his specialty. His last four starts on Bermudagrass greens have yielded two wins, a T-2 and a T-18 — per the RickRunGood.com golf database. The year of Sam Burns is going to continue this week in Houston.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Kevin Na; Sanderson Farms Championship: Mito Pereira. Shriners: Abraham Ancer. CJ Cup: Louis Oosthuizen. Zozo Championship: Hideki Matsuyama. Bermuda Championship: Seamus Power. Mayakoba: Abraham Ancer.
Hennessey: Sam Burns — Ride the hot hand.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Emiliano Grillo; Sanderson Farms Championship: Carlos Ortiz. Shriners: Abraham Ancer. CJ Cup: Collin Morikawa. Zozo Championship: Takumi Kanaya. Bermuda Championship: Seamus Power. Mayakoba: Aaron Wise.
Powers: Marc Leishman — Leish has been putting the lights out lately and Bermuda greens are where he does his best work.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Brendan Steele. Sanderson Farms Championship: Mito Pereira. Shriners: Aaron Wise. CJ Cup: Talor Gooch. Zozo Championship: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda Championship: Patrick Rodgers. Mayakoba: Jhonattan Vegas.
By The Numbers
2.06 – The strokes gained per round by Sungjae Im in his last 24 rounds. That’s second to only Sam Burns and they are the only two golfers gaining 2+ strokes per round.
41.6% – The percentage of time that this event has gone to a playoff in the last 12 years (5/12).
15 – The number of consecutive cuts made by Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the longest active streak of anyone in this field.
7.75 – The average finish for Talor Gooch in four starts this season (T-11, T-5, T-11, T-4).
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.
This article originally appeared on Golf Digest.