Anatomy of a 22-1 Winner: Handicapping Max Homa at the PGA Farmers Insurance Open

by Hollywood Sports

Max Homa began Sunday of the PGA Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines trailing by five strokes to Sam Ryder. But about after a half hour after CBS-TV was interviewing Ryder’s mother about his potential victory, Homa birdied the 16th hole while the pressure got to Ryder who double-bodied the 15th hole — and that three-stroke swing gave Homa the lead that he would not relent. Homa went on to birdie the Par-5 18th hole to finish a five-under-par round to soon win the tournament by two strokes over Keegan Bradley who finished in 2nd place. And Homa rewarded Hollywood Sports’ PGA Tour regulars with the win at 22-1 odds. 

That was our sixth 1st place winner in our last 16 PGA Tour events. Now those are not 16 consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour. I do take the fall from handicapping golf after the PGA Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta. It takes me three or so hours to research and handicap each PGA Tour event — and that is time I desperately need for football in the fall. Besides, most of the professional golfers take the fall schedule with a grain of salt without any of the majors on the schedule — so it is a good fit to forego this event during the height of the football season. There are only so many hours in the day. When the PGA Tour picks up again in early January, I begin handicapping golf again which is a nice fit with football winding down to just the NFL playoffs. It was nice to get our first winner under our belts for 2023 in the fourth tournament of the new year — and it continues a good run we were on to close out the 2021-2022 PGA Tour season. 

Homa looked intriguing at 22-1 odds for this event set just outside San Diego. Success at Torrey Pines requires the golfers to use all 14 clubs in their bags. The rough grows out to four inches. The North Course plays much easier than the South Course — and it actually ranks as one of the easiest tracks on the tour. At 7258 yards, the pros on the North Course shot an average of three shots better there than on the South Course which consists of 7765 yards with narrow fairways and small greens. The Poa Annua greens on the South Course play slower and can be more of a challenge than the Bentgrass putting surface on the North Course. Furthermore, heavy winds were expected on Thursday for the second round — and that will impact our strategy. We wanted to avoid golfers playing the easier North Course on Thursday since they will have to deal with these winds; instead, we wanted to want to target golfers who can take advantage of the easier North Course in better weather conditions on Wednesday. Jon Rahm was the clear favorite at this event given his red-hot form and excellent cause history here — and he was listed at a mere +450 at DraftKings to win this event. But he got the North Course on Thursday — giving us another reason to fade him (besides his odds being simply too small relative to the strong field).

I always recommend three golfers per golf Betting Report. Our Top Overlay Bet for the PGA Farmers Insurance Open on the golfer who offers the most value relative to the odds is on Max Homa who was listed at +2200 odds at DraftKings. Homa was born and raised in Southern California before playing his college golf at the University of California-Berkeley — so he is comfortable and experienced in this environment. He likes putting on Poa Annua greens. He had nine top-20s in his last 11 tournaments with Poa Annua putting surfaces — and that includes three wins. He ranked 6th in the field in Adjusted Scoring the last two years on courses with Poa Annua greens. Homa is in good form with his last event being at the PGA Sentry Tournament of Champions last month where he finished tied for 3rd place. Homa is well-rounded with good ball-striking skills. For the 2021-22 season, he ranked 13th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Total while ranking 24th in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green. So far for 2022-23, Homa ranks 7th in Shots-Gained: Total and 21st in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green. Homa finished tied for 18th at this tournament in 2021 after a tie for 9th place in 2020 — and I expected that he should be feisty in his return to La Jolla this year after missing the cut at this event last year. Homa also got to play the easier North Course on Day One before the winds amped up for everyone on Thursday (Day Two).

For the three golfers I endorse for a golf tournament, I also recommend a head-to-head prop bet as an avenue to take more advantage of the golfers I have identified that have value for that event. Homa was linked with Taylor Montgomery in tournament matchup head-to-head props. Montgomery finished in the 57th place at the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2021 before a tie for 11th place at the Farmers last year. While that is a great finish for the rookie this season, I noted that 12 of the last 14 winners of this tournament had previously finished in the top-ten at this event — and Homa met this qualification with his 2020 performance. Montgomery is an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year this season after making all nine of his cuts with eight top-15 finishes. But his ball-striking is not elite. Montgomery ranks 157th on the tour for 2022-23 in Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green and 84th in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green. Five of the last six winners at this event finished in the top-16 in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green for the week. Montgomery is an outstanding putter — but the long distance and the smaller greens at the South Course are a mix that does not fit his game. Montgomery ranks tied for 94th this season in his Approach from 200 yards or farther. Homa ranked 25th in that metric last season. Montgomery finished in 31st place by shooting even par for the four rounds, leaving us with an easier winner. 

Our Best Bet to win this event is on Will Zalatoris who was listed at +1800 at DraftKings. He did not fire well after a second round of 77 which led to him missing the cut. Our Long Shot Bet on a golfer outside the top-ten favorites was on Maverick McNealy who was listed at +3500 odds at DraftKings. He finished tied for 31st at even par — but he did outperform J.J. Spaun who was our tournament matchup head-to-head prop with him. 

With two of three prop bet winners on top of the 22-1 winner on Homa, the PGA Tour was very profitable for us this week. But long-term success betting gold requires close attention to money management principles. 

Here are my money management recommendations for regulars. I like to consider the three "to win" prop bets as lottery tickets. If your typical bet is X, then I am fine if you wager 10-30% of X into each golfer to win - -just be consistent with that method from week to week. I am also fine if you are more ambitious with these bets and wager up to X on each golfer per week. Throughout the season, we have been profitable -- so I preach consistency with the investments each week. I am also OK with a slow uptick in the initial investment if the bankroll warrants -- maybe go from 20% of X to 25%.  For the head-to-head prop bets, treat them as either 10* or 20* bets (if you choose to invest in them) -- and stay consistent from week to week. Regulars now have over 44 weeks of free rolls from previous PGA Tour winnings since last summer -- meaning they could invest their X into our Best Bet, Top Overlay, and Long Shot each week for the next 44 events and still keep a profit. That'll work. 

Best of luck — Frank.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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