Anatomy of a 35-1 Winner: Handicapping Chris Kirk at the PGA Honda Classic

by Hollywood Sports

Chris Kirk went into Sunday of the PGA Honda Classic with a two-stroke lead — but after bogeying a Par 4 at the 13th green, he fell behind rookie Eric Cole who was simultaneously registering a birdie at the 14th hole. Trailing by one stroke, Kirk then returned the favor to Cole by gaining two strokes by getting a birdie on the 16th hole while Cole was bogeying the 17th hole. After a nice drive on the 18th hole with a one-stroke lead on that Par 5, Kirk then began the draw on his second shot approach shot far too right with his ball landing about two inches shy of safe grass and bouncing back into the ocean to incur a penalty stroke. 

Cole looked to have the tournament in hand — but his approach shot was too hot and he found himself in the back bunker. Cole settled for par — and Kirk was able to salvage a bogey to force a playoff. After being forced to lay up after an errant tee shot that landed behind a tree, Kirk then pulled off a magnificent third shot putting him about six inches from the hole. Cole missed his long birdie putt which allowed Kirk to claim the championship with his easy tap-in. And Kirk rewarded Hollywood Sports’ PGA Tour regulars with the win at 35-1 odds. 

That was our second PGA Tour win in the last five weeks after cashing with Max Homa’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open at 22-1 odds last month. We now have seven 1st place winners in our last 19 PGA Tour events. Now those are not 19 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 very nice to get our second winner under our belts for 2023 in the eighth tournament of the new year — and it continues a good run we were on to close out the 2021-2022 PGA Tour season. 

Kirk was too good to pass up on with the PGA Tour moving to Florida. While he opened at 25-1 odds at DraftKings on Monday after finishing in 7th place at this tournament last year, the market pushed his odds up to 35-1 by Wednesday to my delight. The Honda Classic at the PGA National Resort The Champion Course in Palm Springs is a Par 70 consisting of 7125 yards. The professionals were challenged by water hazards that impact 15 holes along with 67 bunkers. Tight fairways, three-inch Bermuda grass rough, and the propensity for high winds added to the intrigue this week. Only two Par 5s are on the course and the Par 3s are notoriously difficult. The 7000 square foot putting greens consist of TifEagle Bermuda grass that measures up to 12 feet on the stimpmeter. The average score in 2022 at this event was 71.341.

I liked that Kirk would have a chip on his shoulder after being in second place after Rounds One, Two, and Three before taking a step back in the final round on Sunday and settling for that 7th place. He finished tied for 21st place here in 2021 — so he likes this course. Said Kirk about his preference for courses that feature Bermuda grass greens: "If I know the greens are real quick and I can just kind of let it go, that seems to be when I hit my best putts and I seem to be pretty decent at reading Bermuda greens, so it's a combination of a number of things, but yeah, it's just what I'm most comfortable on." Kirk ranked 5th in the field this week in Adjusted Score when playing on courses with Bermuda greens over the last two years — and he ranks 15th in the field in over-performance on courses with Bermuda greens versus his baseline results over the last two years. 

Kirk opened 2023 with a 3rd place finish at the PGA Sony Open in Hawai’i before following that up with a tie for 3rd place at The American Express — but he had some extra to prove last week after missing the cut in his most recent event at the PGA WM Phoenix Open two weeks prior. Kirk is one of the better ball-strikers on the tour. He ranked 20th on the tour for 2021-22 in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green — and four of the last five winners of this tournament also led the field in that metric. Kirk also ranked fifth in the field in his last 24 rounds in Shots-Gained on Par 4 holes which will be important this week given the two fewer Par 5s. 

I always recommend three golfers per golf Betting Report. Kirk was our Top Overlay Bet representing the golfer who offered the most value relative to the odds — circumstances that got even better when his odds dropped from 25-1 to 35-1. Our Best Bet was on Shane Lowry who was in contention going into Sunday but settled for a tie for 5th place. Our Long Shot Bet on a golfer listed outside the top ten initial favorites was on Jhonnatan Vegas who finished tied for 21st place after registering a six-under round on Sunday. 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. We went a winning 2-1 with those props with Kirk and Vegas winning their head-to-head tournament matchups but Lowry losing his Round One head-to-head prop with Billy Horschel who came out on Thursday of the week strong before taking a step or two back by shooting three-over par the rest of the way and finishing in a tie for 42nd place. 

Regulars now have over 53 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 53 events and still keep a profit. That'll work (again). 

Best of luck — Frank.

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

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