in association with Media Folk
Amidst a long list of golf luminaries over the years, from legends of the past including Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, to modern-day icons such as Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka, the sport has been blessed with many phenomenal players for us to admire. However, they don’t always get their own way on the greens and fairways, because sometimes, surprising tournament winners can emerge to steal the limelight.
That’s arguably what makes the sport so popular amongst fans and followers around the world. Although we cherish watching the very best players at their peak and in full swing, so to speak, there’s always the possibility that someone we’ve never heard of might win a major tournament or championship. An underdog who on his day, drives without defect, pitches to perfection and putts with panache.
Finding Good Value Golf Bets
We’re never surprised to see the most famous and successful players regularly topping the tournament leaderboards regularly, although their status as favorites will mean shorter odds and little value backing them, requiring larger stakes to get limited returns. Instead, taking a deeper look through the PGA Tour player statistics and beyond the biggest names, can prove more useful towards identifying potential candidates to cause an upset at tournaments.
There are frequently players who can produce consistent golf, hovering midway in the leaderboard at many tournaments, before hitting the headlines with a surprise championship win. Sometimes there are players we already know well, yet after several years of doldrums on the professional tour, suddenly return to the fore. Likewise, there are young golfers showing considerable promise, ready to pounce for their first major win.
While there hasn’t been a major tournament held in New Jersey since the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield (more on that later), the Garden State has become hugely influential in sports betting over the last couple of years. After successfully challenging the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) at the Supreme Court, state legislation approves betting in New Jersey allowing golf fans to wager on tournaments anywhere in the world.
Now that sports betting is being legalized by more states around the country, sportsbooks are also offering an increased variety of golf markets, introducing more wagering options. These include over or under scorecard predictions, odds to place in the top 20 of a tournament leaderboard, plus a wide range of head-to-head and tournament specific moneylines. This means that fans of golf betting don’t just have to tournament winners, they can look for alternative markets, studying form and statistics to pick alternative bets more wisely.
The Biggest Major Tournament Upsets
The original golf underdog tale is that of American amateur Francis Ouimet, a caddie and sporting goods store clerk who hit the headlines way back in 1913. At that time British golfers were the dominant force and at the U.S. Open that year, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray were the clear favorites. Nevertheless, it was 20-year-old Ouimet who triumphed and put golf on the front page of newspapers for the first time in the United States, also greatly elevating the status of the sport throughout the country.
Another memorable U.S. Open upset occurred just over four decades later in 1955, at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. By now American golfers numbered amongst the best in the world, with legendary Ben Hogan undoubtedly the greatest of his era and having won the Open on four of the previous seven occasions, he was aiming for a record fifth. The eventual winner in an 18-hole playoff was Jack Fleck, a little-known pro from Iowa, who beat his golfing inspiration using clubs manufactured by Hogan’s company.
Considered to be the greatest player of the 21st century, Tiger Woods was still in the midst of his magnificent peak years when competing for the 2009 PGA Championship. Although the American superstar had led after 54 holes, a spectacular final round by Y.E. Yang saw the South Korean mount a remarkable comeback, claiming his first and only major. That said, it’s often forgotten that Yang had also previously beaten Woods at the HSBC Champions event in 2006, then part of the European Tour, which could be viewed as a portent for the later victory.
More recently, the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey produced a surprise winner. After turning professional during the 2003-04 season, Oklahoma golfer Jimmy Walker had to wait ten years before winning his first PGA Tour event in 2013. By 2016 he’d won five minor tournaments, yet never fared well at majors. That all changed with a score of 14 under par on the Lower Course at Baltusrol, as Walker beat 2015 winner Jason Day by just one shot to grab the title and his moment of glory.
Next Big Underdog Winners?
Given that the 2019-20 season has already been a promising year for rookie players on the PGA Tour, keeping an eye on some of the newest names on the professional golfing circuit makes sense, especially for those of us who regularly wager on tournaments. Scott Harrington will be one to watch after some great rounds in 2019, including the runner-up spot at the Houston Open. After finishing second at the Bermuda Championship in 2019, Harry Higgs is another young player aiming to make his mark in the years to come.
These are just two players with the ability and talent to be future major championship winners, which indicates that if you follow the progress of the next generation of golfing stars, there’s plenty of scope to keep track of potential underdog triumphs in the years to come.