Sunday, February 25, 2024

Partner Content | Golf betting trends for the PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy is gearing up for major season

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The Masters begins next Thursday and there is no shortage of storylines to accompany this year’s first major.

Scottie Scheffler continues to dominate but Rory McIlroy is heating up at the perfect time. We’ll take a look at both players but will also put some respect on Sam Burns’ name. Finally, Cameron Young has been knocking at the door for a while — can he kick it down?

Check out our latest golf betting trends as major season quickly approaches.

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Right time for Rory?

McIlroy’s season began with back-to-back wins at the CJ Cup in Carolina and then overseas at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

But that momentum didn’t carry into the PGA Tour’s designated events. Rory turned in two poor finishes — by his standards — at the WM Phoenix Open (T32) and the Genesis Invitational (T29). He then finished T2 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before missing the cut at the Players Championship.

For an average player, that string of results would be encouraging, but for a player of McIlroy’s calibre — with the Masters just around the corner — it wasn’t acceptable.

But a pair of equipment changes paid dividends for the Northern Irishmen at the WGC Dell Technologies matchplay. McIlroy opted for a shorter 44-inch driver shaft that helped free up his swing:

And I don’t think anyone can argue it did. The four-time major champion was roasting golf balls all over Austin Country Club. McIlroy picked up a ludicrous 6.8 strokes off-the-tee in the group stage, according to DataGolf. That was nearly double his next closest competitor (Scheffler, 3.8),

Oh yeah, he also did this:

The second change McIlroy made was adding a new putter to the bag. He went with a Scotty Cameron Newport GSS and looked comfortable on the greens, draining putts from all over the greens.

McIlroy ended up finishing third but was oh-so-close to beating Young in his semifinals matchup.

Confidence is key and Rory seems to have that in spades heading into Augusta.

Scheffler is on autopilot

Scheffler became the Masters’ betting favourite following the Match Play and there isn’t really an argument against that.

The 26-year-old found himself in a semi-final playoff against Burns and had a six-foot putt to advance to the finals for the third time in as many years. But he missed it and ended up losing on the next hole.

The margins for success in golf are razor thin and Scheffler settled for a fourth-place finish, which was his fourth in his past five starts. You can’t win ‘em all.

But the real question is when will this reign of terror come to an end? It doesn’t seem like any time soon.

Scheffler has been on autopilot for the better part of five months. He’s finished inside the top 12 in 10 straight events dating back to last November, has already won two huge events this season and has been knocking at the door of a couple of others.

The secret to his success? Not making bogeys. Scheffler has just 58 bogeys in 648 holes (that 8.95% rate is the best on Tour). When he does bogey, he bounces back with a birdie 36.54% of the time (which is also the best).

He’s also landed inside the top 10 in five of his last seven major appearances. Betting on him to do so again at Augusta and beyond seems like the right call.

Can Burns take the next step?

If you looked at Burns’ five finishes leading up to the Match Play, there were some wild inconsistencies and most of that can be attributed to hot-and-cold iron play:

Event Finish SG: APP
WM Phoenix Open T6 +0.45
Genesis Invitational CUT -0.80
Arnold Palmer Invitaitonal CUT -4.40
Players Championship T35 -0.04
Valspar Championship T6 +0.34

When Burns was on a role last season, his ball striking was comparable with the best on the planet. But something was up to start 2023, and whatever that was, it appears to be fixed.

Burns called in his long-time swing coach Brad Pullin to help him break through, and the results were tangible. He won his fifth PGA Tour event and his third in the past calendar year.

The putter never went away, as Burns has posted positive strokes gained: putting in every event dating back to the Houston Open last November. He currently ranks 10th in that category (+0.719).

If the iron game is back, Burns should be able to contend at almost every course on tour. But the Louisianan has only cracked the top 20 once at a major in 10 starts and the next few months will be telling to see if he can take the next step.

We think betting on him to card some impressive finishes will pay dividends.

Mr. runner-up

We mentioned Young in our last betting trends as a candidate to pick up a win soon.

That take wouldn’t qualify as rocket science, but Young was damn close to breaking through on Sunday — except he kind of wasn’t.

The 25-year-old boat raced most of his opponents through the group stage and quarterfinals before picking up two tight wins over Kurt Kitayama and McIlroy. He had a chance to grab his first PGA Tour win but was ultimately routed by Burns in the final.

With that many runner-up finishes, you can bet the scar tissue is beginning to build for Young. He finished one shot back of Cameron Smith at the Open Championship last year and was one shot out of a playoff at the PGA Championship, too (T3).

But Young’s stat profile is encouraging and we’d recommend continuing to bet on him moving forward. He’s a true ball-striker, ranking 15th in strokes gained: approach (+0.657) and fourth in birdie average (4.75).

Add in the fact that he’s now got an experienced caddie — Paul Tesori — on the bag and a win is bound to come soon. But maybe lock in a top-five finish in conjunction with a smaller wager on him to win.

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Avery Perri writes about sports betting for NorthStar Bets. NorthStar Bets is owned by NordStar Capital, which also owns Torstar, the Star’s parent company. Follow him on Twitter: @AveryPerri

Disclaimer This content was produced as part of a partnership and therefore it may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.

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