Golf Editorial

20121228 Players Who Place

Firstly, let’s define ‘place’. For me personally it’s usually a Top5, simply because I like to take each way doubles, but for the purposes of this article let’s make it Top10.

Most  bookmakers offer Top10 betting markets and there are even some Top10 markets offered by the often golf betting-unfriendly Betfair!

So, the references to ‘place’ that follow refer to Top10’s and I’ll restrict myself to canvassing Mens golf because the available betting markets for Ladies golf are, in a word, pathetic and a black mark on the escutcheon of every bookmaker and exchange in the world – a mixture of male sexism & pure apathy which is a topic for another day!

When bookmakers create a place price, and bear in mind they’re creating a thousand of them within a very short timeframe early each week, they don’t have the time to look at each player’s true place probability; for them it’s all about the probability of each player winning.

The bookmaker’s primary concern is to lay win bets at less than the true probabilities; he doesn’t care about the Top10 odds because he knows he’ll never be exposed to losing big money on bets in those markets.

So, what most bookmakers do is spend their time trying to get their win prices right and then use a simple algorithm to auto-derive place prices for each player. For example, a guy might be a 2% chance, 50/1 (51.00), to win a tournament and the algorithm might derive a place price of 6.00.

Using such a Top10 (or any placing: Top5, Top25, etc) algorithm makes the assumption that every player’s chances of placing are directly correlated with his chances of winning. This is a mistake and one the smart golf bettor can exploit.

We all know players that play exceptionally well, and who place often, but who struggle to win.

George Coetzee is a case in point. In 2012 he played 27 tournaments and placed Top10 nine times without winning; a 33% probability of placing. However, this type of player who is (unbelievably) regarded by bookmakers as a winning chance each time he plays, is of no use to smart golf bettors looking for place value. We want guys that are going to place ‘under the place radar’.

What we want are guys that are not regarded as serious winning chances by the bookmakers (guys who are 60/1, 100/1 or even 200/1) but who are genuinely capable of placing in the Top10. And we want to bet on them at double their true place probability! Or more!

To illustrate my above points, here is some of my logic and thoughts on two example players from tournaments played during the last week of golf betting in 2012. These are golfers who I publicly priced far shorter than the bookmaker market and who placed Top10:

Example #1 – Australian PGA Championship – Brad Kennedy – 4th

Kennedy is a quality Australian player who plies his trade on the Japan Tour. He returns home to Australia at each season’s end and typically plays a few home events before taking a well-earned holiday break.

He was rated 60/1 (61.00) by bookmakers to win the PGA, giving auto-derived Top10 prices in the range of 5.50 – 7.00 if my memory serves me correctly.

If we examined his past record in this tournament (prior 6 years) we’d see placings of: 12, 14, 15, 24, 15, 21. So this tells us that he is experienced on the course and, with a stroke or two saved each year, would have placed Top10 almost every start. But, based solely on that knowledge, the jury’s still out on backing him for a Top10.

His tournament record in Japan for 2012, where field strength is more or less on a par with the WebDotComTour (far stronger than the Australasian Tour)  was: played 21 tournaments for four placings. So, on that tour, his 2012 season top ten place probability was 19% (a price of 6.25).

Now, this correlates sweetly with bookmakers’ prices of 5.50 – 7.00 for the Aussie PGA. However, that ‘sweet correlation’ assumption presumes fields of golfers are all of the same strength; clearly not the case – so we have to work out a way to adjust.

To adjust for field strength, we need a measure; I use the average OWGR world golf ranking points of the field for each tournament. For those who have been reading my tournament sheets each week, this is the reason OWGR points are there; I use them and player age as well as the more common course & recent form and relevant stats to arrive at a price.

The Japan Tour averaged field strength of just over 22pts per player for its 2012 tournaments while the Australian PGA field average was 11. This very clearly informs me the Japan Tour fields may be twice as strong, making it twice as difficult to place there as on the Australasian Tour.

Therefore, in assessing Kennedy’s simplistic Australian tournament place price, I’d take his ‘career’ 6.25 from Japan and adjust for the strength of Aussie competition by multiplying by 11/22 = 3.125

My win price, as published, for Kennedy in the PGA was 33.00 and my (non-published; also auto-derived!) place price was 3.50

So, now I had a measure and could compare a (self-assessed but intelligently-derived) place price of 3.50 with bookmaker prices of 5.50 – 7.00

The conclusion? “A nice over; worth backing”

Example #2 – Alfred Dunhill Championship (South Africa) – Kristoffer Broberg – 2nd

Broberg  is an up-and-coming player who plied his trade in 2012 mostly on the European Challenge Tour until gaining a late ‘battlefield promotion’ to the main tour following a series of victories.

He was rated 70/1 (71.00) by bookmakers to win the Dunhill, giving Top10 prices of 6.00 – 7.00 with bookmakers.

His tournament record for 2012 coming in to the Dunhill was brief but great: played 13 tournaments for 7 placings. So, his 2012 season top ten place probability was 54% (a price of 1.85).

The European Challenge Tour, on which he gained all 7 placings, averaged field strength of 11pts per player for 2012 while the Alfred Dunhill field average was 25.

Therefore, in assessing Broberg’s simplistic Dunhill tournament place price, I’d take his ‘career’ 1.85 from the Euro Challenge and adjust for the strength of his African competition by multiplying by 25/11 = 4.20

My win price, as published, for Broberg in the Dunhill was 50.00 and my (non-published) place price was 4.50 So, now I had a measure and could compare a calculated place price of 4.50 with the bookmaker price of 7.00

The conclusion? “A nice over; worth backing”

Back to the topic.

To pick-up on my original theme, now that I’ve finished (at least for now) skiting about a couple of prices I got right that the bookmakers got wrong, we need to find a way of consistently selecting players who can place Top10 at great prices.

Make no mistake, there are VERY few professional price assessors in the world of golf betting; the vast majority just ape them like monkeys. And those few professionals are still only human; they have players they like and dislike, areas of knowledge paucity and other human flaws and these biases are reflected in their pricing – which all the other bookmakers copy!

So, for us gamblers on golf, at least it’s useful that the mistakes the professional price-setters make spread throughout the bookmaking and exchange worlds.

My definition of a ‘great price’ is one that’s at least double what it should be. I haven’t yet developed a smooth way to interrogate my database so I’ve simply flicked back through recent weeks’ tournament outcomes and highlighted below the Top10 placings where the bookmakers offered place prices that were more than double my place prices. We’ll then look for data trends that might give us punters a 2013 edge over our bookmakers.

Here are the best ‘overs’ from recent weeks; I’ve simply used win prices to illustrate my point; two of them won anyway:

Tournament Date Player Placing Bookie Price My Price
Thailand Ch’ship 06-Dec Hyun-Bin Park 5 251.00 75.00
Nelson Mandela 06-Dec Eduardo DeLaRiva T2 201.00 50.00
Nelson Mandela 06-Dec Scott Jamieson 1 56.00 24.00
Australian Open 06-Dec Brendan Jones 2 67.00 33.00
PGA Qschool Final 28-Nov DH Lee 1 151.00 50.00
PGA Qschool Final 28-Nov Kris Blanks T4 126.00 35.00
BMW NZ Open 22-Nov Richard Lee 5 81.00 36.00


Here are brief illustrative on each of the above:

Thailand Championship

My logic – Park came in off the back of 6 consecutive Top25’s on the Korean Mens Tour (KGT).

Bookie error – underestimating Korean form relative to SE Asian form.

Nelson Mandela Championship

Sceptics might argue that a rain-shortened event is meaningless but I maintain the ante-post pricing logic holds good – irrespective of eventual tournament weather conditions.

My logic – DeLaRiva was one of the best on the Challenge Tour in 2012 and in good recent form.

Bookie error – overestimating the worth of Sunshine Tour player form versus Euro Challenge Tour form.

My logic – Jamieson ranked 9th in OWGR points in the field; he simply had to be priced shorter than 55/1 solely on that basis!

Bookie error – perhaps put off Jamieson by two recent missed cuts.

Australian Open

My logic – Jones was 9th-world ranked in the field and in form in Japan. He had to be far shorter than 66/1 solely on the strength of his ranking!

Bookie error – underestimating the worth of Japan Tour form.

PGA QSchool

My logic – Lee was in terrific form on the Japan Tour (Top10 in 3 of 5 preceding starts) then 8th in his semi-final qualifier.

Bookie error – underestimating the worth of Japan Tour form and perhaps not attributing sufficient value to his semi-final 8th.

My logic – Blanks was PGA Tour-hardened pro who was 3rd in his semi-final qualifier.

Bookie error – overlooking player toughness and perhaps not attributing sufficient value to his semi-final 3rd.

NZ Open

My logic – Lee was back on home turf and had shown recent signs of form on the Japan Tour.

Bookie error – underestimating the worth of modest Japan Tour form in the context of a piss-weak Kiwi field of almost universally mediocre golfers.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this all-too-cursory examination?

I believe there are two compelling themes to emerge:

  1. Leading price-setters are all European and have a natural aversion to studying things outside their comfort zone or attributing sufficient value to them – such as Japanese golf.
  2. Bookmakers have difficulty appropriately pricing players in tournaments where the field is drawn from two (or more) different Tours.

One final point. We should not underestimate the chances of Korean golfers; anywhere.

The Korean girls already own the world of female professional golf and the Korean men, if they didn’t have to perform two years of compulsory military service, would probably already be challenging for prominence in the Men’s game.

Cheers, and the best of luck with beating your bookie in 2013, Mike.

ps skill, discipline, balls and analysis are all essential prerequisites of sustained wagering success, but a bit of luck sometimes helps too!


© Copyright Mike J Miller: 28 December 2012


Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 28 December 2012