John P. Lopez – Just a sprinkle: The smartest way to bet golf, finding NBA value and the “Cristian” thing to do

May 14, 2023; McKinney, Texas, USA; Tyrrell Hatton plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

John P. Lopez – Just a sprinkle: The smartest way to bet golf, finding NBA value and the “Cristian” thing to do

PGA Championship week is here, which can only mean one thing: Gamblers everywhere will get lost in the muck.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Betting on golf’s majors can provide some of the most fun, interactive, and – most importantly – profitable plays on the board. The problem is, the majors only come around four times a year and even some of the more seasoned gamblers can get swept up in false trends, horrible plays, and unorthodox betting boards.

I’m here for you. This week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill in New York promises to be another must-see golf event and all it takes to make smart wagers and stay engaged all four days is to follow three simple rules.

Shop the odds

When I bet tournaments – and you’ll see my bets below, along with some NBA and Astros picks – the names may change, but the bets never do.

I bet futures, head-to-heads, and Top 10 or Top-Five finishes. Always. Over the years, it’s brought the most consistent returns.

But you have to start with the board. This week, for example, the two favorites are Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm. Both are solid bets if you want to go with the chalk (more on that later). Their odds vary from plus-650 to plus-800. That’s a huge difference and in the long run, doesn’t cost you more to play, but brings a much better return if you find the right number.

Stay on your toes

There simply is not a sport around where getting hot at the right time matters more than high-level golf. Study the leaderboard from the previous two weeks leading up to the major. Study the kind of season players are having, especially those with the best value.

A tweak here, an adjustment there can mean the world to a player heading into a major. Two of my best bets you’ll see below rely heavily on this. Plus, in the two weeks leading up to a major, the international players arrive to the United States and solid top-10 or top-20 finishes in the two weeks before a major definitely are worth noting.

Avoid the chalk

Remember the days of Tiger vs. the field? Those were the epitome of sucker bets and we’re talking about the most dominant player perhaps in the history of the game.

Especially in high-profile tournaments, public money from casual bettors always skew the odds too far toward the highest-ranked players. Sometimes, the favorite wins, of course, but more times than not I avoid it. The value isn’t there and the fields are too large, with too many variables that might favor someone else.

So let’s get to this week’s Just A Sprinkle. And since we hit on Liverpool plus-430 as mentioned last week, we may get a little daring on the plays. Like this first one.

Tuesday: Tyrrell Hatton to win (plus-4000) and to finish in top five (plus-800)

Remember what we said about studying the most recent outings? The Englisman has been an altogether different player in recent months, compared to the struggling player from 2018-2020.

He never has won a major (hence the hedge with a top-five wager), but this value is incredible for a player that has found his putting stroke and has two of the most impressive finishes in golf this year – finishing second outright to Scheffler at The Players Championship and earning a top-five last weekend at The Byron Nelson.

Tuesday: Rickie Fowler to finish in the Top 10

Whatever happened to Rickie Fowler? Yeah. I almost forgot about him, too.

But since falling off the face of the major-contender planet, Fowler has found a new coach – the golf-whisperer Butch Harmon – and is in the midst of remarkable turnaround.

Fowler has jumped more than 100 spots in the world golf rankings and has played his most consistent golf since 2015. Who would have ever thought that the popular Fowler would fly under the radar, but he is. Take advantage. I’m gonna play it somewhat conservative and go with a top-10 finish at plus-550, which is good value. But if you want to be bold, most books have him at plus-7500 to finally break through and win.

Wednesday: Denver Nuggets (plus-240) to win NBA Championship

Swallow your pride. I did.

I didn’t believe in the Nuggets when the NBA playoffs began and the Nuggets were sitting there at plus-1100 to win the NBA Championship despite being the No. 1 seed. Ugh.

Believe now, and you better believe the plus-240 odds to win it all still is a strong play. For a team that has dispatched every opponent easily, with a superstar player in Nikola Jokic who seems to be on a mission and is playing otherworldly basketball, ride the wave.

Sure, the Celtics still are out there as favorites to win the title, but the Nuggets should get past the Lakers, and you take your chances against Boston.

Tuesday: Astros (minus-164) vs. Cubs

Cristian Javier has found his groove and the Astros, despite some setbacks – namely Michael Brantley back on the shelf – are getting hot. The Astros won five of six going into Tuesday night’s game against the Cubs and nine of 12 games during the current stretch come against sub-.500 teams.

If the Astros are going to make a move, now is the time. And Cristian Javier has been found his best stuff as well. Javier has gone at least six innings in his last two starts, while giving up no more than three hits in a game and striking out 19 in his last two starts. It’s about as safe a play as you can find this week.

Wednesday: Astros over 91.5 wins for the season

If you are buying that the Astros are getting hot and this 12-game stretch will spark a big run, the smart play is to bet the over on their season total. To start the season, that total was 95.5.

With Jose Altuve coming back and surely bolstering things, even with persistent questions offensively, the pitching staff clearly is rounding into shape, as is the bullpen.

Suppose the Astros get through this next stretch with a record of 28-22, which is very doable. That means the rest of the way they must go 64-48 to get to 92 wins. Also … doable.

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