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Scott Shapiro's WGC-Workday Championship preview

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February 23rd, 2021

The California swing on the PGA Tour concluded last week, with the Genesis Invitational, and it certainly did not disappoint.

A few of the world’s top-ranked players failed to make the cut, the third round was suspended for nearly four hours because of heavy winds, and Burbank, California native Max Homa hoisted the trophy presented by tournament host Tiger Woods. Not only did Homa capture the $1.674 million winner's share, but he also earned a spot in this week’s World Golf Championship event.

Since 2017, the first WGC event on the calendar has been held at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico, but because of COVID-19 concerns, it has been relocated to The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida. The Jack Nicklaus-designed course is a bit of an unknown, since it is not a regular venue on the PGA Tour, but it should offer the world’s best golfers a stiff challenge as the first of four consecutive events in the Sunshine State.  

The field for the WGC-Workday Championship is loaded, with 19 of the top 20 players in the world golf rankings set to tee it off Thursday, led by top-ranked Dustin Johnson, who sits atop the outright market at +575.

WGC-Workday Championship odds

GolferOdds
Dustin Johnson
+575
Jon Rahm
+900
Xander Schauffele
+1400
Rory McIlroy
+1600
Justin Thomas
+1800
Patrick Cantlay
+1800

I am unwilling to swallow the short price on Johnson, but history tells us these events are often won by relatively short-priced players. Since the start of 2016, there have been 18 WGC events, with 12 captured by players ranked in the top 10 in the world. Expecting a longshot winner this week is likely wishful thinking.

Here are the golfers I will be wagering on this week at the WGC-Workday.

Jon Rahm (+900)

The 26-year-old announced at the start of 2021 that he was switching to Callaway clubs. The new bag may have taken the world’s second-ranked golfer a few weeks to get used to, but his final round at the Genesis suggests he is ready to get back to the winner’s circle soon. Rahm closed out the week at Riviera with a 5-under 66, which landed him in a tie for fifth. He heads to Florida with some serious momentum.

The five-time winner on the PGA Tour does just about everything on a golf course well, so his game should fit The Concession just fine.

The Spaniard ranks second in the field over the last 24 rounds in strokes gained tee to green, fourth in strokes gained approach, fifth in strokes gained off the tee, and third in par 5 scoring. Rahm has not been as good on the greens as we are accustomed to seeing, but that is likely variance more than anything else.

If he can knock down a few more putts than he did in California, I love his chances to capture his first WGC event.

Joaquin Niemann (+3300, top 5 +650)

The young Chilean got his 2021 off to a fantastic start with back-to-back runner-up efforts at the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii and appeared poised for a big week at the Genesis, before the heavy winds came Saturday. His 7-over, 78 in the third round cost him any chance of being in the mix Sunday, but there were still positives to take away from his performance at Riviera.

The 2017 Mark H. McCormack Medal winner, as the top-ranked player in the world amateur golf rankings appears set for a breakout season on the PGA Tour. He sits third in the field over the last 24 rounds in strokes gained tee to green, ninth in strokes gained approach, eighth in strokes gained off the tee, and 20th in strokes gained around the green.

It will be a major challenge for him to best this monstrous field, but I like his chances to be in one of the final groups Sunday. I will sprinkle in a small outright wager, but spend most of my Niemann budget in the top 5 market.

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