In the past year, Jordan Spieth has gone from a promising young gun to the top gun in golf. If he’s in a tournament, he’s atop the odds board.
The only player who can challenge Spieth’s status is Rory McIlroy, and the sport’s top rivalry is renewed tonight when the two tee off in the same group at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Spieth and McIlroy are 4-1 co-favorites. Place your wagers early, because TV coverage for the event in the Middle East begins at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas.
Spieth won the Masters and U.S. Open last year and was in contention to win the other two majors. The 22-year-old opened 2016 by blowing away the field and winning the PGA Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. McIlroy, a four-time major champion, is coming off an injury-plagued season.
Wes Reynolds, one of the sharpest golf handicappers on Twitter (@WesReynolds1), is playing McIlroy as a minus-120 favorite in a matchup against Spieth. The line opened at minus-110 on both sides at William Hill sports books.
“I think McIlroy might be out to prove a point. He was kind of like the second banana last year,” Reynolds said. “As good as he is, Spieth hasn’t played these type of European events. These are events McIlroy has been playing for years.”
Reynolds also recommends bets on Martin Kaymer and Branden Grace, each at 20-1. Kaymer has a strong course history and is a three-time winner at Abu Dhabi.
Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said Byeong Hun An (25-1) and Matthew Fitzpatrick (30-1) are his under-the-radar picks.
“Spieth is pretty much the most supported golfer out there,” Sherman said. “It’s to go against what he’s doing right now.”
The tournament in Abu Dhabi will be more compelling than this week’s PGA Tour stop in La Quinta, Calif. Patrick Reed is the 10-1 favorite in the CareerBuilder Challenge, and Phil Mickelson is the seventh choice on the odds board at 40-1.
“We get most of the Mickelson money when he plays in majors,” Sherman said. “We generally don’t see too much on him in the minor tournaments.”
With a new course in the La Quinta rotation, Reynolds called the PGA event “tougher to predict.” In what appears to be a wide-open field, he played several long shots, including Jason Dufner (40-1), David Lingmerth (50-1) and Si Woo Kim (80-1).
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247