Betting the favorites in golf tournaments can be a risky endeavor, and this week’s action exemplified the different directions such bets can go. In two events this weekend one top pick proved victorious, while the other fell short of securing the trophy.
Jon Rahm was the 9-1 selection to win the Career Builder Challenge in the Southern California desert town of La Quinta. He needed a playoff to do it, but the 23-year-old won on the fourth extra hole for his second victory on the PGA Tour.
Johnson was the 5-1 selection at the Abu Dhabi Championship but stumbled with opening round 72. He was six shots back and was never able to get close enough to challenge eventual winner and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood.
How Rahm Won
The Spaniard was helped by a weak field at the PGA Tour event. While other stars decided to play overseas, or take the week off, Rahm made the choice to tee it up in the Palm Springs, California, area. It proved to be a wise decision.
The No. 3 player in the world was the only one in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Rankings to enter the event. The next highest-ranked player was Brian Harman at No. 23, and not coincidentally he was the second pick to win at 14-1.
But he finished tied for 20th. Other popular choices, such as Patrick Reed (18-1) and Phil Mickelson (22-1) failed to make the cut and went home early.
A player who was way down on the betting board but rose up to challenge Rahm and force the playoff was Andrew Landry. He entered the week a +1,500 to win his first PGA Tour event. The former Web.com player was in his third PGA Tour event of the season and recorded his third top 10 finish.
Rahm drained a 12-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to win and the victory pushed him to No. 2 in the World Rankings. It surprised him that he jumped ahead of Jordan Spieth to the second spot.
“It’s hard to believe, to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth, three-time major champion,” he said. “I only have two wins and he’s got 10-plus, right? I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
How Johnson Lost
Meanwhile, the No. 1 player in the world was finding the competition a bit more daunting at the Abu Dhabi Championship. Johnson was one of several golfers in the top 20, including No. 26 Justin Rose and No. 11 Rory McIlroy.
Johnson was coming off a dominating performance at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and was installed as the 5-1 favorite. But Johnson’s opening round 72 was the first one in five that wasn’t under par. That put him six shots behind eventual winner Fleetwood and he could never recover, despite shooting 64-68 in the next two days.
Fleetwood proved to be an attractive wager. The defending champion was listed as a 20-1 bet before Thursday’s round.