'Handsome,' Talented Morikawa Rewards Bettor

(670 The Score) While he’s been gambling for his whole life, Justin Gitelis doesn’t consider himself a professional sports bettor. He’s simply a winning one.

That was true even before the 26-year-old Gitelis won $1.1 million at BetRivers Sportsbook on Sunday when PGA Tour rising star Collin Morikawa rallied from three strokes down with three holes to play and beat Justin Thomas in a playoff at the Workday Charity Open.

A Chicagoan, Gitelis called watching the tournament "nerve racking."

"It’s a passion that I have, something that I love," Gitelis said on the McNeil & Parkins Show on Monday afternoon.

Gitelis placed five separate bets – between $4,000 and $35,000 – on Morikawa to earn his $1.1 million. One was on him to be the leader after the first round, one was on Morikawa to have the best score among a group of six golfers in the second round, one was on him to finish in the top five overall and two were on him to win outright at different odds.

Morikawa achieved all of that, starting with a strong 7-under 65 in the first round and eventually outlasting Thomas in a three-playoff in the final round.

Gitelis wagered aggressively on Morikawa in part because he had hit on Dustin Johnson to win the Travelers Championship and Bryson DeChambeau to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic in the two prior weeks on the PGA Tour, he said.

So what about the 23-year-old Morikawa did he like so much at the Workday Charity Open? Well, Morikawa is one of the best iron players in the world on what experts considered a second-shot course – and he’s also a handsome man, Gitelis said in explaining a joke among his friends.

"We came up with the saying #HandsomeGolfersOnly," Gitelis said. "And he’s a very handsome human being – and now even more so. But I was just sitting on my couch looking at the odds. I knew the course. I grew up golfing. I grew up on a golf course. I knew it wasn’t really a big driver-type course, and he’s more of a finesse guy. And I remember specifically Morikawa lipping out (to lose) on the tournament weeks ago … and then he missed the cut last (time out), and the guy’s a superstar. So I knew he’d come out at least hungry. I absolutely did not think the situation that occurred would happen, but I knew it was a good (bet) for the value."

While Gitelis is a winning bettor, he also offered a word of warning and noted while he was on the radio discussing his big win, he was also in the midst of losing a $98,000 bet on a soccer match.

"I would say the misery outweighs the enjoyment," he said. "Which is probably not something I even want to hear come out of my mouth at this point. But the amount the of enjoyment that I felt yesterday after he sunk that putt to win the tournament was something … I chase that feeling consistently.

"I don’t think I’m fine-tuned enough to consider myself a professional. I do think my insight is a lot better than a lot of people who do consider themselves professionals. But I think the second I start believing I’m better than I am – I don’t, I try to stay humble – the second I start losing consistently and all of this goes away."