Betting on golf takes center stage with The Masters
Although COVID-19 is far from over, thank goodness many traditions in 2021 have returned on the U.S. sports wagering schedule. The World Series will now be played in early October and the Kentucky Derby returns this year to the first Saturday in May. And golf’s pinnacle event, The Masters, teed-off in its customary spot during the second weekend of April.
Not only was that great news for the sport, but for even better for the sports betting business.
With no other major events standing in its way, including the NCAA basketball tournament, any football games or NBA playoff games in focus, The Masters had spotlight command of the wagering stage to welcome a new opportunity for bettors.
Who would ever believe a few years ago that betting on golf would command such interest? New data is showing that it is slowly creeping behind the "big four" sports (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) into a potential fifth spot with continued momentum. It is not that the game is not beloved and played by millions compared to the others. Perhaps it's that it used to be so boring to bet upon.
That all changed for two fundamental reasons. First, the number of bets to potentially make is now a staggering proposition. While the greatest challenge for golf bettors was staying awake 54 to 72 holes through three or four days to learn the outcome of their wager, that is now part of the past.
Deciding player-vs-player matchups to hole-by-hole comparisons to yardage predictors the number of ways to win or lose your money seems limitless. Like watching any other game on the weekend, you can sit with your phone or laptop and become embedded in the action.
Perhaps no other sport has embraced the live in-game wagering aspect more than golf. That is because it used to be so in-game dead to bet on. Now there is reason to root for individual player putts to go in or out on each hole, for shots to go into the bunker or lie beautifully into the fairway.
PGA in Love
From the outset of legalized wagering the PGA was determined to milk every financial opportunity to attach themselves to betting and the opportunity to grow the sport's appeal.
The PGA was so excited with the repeal of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in 2018, they hired executives to guide wagering into their upcoming marriage with betting. Norb Gambuzza, the PGA Tour's senior Vice President of media and gaming's role was created to help tie golf into the future of sports betting.
In 2020 the PGA signed a multi-year contract with DraftKings as its "official daily fantasy game". Last Summer they named them the "official betting operator of the tour" in a large financial deal. After that FanDuel, BetMGM and PointsBet followed along with partnership agreements.
As a result, Gambuzza says PGA Tour live broadcasts can now feature live player odds within the tour website, including a leaderboard with odds. The next step will be DraftKings working with the PGA and television networks like CBS and NBC to improve gambling integration.
And no other sport cares more about integrity than golf and the PGA.
The PGA is paying close attention to fan behavior and how it could potentially affect the outcome in relation to wagering. Gambuzza says they have not put any official rules into place yet, but are considering security measures and proximity restrictions on the golf course.
Translation: some dude with $25,000 riding on a putt decides to scream at a certain moment at Justin Rose at Augusta National to win his 8th hole bet. It could even involve bribing a caddy. As golf wagering increases in popularity, the more potentially is at risk.
Masters Betting Wrap-up
In addition, the outcome of this year's Masters is good for golf wagering's immediate future as well.
Winner Hideki Matsuyama was anywhere from a +4000 to +6000 longshot at the top sportsbooks to begin the event for anyone lucky enough to have confidence on the Japanese green jacket winner. As he closed into a near certain win within the final nine holes, he was live bet down to around -120 to -125 at Bovada, WagerWeb, BetOnline and most other online sportsbooks.
It got exciting as his tee shot flew into the water at the 15th hole. At that point relatively unknown newcomers Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris had a legit chance to win, which only increased excitement and of course, wagering action.
It could not have worked out any better if there was a script written for golf and golf wagering's near future. Ok, it's unlikely anyone is ready to turn off NFL football on Sunday to tune into golf just yet, but that "fourth spot" in U.S. sports betting interest could be in jeopardy.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.