Golf as a betting attraction on display at British Open

Golf is the fastest growing sport in legalized betting. Readily available odds from major media outlets will add important context to major events like this weekend’s British Open (Golf Channel, NBC), which begins early Thursday at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. 

Why is golf garnering so much wagering attention? 

Well, there are currently a lot of popular players on tour. From veterans such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to current superstars Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka (who peaks in majors and takes the rest of the year off) to several charismatic dark horses that look like huge bargains on the futures board. There’s something to excite viewers. 

We're not suggesting that golf will overtake football or basketball. It’s “fastest growing” because those sports are about maxed out, while hardly anyone was betting golf up until a few years ago.

In states where betting is legal, customers can consider futures options, head-to-head matchups (which are priced like baseball money lines), prop bets regarding the winning score or best individual round, and a variety of other whimsical options sportsbooks dream up to attract customers.

Even where it isn’t, golf fans can get a better sense of how a tournament stacks up just by looking at the futures board. 

Here are midweek numbers from the Westgate SuperBook:

Favorites: McIlroy 8/1, Koepka 10/1, Johnson 12/1, Jon Rahm 16/1; Woods, Justin Rose, and Xander Schauffele  each at 20/1.

Serious Threats: Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood, Francisco Molinari, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas each at 25/1.

Dangerous Dark Horses: Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar each 30/1; Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, and Jordan Spieth each at 40/1.  

Those odds may strike casual fans as particularly friendly. Don’t be fooled. The bloated 156-man field creates an “anything can happen” environment that reduces the chance any particular individual will win.

Our list of favorites has combined for just one British Open championship in the last dozen years (McIlroy in 2014. Tiger’s titles were in ’00, ’05 and ’06). Nobody was expecting Gary Woodland to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach a month ago. 

Golf betting has always been popular “on the course” for gamblers, as many of you surely know. More spectators and TV viewers will be shouting “you the man” with their money as legal betting gradually spreads across the country. 


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