Golfers are known to have a penchant for gambling. Whether it’s playing a $100,000 nassau (as some pros are known to do) or $5 a side with your buddies, betting is almost synonymous with playing the game.
In yesterday’s edition of Golf.com’s PGA Tour Confidential, Michael Bamberger put forward an interesting thought in regard to the success of the playoffs. He said:
Until gambling on golf becomes part of the mainstream betting action, like college and pro football, the PGA Tour will never have a real chance to make a mark in the fall. When you have your own money on the line, or your alma mater is playing, you connect with the pictures on your tube in a totally different way.
Ryan Ballengee over at Waggle Room makes some valid points in his discussion on whether golf needs gambling to compete with the NFL in terms of popularity. He mentioned the two major problems are football is just more popular and people are familiar with the betting system and playing fantasy football.
Right on. So, no, popularizing golf betting will not make people care more about the FedEx Cup. As Ryan also mentions, betting is widespread in the UK, but it likely never will be in the United States. First off, sports betting is illegal in the United States notwithstanding Las Vegas and Delaware — though people certainly have ways to get around the laws by dealing with bookies and such.
More important, in football, bets are based on spreads or lines. Wagers can be even more specific like an over/under on total points (actually that would be an interesting system for golf). However, in golf, it’s about odds. People bet on a team in football rather than a field as large as 144 or 30 in the case of the Tour Championship. Now as we know, it’s almost impossible to predict the winner in golf — it’s like a shot in the dark most of the time — sure, picking Tiger is a safe call, but no-name Heath has a chance to beat him every week.
Golf has many reasons why it does not rival football as far as gaining greater viewership or even passion among its fans. That said and keeping the discussion gambling specific, golf needs to figure out a form of betting that would allow there to be a clear winner and loser; to at least create the illusion that things are all equal — even though as any good gambler will tell you, gambling is never equal (so I’m told). Football gambling at least appears easy.
Point being, gambling doesn’t increase a sport’s appeal to all — only to some. So, golf would not only have to become more “mainstream,” but the betting system would have to be such that not just hardcore golf fans would understand it, but the average Joe, too.
So, say, for example if the over/under wager were in place — oddsmakers, as well as fans, could use the results of what a player shot in the past few years at a given tournament to establish the betting lines — then yeah, golf might be able to benefit from gambling as far as growing its popularity and improving TV ratings. But, the fatal flaw is that individual sports are much more susceptible to fixes than team sports. And it could lead to playing with fire in a way that the powers-that-be at the PGA would frown upon.