The unique nature of golf allows for a great spread of betting options, many of which are not readily available in other sports markets. Aside from wagering on players to win or finish in the big money, we can also bet on head-to-heads and predict that certain players might challenge but fall short of top spot.
This is a straight-up wager on a certain golfer to win the tournament. Outright bets come with standard odds, like horse racing and other sports, although sometimes they only feature players expected to contend for the title.
For example, a limited selection of outright odds for a given golf tournament might look like this:
Tiger Woods – $7
Adam Scott – $12
Phil Mickelson – $13
Rory McIlroy – $14
Zach Johnson – $18
Henrik Stenson – $20
Jason Day – $26
Sergio Garcia – $33
However, for major tournaments and invitational events with a smaller number of entrants – such as the US Masters – online sports books will give outright odds for every player in the field.
In the event of a play-off, only the eventual winner will pay out. For example: we bet on Jason Day to win outright and he ties with Tiger Woods after four rounds, leading to a sudden death play-off. If Day triumphs in the play-off, we win our wager; but if Tiger beats the Queenslander in the shootout, we lose the bet.
A place bet is where we wager on a player to finish a tournament in the first few positions, usually top five, top 10, or top 20. We can also bet that a golfer will place, but not win – which offers higher odds than a regular place bet, because the gambit loses if the player in question wins the title.
A match-up or money-line wager is where we bet on a player beating another competitor head-to-head, regardless of the overall tournament result. Group bets usually involve three or four players, often based on which golfers are partnered together on the opening day of the event.
Adam Scott $1.50; Marc Leishman $4.00; Geoff Ogilvy $10.00.
Here, Scott is the clear favourite to finish above the other two players, while Ogilvy is the underdog of the group.
These wagers still apply when all players miss the cut; so even if every golfer in the group is eliminated from the tourney after the opening two rounds, the player with the lowest score wins the match-up. When players tie, the dead heat usually applies – i.e. the result either be a push, or the bet will be paid out at half its face value.
This one isn’t seen all that often in Australia these days, as most AUD bookies will offer outright odds on just about every golfer competing in a tournament (especially in the majors). But in cases where only a small selection of outrights are available, a sports book will sometimes allow us to bet on ‘the field’ – that is, all the players not listed among the individual outrights.
If there is a sucker bet in golf, this is it. For while you get several (often dozens) of players for the price of one, the likelihood that the field will contain a potential winner is slim at best. Furthermore, the odds offered are almost never long enough to warrant betting against the guns, so the risk and the reward don’t add up.
Future bets allow us to make certain wagers weeks, even months, in advance of a tournament taking place. Most Australian gambing sites offer these markets for all the majors, and sometimes for other high-profile events such as The Players Championship. Below are some common futures/outrights markets for golf.
• To win a specific major (e.g. US Masters)
• To win any major
• To win a specific number of majors
• Number of majors won by Australians
• To top the US Money List
• To qualify for the Ryder Cup
The major championships are the most prized titles in professional golf, and tend to offer the greatest variety of AUD betting markets – including a smorgasbord of futures, such as wagers on how many majors will be won by Australians in a given year.
Always the first major championship on the calendar, and probably the most glamorous. The US Masters has been played at Augusta National in Georgia since the 1930s, and for nearly 70 years was a graveyard for Australian hopes and dreams – notably Greg Norman’s final-round collapse in 1996. However, the Aussie contingent has become extremely competitive in the last few years, culminating in Adam Scott’s breakthrough major victory in 2013. Can the Queensland ace back it up?
The US Open is widely regarded as the most severe of all of the major tournaments. The fairways are narrow, the rough is dense, and the greens slick as glass – and it is the only major that still adopts an 18 hole play-off. The 2014 edition will return to Pinehurst No. 2, the scene of Kiwi Michael Campbell’s fairytale victory in 2005.
The Open Championship – a.k.a. the British Open – is the oldest of all the majors, with the inaugural title contested at Prestwick, Scotland, way back in 1860. The only non-American major, it has often been a happy hunting ground for Australia – just ask the great Peter Thomson, who won some five Open titles. The 2014 Open will be held at Royal Liverpool, where Tiger Woods last won the event in 2006.
The USPGA was traditionally a match-play tournament, but changed to the stroke-play format in 1957. It is the only major designed purely for professional golfers (the Masters, US Open, and British Open all invite leading amateurs to participate). Four Australians have won the USPGA – the latest being Steve Elkington at Riviera in 1995.
Horses for courses – As with any sport, different players perform better than others in certain conditions. In golf this often comes down to the course itself, as there are many different types of layouts used in pro tournaments the world over. For instance, Phil Mickelson is a perennial performer at the US Masters, as the Augusta National layout allows him to use his expert shot-shaping and short game to full effect; whereas his track record on traditional British links courses, which often require a more discplined style of play, is far less impressive.
Watch the weather – Among popular international sports, perhaps only cricket is quite as adversely affected by inclement weather. Thus, a stormy forecast can have a significant impact on optimal betting strategy – and, indeed, on whether we should be wagering a single cent. You don’t want to wind up in a situation where you put money down on day one, only for the tourney to be washed out with just a few holes played.