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Golf Betting Has Its Risks And Rewards

Probably the only thing more difficult and frustrating than gaining a degree of proficiency at playing golf is trying to make a buck betting golf. As the PGA Tour tees it up for the start of another season this month, it’s a sober fact of betting that no matter how you slice it—-into the rough, into the water, into the woods, beyond the hazard—-earning a profit through golf betting may be the most absurdly arduous and unrewarding task facing a prospective sports bettor. Consider that if you place a future book wager on a major tennis tournament where there are 128 entrants, such as Wimbledon or the US Open, your choice has to beat just seven players. The other 120 are eliminated by someone else. The same thing happens in the NFL playoffs where a team need beat just three or four opponents to claim a Super Bowl championship. The NBA and Major League Baseball have similar formats, where most of the teams are eliminated by someone other than the eventual winner. About the closest thing to golf is a NASCAR Nextel Cup race, where your driver has to beat 42 other competitors. But a typical golf tournament features about 150 players, meaning the man on whom you placed your wager, has to beat every one of them. Given those overwhelming odds, then, why play? The answer, of course, is because the payoffs can be so large. For example, of the 48 regular season events on the 2006 PGA Tour, 17 of them were won by players returning a three digit reward to the bettor. An additional nine tournaments went to players whose odds ranged from 40/1 to 80/

1. The list of bountiful winners is headed by J.B. Holmes, who captured the FBR Open, Feb. 5, and Chris Couch, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, April 30, each at odds of 250/1. Kirk Triplett (Chrysler Classic of Tucson, Feb. 26); Aaron Baddeley (MCI Heritage, April 16); Brett Wetterich (Byron Nelson Championship, May 14); Ben Curtis (Booz Allen Classic, June 25 and 84 Lumber Classic, Sept. 17); Dean Wilson (The International, Aug. 13); and Eric Axley (Valero Texas Open, Sept. 24), all scored at odds of 150/1. Last year’s winners at 125/1 included Rod Pampling (Bay Hill Invitational, March 19); Stephen Ames (The Players Championship, March 26); Jeff Maggert (FedEx St. Jude Classic, May 28); Carl Pettersson (the Memorial Tournament, June 4); J.J. Henry (Buick Championship, July 2); and Corey Pavin (US Bank Championship, July 30). Nail just one of the above winners and you’re good for a free ride betting the PGA Tour every week for two to five years, depending on the size payout of that one winner. So what’s the problem? Just bet a longshot each week. Well, for starters, exactly how do you find a J.B. Holmes or a Chris Couch? When Holmes won the FBR Open there were 109 other golfers offered at odds of 100/1 or more, including 51 at odds of 250/1 or greater. In fact, if you were looking for a real longshot, there were 35 golfers who were offered at betting odds of 300/1 or more, including Tony Rohlik and Ian Leggatt, each at a life-changing 750/1. How in the name of Titleist could you isolate Holmes, who won in just his fourth PGA start? It was a similar situation when Couch won in New Orleans. At that tournament, 26 other golfers were listed at 250/1 and 19 more were quoted at odds of 300/1 or greater. Given the difficulty in isolating a longshot, maybe betting the favorite is the better way to go. Well, no. Favorites won just nine events last year and, with the exception of Phil Mickelson’s triumph at odds of 7/1 in the BellSouth Classic, April 2, the other eight favorites all were named Tiger Woods. Woods, in fact, won eight of the 15 PGA Tour events he entered last year, meaning you could have realized a modest profit by betting on the world’s No. 1 player in each start. But for his career, Woods has won 54 of 200 tournaments, or just over one in every four tournaments he’s entered, so you’d have to average odds of 3/1 to break even. That’s not going to happen. So how do you win betting golf? “I don’t know anyone who bets golf consistently and wins,” conceded a Nevada bookmaker who asked he not be identified. “It’s really a fool’s errand. The only way someone can win betting golf is to hit a longshot and never bet again.” Yeah, right.


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