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Golf betting skyrocketing as strong field heads to PGA Championship

LAS VEGAS — It was once theorized that when Tiger Woods aged and faded from dominance, golf might become old news, too. But during a year of never-ending bad news, the business of golf betting is doing more than surviving and actually thriving.

In hiding for most of the summer, Woods will reappear at this week’s PGA Championship in San Francisco. He’s not among the favorites, yet wagering on the year’s first major is projected to be record breaking.

Instead of Woods leading the way, Justin Thomas is the top choice on the William Hill odds board at 10/1, followed by Bryson DeChambeau (11/1), Brooks Koepka (12/1), Rory McIlroy (14/1), Jon Rahm (15/1) and Dustin Johnson (20/1).

“There are 10 or 12 guys who can win in a given week, and another layer of players behind that who could win maybe once a year, so golf is an attractive betting option right now,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “I think this will break all of our golf records.

“It seems every week the handle is higher than the week before. After football, basketball and baseball, golf is our fourth-best betting event.”

It has been 16 months since Woods won the Masters. In May 2019, Koepka repeated as the PGA champ by conquering Bethpage Black on Long Island. The coronavirus pandemic forced a juggling of this year’s major schedule, giving the PGA the honor of first to the tee. Since the Tour restart in June, golf betting has gained steam.

Justin Thomas
Justin ThomasGetty Images

“The handle is going to be strong,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I would not be surprised if it reached Masters level.”

Woods, 44, has played in only one tournament since February. He tied for 40th at the Memorial July 16-19 after shooting 71 in two rounds and 76 in two rounds. Woods complained of back stiffness at the time, and his odds are drifting as high as 30/1 this week.

“You can never count him out, but I don’t think Tiger wins it,” Bogdanovich said. “I would not be interested in backing him in any matchups, either.”

Woods missed the cut at Bethpage last year, when Koepka carried a seven-stroke lead into the final round and beat Johnson by two.

“Anything around 25/1 to 30/1 is going to attract Tiger business,” Avello said. “Koepka is going to draw a fair amount of action, although his odds are not that good this week. DeChambeau will probably be popular, too.”

Koepka briefly took the lead Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis, Tenn., before driving a ball into a watery grave on the 72nd hole and finishing in a tie for second. Thomas walked away with a three-stroke win at 12/1 odds and reclaimed the world’s No. 1 ranking.

“I really do believe Thomas is the best player,” Avello said. “He’s so good in all aspects of the game.”

TPC Harding Park is a challenging course with heavy rough, so driving accuracy will be a key statistic and more important than length off the tee — which is the primary strength for DeChambeau, a bulked-up bomber who has not won a major, and McIlroy, who has four major titles but none since 2014.

Bogdanovich said he recommends Webb Simpson (28/1) and Collin Morikawa (35/1) as longer shots this week. Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said he’s eyeing Xander Schauffele (22/1) and Matthew Fitzpatrick (45/1) as value bets.

“Xander won’t have the pressure of being everyone’s pick this week. He’s not being talked about too much, and I think the 25/1 range is fair,” Sherman said.

“We did see the golf handle come back a little bit last week because of the return of the NBA and NHL, but I expect this handle to be double of what we normally do on the PGA.”

Sherman said he’s fading Woods, who has not won the PGA since 2007, in head-to-head player matchups.

There have been eight tournaments and eight different winners — Daniel Berger, Simpson, Johnson, DeChambeau, Morikawa, Rahm, Michael Thompson and Thomas — since the PGA Tour restarted two months ago. Thompson was the longest shot at 125/1 odds two weeks ago.

“The golf handicappers have been picking some winners lately, but good luck picking one this week,” Bogdanovich said. “This one is so wide open.”

Matt Youmans writes for VSiN.com, The Sports Betting Network.

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