Following last week’s debut of the LIV Golf Series, the rhetoric between golfers on the PGA Tour and its breakaway rival has become so contentious that some members of the media have jokingly referred to the current period as the “Revolutionary War of Golf.”
As major champions Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Patrick Reed have gotten grilled for their participation in the Saudi Arabian-backed series, more than a dozen LIV golfers are in the field for this week’s U.S. Open in Brookline, Massachusetts. One sports betting operator, MaximBet, offers an intriguing prop that pits golfers from both tours against each other. The prop allows bettors to wager on whether a quintet of LIV golfers will finish with a lower cumulative score than five top golfers from the PGA Tour.
The PGA group, which features Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Cameron Smith, opened as a considerable favorite with odds of -400. With five major winners in Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, DeChambeau, and Reed, the LIV contingent carried longer odds at +275.
Before last week’s LIV debut, SuperBook Sports head golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman predicted that wagering for the event would represent a fraction of the handle for the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open in Toronto. Sherman likened betting activity to that of the USFL, which on a given weekend is only a sliver of a typical NFL Sunday. Sherman proved to be prophetic, as the handle for the RBC dwarfed total wagering for the LIV London event by a factor of 8x.
The disparity was even greater at BetRivers, where the handle for the RBC wound up being 26 times higher than the LIV event at the Centurion Club, according to Rush Street Interactive. To underscore the disparity, BetRivers handled more in wagers on last Thursday’s opening round of the RBC Canadian Open than it did for the entire three days of the LIV opener.
The gulf also raises questions whether betting on LIV golf will catch on when the series makes its U.S. debut in Portland, Oregon, later this month.
Limited availability for LIV wagering
Several other mobile sportsbooks, including DraftKings and PointsBet, accepted wagers last week for the LIV debut. Despite being live in more than 15 states, DraftKings only gained approval to offer LIV wagering in six jurisdictions last week: Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, Ontario, and Wyoming. PointsBet had even fewer, with wagering limited to only four jurisdictions. The limited approval on the state level helps explain the disparity in wagering between the competing events.
Dustin Johnson opens as the favorite for the Liv Golf Invitational, in what is definitely a very competitive field 😅
(Markets are available in IL / OR / ON / CT / AZ / WY only) pic.twitter.com/RYBdImvEcJ
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) June 7, 2022
By last Thursday’s LIV debut, betting lines for the event were not available in prominent states such as New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Colorado, which has offered a litany of golf wagers over the last two years, still has not made a formal decision on whether to offer future LIV events, according to the Division of Gaming’s sports event catalog. Regulators in Iowa, meanwhile, are still weighing whether to approve LIV wagers before the series’ next event in Portland on June 30-July 2.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission received a handful of LIV requests roughly 48 hours before the event teed off on June 9, a commission spokesman told Sports Handle. When evaluating whether to accept wagering on an event, the commission typically conducts a lengthy due diligence process before making a decision. Among the considerations, the commission examines if the requisite integrity safeguards are in place, whether an event has an official data partner, and if the event has an independent integrity monitor.
— MaximBet (@MaximBetUSA) June 15, 2022
The commission also likes to be in communication with a representative of the event to clarify any lingering integrity matters. During the due diligence period, the commission was unable to make contact with the LIV series.
“We won’t be able to approve the market until we feel a little more comfortable with some of those outstanding questions,” the commission spokesman said.
Shift to U.S. should goose action
The LIV London event, won by Charl Schwartzel, featured several other major winners in Mickelson, Johnson, Garcia, Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, and Graeme McDowell. Neither DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, nor Reed, the 2018 Masters champ, competed in London. Both U.S. golfers will make their LIV debut in Portland at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
There are five LIV events scheduled on U.S. soil in 2022. LIV will also host tournaments in Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Bedminister, New Jersey, later this year. The season-ending LIV team championship will be held at Trump National Doral Miami from Oct. 27-30.
The addition of DeChambeau and Reed could bolster the handle for the U.S. debut, Sherman noted.
“Any time there are recognizable names like that, it will increase it, especially with it being in the United States versus London,” he said. “I would expect our handle to exceed the first London event.”