When Phil Mickelson defeated Tiger Woods on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff in 2018, the made-for-TV event largely served as a harbinger for the integration of cutting-edge betting technology into live golf broadcasts.
As Mickelson lined up for his approach on the 9th hole at the Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, advanced metrics from the PGA Tour’s ShotLink Intelligence gave him a 0.3% probability of carding an eagle from the first cut, 87 yards away. Two holes earlier, a proprietary data stream integrated into the broadcast showed that 48% of bettors at MGM Resorts International took Mickelson in a closest-to-the-pin challenge.
For Sunday’s encore, Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity, gambling will take on a more subtle role. Although the PGA Tour is sanctioning the exhibition, the ShotLink scoring system will not be utilized during the event, a Tour spokesperson told Sports Handle. At DraftKings Sportsbook, a content integration partner of the event, Woods and Peyton Manning are favorites (-225) to defeat Mickelson and Tom Brady. While the participants may again place impromptu side challenges on the course, the proceeds will be donated to charity to benefit COVID-19 relief. Ultimately, the main objective of the event is to raise millions for nationwide coronavirus response efforts, not to promote the latest sports wagering technological advances.
Scaled back emphasis on sports betting
Presented by Turner Sports, host of the live broadcast, WarnerMedia and the four athletes will collectively make a charitable donation of $10 million to a host of charities dedicated to assisting communities impacted by the global pandemic. During Sunday’s telecast, viewers will have the opportunity to enter into a live raffle for custom experiences featuring Woods and Mickelson, Turner said in a statement. The funds raised from the auction items and on-course challenges are expected to go to the ALL IN Challenge, an initiative that provides meals to those in need.
The two-man teams will compete in an 18-hole match on May 24 at Medalist Golf Club with $10 million in charitable donations being made to COVID-19 relief. pic.twitter.com/FLz0BPQ21o
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 7, 2020
The event is truly about the charitable response efforts, network sources said, as some of the in-game betting elements that were central to the 2018 event will not be integrated into Sunday’s broadcast. MGM Resorts, which played a pivotal role in the first incarnation, is not a presenting sponsor for the rematch at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida.
For the event at Shadow Creek, live odds on each hole and the match overall winner were ubiquitous on the screen during the entirety of the broadcast. While DraftKings will likely display some odds periodically, it won’t be an integral part of the viewing experience. Still, DraftKings is offering numerous wagers for the competition.
As of May 18, bettors backed Mickelson and Brady on 54% of all tickets even though wagers on Woods and Manning represented 53% of the overall handle, DraftKings told Sports Handle. For a wager on which team will prevail on the back nine, DraftKings will be rooting against Woods and Manning since nearly 90% of the handle is comprised of bets on the team.
DraftKings also has wagers on the longest drive for select holes, closest-to-the-pin and on which team will win more of the Par 5s. The book anticipates that both quarterbacks will start off with some early-round jitters. Manning has odds of +900 to birdie the first hole, while Brady’s odds are even higher at 10/1. A bettor will also receive a nice payout if they take either quarterback to defeat Woods and Mickelson in a closest-to-the-hole challenge on the Par 3, 8th. Both quarterbacks have odds in excess of +450 to win the challenge.
DraftKings has not posted any specials on the No. 5, a 408-yard par-4, with a sharp dogleg to the left.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) May 19, 2020
If any of the golfers record a Hole-In-One, PointsBet USA Sportsbook will reward bettors with a payout of 50/1. PointsBet’s oddsmakers expect Manning (-134) to outdrive Brady on the par-5, 553-yard No. 3, but only by a slight margin. William Hill also has a wager on if the event will go to extra holes with “No,” as an overwhelming favorite at -340.
Potential grading issues
Tiger-Phil II isn’t the first big-time charity golf event to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts. Last Sunday, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson partnered against Ricky Fowler and Matthew Wolff at the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida. The event went to a playoff hole and Team McIllroy-Johnson won while the event raised $5.5 million in relief — McIlroy and Johnson donated $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation, Fowler and Wolff sent $1.15 million to the CDC Foundation, and United Health Care donated $3 million for the skins contest.
Without ShotLink on the course at Medalist this weekend, some of the prop bets may prove difficult to grade. After the two teams at last Sunday’s TaylorMade Driving Relief halved No. 18, the golfers entered into a closest-to-the-pin contest on the 17th hole to settle the match. Despite being stuck between clubs, Matthew Wolff applied the pressure on Rory McIlroy with a precise tee shot from 125 yards. McIlroy quickly responded by placing his shot hole-high landing inside of Wolff’s attempt, or so it appeared.
At first glance, Wolff’s tee shot stopped about 12 feet from the hole, a live blogger wrote on GolfChannel.com. Had the estimate been correct, Wolff and partner Rickie Fowler would have captured six skins for $1.1 million and the event title. When two course attendants measured McIlroy’s shot, it landed 13 feet from the hole, they determined. A measure of Wolff’s shot found that it stopped 18 feet, 2 inches from the cup.
— Stephen Cox (@StephenCox27) May 17, 2020
With millions of dollars on the line, the discrepancy from a seasoned blogger underscores the importance for pinpoint accuracy when official data is used for grading wagers. The PGA Tour plans to launch a gaming product in partnership with IMG Arena later this year when its ShotLink technology will be fully utilized, a Tour spokesman said. For in-game betting purposes, the Tour believes ShotLink will be considerably more accurate than data that is collected from an on-course spotter and transmitted to a sportsbook operator, in violation of its ticketing procedures.
“If an operator decides to use some form of pirated data, there is no way they will be as accurate as ShotLink,” PGA Tour Senior VP for Tournament Administration Andy Levinson told Sports Handle last November.
During the first matchup between Woods and Mickelson in 2018, a tracking system that recorded the ball flight and landing spot of each shot enabled event officials to settle various side bets instantaneously. A former sportsbook executive at MGM Resorts described the technology as being precise enough to cover the vast terrain at Shadow Creek with “one club length,” accuracy. But with fewer in-game options available for The Match II, the absence of ShotLink may only have a discernible effect on a handful of wagers.
Earlier this month, the four athletes joined TNT’s Ernie Johnson on a webcast to promote the event. The presence of on-course betting notwithstanding, they each spoke on the importance of using their platform to help the nation rally from the devastating toll brought by the pandemic.
“It’s really a unique moment in time, I think the ability to help others is at the core of what this is all about,” Brady said.