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2-Ball vs. 3-Ball Matchups in Golf Betting, Explained

2-Ball vs. 3-Ball Matchups in Golf Betting, Explained article feature image

Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Johnson (left) and Bryson DeChambeau.

Golf matchup betting might not offer the same get-rich/quick rush of an outright or first-round leader bet, but they’re among the most popular markets in the sport.

There are several different kinds of matchup bets to explore — 2-ball, 3-ball and group betting. These types of wagers can also be for a single round or over the course of the entire tournament.

2-Ball Matchups

Two-ball matchups feature two players going head to head. You’re just trying to pick which golfer will score better.

Here’s an example from the 2021 British Open — DraftKings gives Viktor Hovland a 52.17% finish the tournament with a better score than Paul Casey. In this case, a tie will result in refunded bets (more on that below).

Full Tournament (or 72-Hole) Matchups

Golfer Odds Probability
Viktor Hovland -120 52.17%
Paul Casey +100 47.83%

Round (or 18-Hole) Matchups

Round matchups, often called 18-hole matchups, work the same way, with the odds adjusted to account for the fact that it’s easier for a lesser player to beat a better player over 18 holes and not 72.

Sportsbooks will offer Round 1 matchups in the days leading up to the event, and new pairings between each round over the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, the matchups offered will usually be between players paired together.

For just a single round, DraftKings gives Casey a slightly better chance to beat Hovland, though he’s still an underdog.

Golfer Odds Probability
Viktor Hovland -120 51.01%
Paul Casey -110 48.99%

What If One Golfer Misses the Cut?

You’ll win your matchup bet if your golfer makes the cut and the other one doesn’t — even if your golfer ends up with a worse score to par at the end of the tournament.

If both players miss the cut, the winner will be whoever had the better score after those two rounds.

Tie Option vs. No Tie Option

Depending on the sportsbook, you may see slightly different 2-ball matchups listed that can actually make a big impact.

Generally, you want to bet the option where a tie results in refunded bets, because the three-way option has more hold, which is advantageous for the sportsbook.

The hold on this three-way market is 8.26% — that means for every dollar wagered, the sportsbook will on average keep that much of it. For the two-way market where the tie is refunded, they’re keeping just 4.71%.

If you don’t think the tie will come into play and want to bet your golfer at a slightly better price, go ahead. Just know that in the long run, it’s disadvantageous.

BetMGM lists two players with a tie bet available and two players with a tie resulting in a refund right next to each other. Here’s another 2021 British Open example:

Golfer Odds Probability
Dustin Johnson -110 48.38%
Bryson DeChambeau +100 46.18%
Tie +1600 5.43%

BetMGM will of course adjust the prices when the tie isn’t in play, adding five cents to DJ and Bryson’s lines. But overall, you’re still getting a better price without the tie option.

Golfer Odds Probability
Dustin Johnson -115 51.08%
Bryson DeChambeau -105 48.92%

3-Ball Matchups

Three-ball matchups feature three players, with each usually at plus-money. That’s because it’s harder to beat two other players than one, so the probabilities are spread out across the the three players.

Let’s use a Round 1 3-ball example from the 2021 British Open. Sportsbooks use the actual tournament pairings so that they can’t get burned by the variables that come with different tee times, like weather or the course softening up later in the day.

Koepka is the clear favorite among his group for a Round 1 3-ball matchup on Thursday. These three are playing together.

Golfer Odds Probability
Brooks Koepka +100 44.9%
Jason Kokrak +175 32.6%
Garrick Higgo +300 22.5%

If two (or all three) players tie, dead heat rules will apply at most sportsbooks, meaning your winnings will be cut by the number of players who tied.

Group Betting

There’s a third type of matchup betting that features about five players who have roughly the same odds to win the tournament. It’s often called “group betting.”

The golfer with the best score out of these five will win the group. But the hold is even higher than 3-ball betting — this group at bet365 has a 14.3% hold.

Dead heat rules will also apply here, so if two players tie for the best score, your bet will be cut in half.

Golfer Odds Probability
Jon Rahm +163 33.24%
Brooks Koepka +400 17.48%
Xander Schauffele +400 17.48%
Justin Thomas +450 15.9%
Jordan Spieth +450 15.9%

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