Golf Matchup Betting: Why You Shouldn’t Bet Three-Way Lines With Tie as an Option


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Rory McIlroy

There are two ways that sportsbooks list golf matchup bets involving two golfers:

  • Two-way lines, with a tie resulting in refunded bets
  • Three-way lines, with a tie as a longshot option

It doesn’t seem likely that two golfers will finish with the exact same score over 72 holes.

But you should not be betting these three-way lines, because they allow sportsbooks to subtly bake even more juice into these markets.

Why You Shouldn’t Bet Three-Way Matchups with Tie as an Option

This concept is outlined in more detail in the excellent book The Logic of Sports Betting, along with some other examples.

All sets of odds are really just the implied probabilities of the event. A coin flip is 50-50 and adds up to 100%.

In sports betting, implied probabilities always add up to more than 100%, because the sportsbook needs its cut.

The more the sum of those probabilities goes over 100%, the more of an advantage the sportsbook has.

This Jon Rahm vs. Rory McIlroy example from DraftKings for the 2020 RBC Heritage is a fair line — a 4.3% hold, similar to an NFL point spread.

Golfer Odds Implied Probability
Rory McIlroy -137 57.8%
John Rahm +115 46.5%
Total 104.3%

But when you add the tie, the hold increases to 9.5%. That’s similar to betting every NFL point spread at -120, which you would never do.

Golfer Odds Implied Probability
Rory McIlroy -137 57.8%
John Rahm +115 46.5%
Tie +1800 5.26%
Total 109.5%

By making it a three-way market, the sportsbook removes the tie as a way for you to get your money back, which doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but will cost you about $5 more for every $100 wagered in the long run.

OK, So Where Should I Bet Golf Matchups?

You should always bet where you can get the best price on a specific golfer you like. If Rory and Rahm are both -121 at one book, that’s a more unfair price, but you should still bet Rory at -121 instead of the -137 at DraftKings.

Starting with the 2020 RBC Heritage, DraftKings began offering two-way matchups, and a bunch of other books followed suit.

That doesn’t mean it will be like this forever — books often copy each other, and if one posts a different style of market one week, they may not have anything good to copy.

The Best: Two-Way, 20-Cent Lines

Not Good: Three-Way Lines with Draws

Pre-tournament, bet365 is offering only three-way lines. In tournament, they do offer two-way matchups.

Slightly Better: Two-Way, 30-40 Cent Lines

BetMGM offers three-way markets, plus two-way markets between the same golfers at higher odds (-118 on both sides, for example).

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