Sobel: Golf’s Gambling Gold Rush Is Coming and Tiger vs. Phil Will Give Peek into Future

Sobel: Golf’s Gambling Gold Rush Is Coming and Tiger vs. Phil Will Give Peek into Future article feature image

Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson

  • The TV broadcast for "The Match" between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will include heavy integration of live betting odds.
  • This will help accelerate the PGA Tour's process of understanding the infinite gambling possibilities for golf telecasts.

The future of wagering on professional golf is about to unfold in front of our eyes, a small glimpse into what this world could — and probably should — resemble as sports gambling becomes more legalized and mainstream while the powers-that-be scurry to promote their product to a massive potential growth market.

Even though the practice of gambling on golf has been available through specific avenues for years, it’s still very much a new frontier, with thousands of figurative miles of barren land waiting to be settled by those who venture toward exploration.

The metaphoric gold rush, though, is coming.

Industry insiders have suggested that because of the large numbers of weekly competitors, the pace of play and the infinite gambling opportunities, golf might own a greater potential on this platform than any other sport.

Golf and betting are natural kin. Anyone who’s ever played, say, a two-man best-ball match with greenies, sandies, skins and automatic two-down presses understands how muddled a scorecard can become during the round.

It’s not difficult to imagine a bettor placing similar wagers on a professional’s game — all while the television broadcast caters to this burgeoning marketplace.

Enter “The Match,” the upcoming one-day, 18-hole, big-money game between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

According to a press release that went public on Thursday, “The broadcast will include real-time, hole-by-hole statistics that will be displayed on screen to forecast the probability of certain outcomes during the match.”

And then there’s this:

“After a hole has concluded, the broadcast will integrate a proprietary data stream provided by the MGM Resorts Race & Sports Books — in association with the MGM/GVC Interactive Gaming Joint Venture — to deliver odds, moneyline and other information associated with the golfers’ performance.”

Think of it this way: Your at-home screen is going to look like CNBC during a normal business weekday, but instead of tracking the latest ups and downs of Apple’s stock, the real-time numbers will be spitting out odds for multiple live betting possibilities within the match.

I believe the goal of televising so much predictive analysis and live wagering probabilities is purely self-promotional, as the organizers want to offer those who paid $20 for the pay-per-view broadcast not only some bang for their buck, but a chance to make their bucks back.

Ultimately, though, the greater byproduct from this match lies less in the future of head-to-head golf and more in serving as a blueprint for potential innovation when it comes to the PGA Tour and other organizations serving their constituencies throughout television programming.

Intentionally or not, the upcoming match will help accelerate the process of understanding the infinite gambling possibilities for golf telecasts.

Executives from each of the game’s governing bodies will see this and know it’s their future in a few years, if not on the network broadcast of a tournament then at least on an alternate channel.

When I spoke earlier this year with Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president for tournament administration, he offered a similar take on how they envision this development.

“I could see a time, yes, when the activities of sports gambling are engaged in the way we present our sport,” he said. “Maybe not on site, at our venues, but certainly through our media platforms, through our broadcasts. I definitely see that as a possibility. … It could be a really great tool to get people to engage in the sport, follow the players, stay with the competition throughout, from start to finish. Not just drop in and drop out, but really watch the whole broadcast every day.”

The idea is that rather than just snoozing on the couch as a Sunday afternoon final round is wrapping up, viewers should be engaged with the event, an interactive experience that will be enhanced by the increased attention toward wagering opportunities.

That day was always approaching; it was always going to be part of the long-term planning efforts of those who control how we consume content on live golf telecasts.

But that day might come a little sooner once the possibilities are unveiled during “The Match,” which will open a window into the future of how the game can be presented on a weekly basis.

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