It’s golf – you can bet on it

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Corporate America has widely embraced the comparatively recent relaxations governing gambling activity in American society.
Posted on
September 11, 2023
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

According to bet365, the USA are 4-5 on to retain the Ryder Cup by winning the match in Rome on October 1. Europe are 5-4 against. The ‘draw’ (by which they mean ‘tie’) is 12-1, an outcome that would leave the Americans keeping possession of the famous trophy. I have not, incidentally, chosen to quote the odds provided by bet365 because they are the first betting company of the 25 listed on the oddschecker site. I’ve chosen them because the company is a marketing partner of the PGA Tour. 

Corporate America has widely embraced the comparatively recent relaxations governing gambling activity in American society, not least when it comes to its association with sports. Inevitably, though, it can cause unwanted outcomes. At the BMW Championship in Chicago last month, two spectators were evicted from the premises after calling out at Max Homa, this in the context of a bet they had placed. Homa will be in Rome, as will Jon Rahm. He said of such incidents: “It’s very present. More often than you think.” Such an occurrence has not yet blighted a Ryder Cup but no one could seriously be hugely shocked if it ever did. One yell at the beginning of a player’s downswing or as his putter was about to strike the ball could have a dramatic impact, and not in a good way. People bet on all sorts of sports but the major difference between golf and most other such environments, such as football or horse-racing, is the potential proximity of members of the public to the stars upon whose exploits they may be staking a financial chance while said stars are in play. 

This week sees the UK publication of the book Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk by Billy Walters, which has a major golf connection. Walters was a pal of Phil Mickelson, a friendship that was tested to destruction when Mickelson declined to appear as a witness for Walters when he was facing prosecution for insider trading. He got six years. Among the claims in Walters’ book is that Mickelson asked him to put $400,000 on the USA to win the 2012 Ryder Cup, an allegation vehemently denied by Mickelson. (Note the alleged bet was on a win for the team on which Mickelson was playing, even if the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ meant they lost.) Walters says he thinks Mickelson has lost $100 million in wagers over the past 30 years – which might help to explain the various new equipment contracts and his defection to LIV Golf.  

I have not read the small print (or the large, come to mention it) but I am figuring that the Saudi-generated LIV contracts do not encourage gambling by its participants. Meanwhile, if you don’t fancy taking a punt on the result at Marco Simone in three weeks’ time, how about a bet on future Open Championship venues? Ahead of the Irish Open last week, it was reported that the R&A might be minded within the next decade to take the Open out of the UK and stage it at Portmarnock in the Irish Republic – “seriously looking at it”, according to Rory McIlroy. I wonder what the odds are on that? 


You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog plus you can read more by him on golf at 

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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