Time for the industry to take a punt on golf?
It’s Masters week, so the eyes of the sporting world will again turn to those perfect fairways and not-far-from perfect rough areas of the immaculate and iconic Augusta National Golf Club.
Sports fans were glued to the event a year ago when Sergio Garcia rolled back the years to pip European rival Justin Rose to secure his first Major title some two decades after bursting on to the scene.
Few would have tipped Garcia in the ante-post markets. Many would have backed Jordan Spieth heading into the final round, but figuratively screwed up their betting slips when he chipped into the water on the 12th.
Betting should reflect the drama
The Masters and the other major golf events are important for sports fans and broadcasters, and should be very important for betting operators. The betting industry needs to provide a market that can offer punters the chance to put their expertise to the test and should offer a service that reflects the drama taking place on the course. When Rose and Garcia’s play-off was capturing the imagination last year, many golf fans must have felt short-changed in being unable to make those in-play wagers that they expect to be able to make in tennis or football. Everyone had an opinion as to whether Sergio would sink his putt on the 18th, or whether his iron shot on the playoff hole would hit the green, but many would not have been able to do so through their usual bookie, unless it’s one of those that has integrated Metric’s shot-by-shot Super Live service, when TV coverage allows.
While betting is a decade beyond the smartphone and in-play revolution, the golf market isn’t that different to what was on offer when Tiger Woods was winning his first Majors 20 years ago. Golf attracts a different sort of punter to most sports due to the big odds available. The possibility of a big win in the ante-post markets draws quite a few people in.
However, the iPhone generation want quick fixes and, so while the likes of cricket and tennis have grown in size because of the greater scope for quick turnaround markets, golf is still awaiting this major growth.
That is where Metric’s Super Live comes in with the availability to bet on the performance of golfers in the moment instead of waiting for four days for the result and your potential winnings.
The Tiger effect
There’s no shortage of interest in the sport, and that’s especially true as we build up to the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in the autumn. France’s first staging of the tournament will doubtless create extra interest in the sport in mainland Europe.
As for the UK, the Masters still gets primetime coverage in the UK on BBC television, as well as comprehensive coverage across the full four days on Sky Sports. The competition’s pulling power was proven by the fight between Sky and BT Sport for the rights to the event, with the former just about keeping hold of one on its crown jewels.
Punters will be considering whether Sergio and Justin can again top the leaderboard, or will Spieth or Rory McIlroy add to their tally of Majors? Undoubtedly viewing figures will swell should a resurgent Tiger be in contention over the weekend.
It’s worth noting the Tiger effect more generally on golf events throughout the season. Stateside the recent PGA Tampa Bay Championship, where Woods finished second, was the highest rated and most-watched golf telecast other than the Masters in the last four years. Viewers in the UK and around the world are more likely to tune into PGA events when this legendary player is in the hunt for titles, so his comeback will positively affect TV ratings and betting.
Tiger’s return coincides with a broadcast enhancement that will allow punters to follow his progress more closely. PGA Tour Live, which covers all the action from four big name groups on the first two days of a PGA tournament, has recently been picked up by Sky Sports. Punters can bet on these groups on Super Live while being able to see the majority of the action, compared to just the occasional shot when the producer has to decide which developments to show from a full field.
Information is also, of course, key for betting demand and recent advancements mean there is also a broader range of statistics available in the general domain (with the official PGA and European Tour websites recently improving their statistics sections) which helps punters in their quest to find an edge.
Looking beyond this Sunday’s finale in Augusta, with Tiger back in the mix and a Ryder Cup to look forward to, this will be a big year for those millions of fans who love golf. It’s time that the betting industry looked over the horizon and aimed for the pin with this thrilling sport. And, if you’re asking, I’ll be putting my each-way money on Georgia native, Brian Harman.
Peter D’Arcy, Head of Golf, Metric Gaming.