‘A JV tour’: Why betting markets are down on LIV golfers’ chances at The Masters
The Masters begins this week with 18 competitors from the breakaway LIV Golf Tour competing in the same event against their PGA Tour counterparts, many of whom are open against rival circuits. And Saudi-backed LIV punters will find that it’s not just the establishment that has given them the cold shoulder – the betting markets too.
Past Masters winners and other major title holders such as Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, who broke away from the PGA Tour to join the controversial circuit, are offered higher odds of winning the event than counterparts similar in the traditional circuit.
At play here is a betting market that doesn’t believe LIV’s 54-hole format, shotgun start, no cut and guaranteed payout provides the competitive environment needed to forge major winners. The accessibility of LIV streams is another factor, as is the tension between LIV players and the PGA Tour that could affect play (which apparently could hinder either side in golf’s civil war).
“The market price you’re seeing now for the 2023 Masters is a direct consequence of what’s happening week-to-week on the PGA Tour versus what’s happening on the LIV Tour,” said Kevin Lawler, head of trading at PointsBet. “PGA (Tour) players are constantly trying to win titles, they’re constantly trying to finish as high as possible.”
LIV golfers, he added, “are not in these high-pressure situations for really important titles, week in and week out, they’re playing for money, that they already have a stack they’ve signed with.”
Rex Beyers, head of betting for sportsbook PlayUp USA, called LIV a “JV tournament.”
“The market is clearly saying, ‘We don’t give you much of a chance at all,'” he wrote in a direct message.
Many of LIV’s players have been lured away from the PGA Tour by eight- and nine-figure signing bonuses. The PGA Tour has banned these players, which is the subject of an antitrust lawsuit between the tournaments.
The effect of this money, however, has convinced LIV players that LIV players will fight because they are rewarded a lot, win or lose. Only two of the top 10 players based on odds are LIV golfers. According to BetMGM, Cameron Smith, the most recent major winner, is at +2000, and Johnson, the 2020 Masters winner, is at +2500. In betting, a +2000 means 20-to-1, or the bettor wins $2,000 on a $100 bet that Smith wins the event, or in Johnson’s case $2,500. The smallest odds are PGA Tour stalwarts Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler at +700.
“The troubling part is you have a lot of previous Masters winners, which I wouldn’t say are disrespected, but for Dustin Johnson not to be a top 10 favorite at the Masters is pretty shocking,” Max Bichsel said. , vice president at Gambling.com Group, When Bichsel was speaking, Johnson was outside the top 10, but his odds have improved and he is currently 10th on BetMGM’s odds chart.
“I’m very intrigued to see how the LIV players will fare, since they apparently didn’t play tough, rigorous golf against the best players in the world,” added Bichsel. “And it’s something we haven’t seen in professional golf, really ever.”
The most famous player to go to LIV is undoubtedly Phil Mickelson, whose outspoken comments about the nature of the Saudi supporters drew strong criticism. His odds are +20,000. Brooks Koepka, an LIV golfer who has won four majors, is ranked at +3,300.
Brooks Koepka finished tied for second at the 2019 Masters. (Michael Madrid / USA Today)
With this being the first event in which LIV and PGA players will square off since last year’s Open Championship, whether there is tension or outright hostility between the sides is something to behold.
“There’s a fair chance some of the LIV guys will put up with some animosity at the Champions dinner, on the driving range, on the practice green, during practice rounds, the par-3 tournament,” Beyers wrote. “By the time Thursday rolls around, who knows what will happen? It’s an X-factor that’s hard to handicap, but can’t be completely overlooked. Will customers really mock Phil Mickelson, which would have been considered unthinkable a year ago?”
PointsBet is even planning to offer odds on whether a LIV golfer will win the Masters. Lawler said the odds would be in the +800 range for the bet.
Bichsel for one said the long odds on LIV players are wrong. Those golfers are professionals, he said, adding that, unlike the other three majors that rotate between courses, the Masters is always at Augusta National. This means that the players are very familiar with the terrain.
Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm among the favorites at Augusta National
“Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, these are all major championship winners. If they have to go to Augusta next week, I think it’s safe to say they’ve been there and done that before,” Bichsel said. “And I fully expect them to compete. And that’s why when you look at what the odds and some of these prices look like, there are some very attractive players where if they played a normal PGA Tour schedule and were in the shape you’d expect them to be, you’d suspect their odds would were much shorter than what is currently published.”
And what if an LIV golfer wins the Masters, a prospect that LIV commissioner Greg Norman said would lead to a celebration on the 18th green by all 18 LIV players at Augusta? In that case, the odds for future majors likely won’t be so tilted toward PGA Tour residents.
“For the PGA Championship and the US Open to be held in May and June,” Bichsel concluded, “it would fit in significantly.”
(Main photo of Dustin Johnson: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)