Home Sports PGA Tour’s return drew major-like bets at sportsbooks

PGA Tour’s return drew major-like bets at sportsbooks

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LAS VEGAS — Even in the agony of defeat, Collin Morikawa and his betting backers had to appreciate the drama of the PGA Tour’s comeback. It’s not always the thrill of victory that is remembered most.

The best and worst of golf wagering was on display in a wild four-day ride at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. Just as bad beats are a part of the game, so are long-shot winners, and Sunday’s final round exceeded the hype.

Daniel Berger emerged as the winner at odds as high as 80/1, but he was able to reach a playoff only after Morikawa missed a 6-foot birdie putt to win on the 72nd hole. Morikawa missed again from 3 feet on the first playoff hole to hand the trophy to Berger. There are no gimme putts when tournament pressure is cranked up.

It was not a major, but it had the feel of something big and it was bet like more than just another tournament.

“The wagering handle was really good,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It was definitely comparable to a major — not a Masters, but any of the other three majors.”

Not even the absence of Tiger Woods could kill the buzz. Woods, the 2019 Masters champ, will return sometime before the year’s first major in early August.

With the Major League Baseball season in limbo and the NBA and NHL playoffs still about six weeks away, the PGA Tour will help fill a gaping hole in the sports calendar that has been dominated by weekly UFC cards. Almost three months after a mid-March shutdown, golf returned to the sports world’s spotlight and took full advantage by putting on a phenomenal show.

“A lot of people will be introduced to golf betting and will stick with it,” Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “People like to play long odds and there are a lot of those opportunities in golf. You get a run for the money and enjoy it. It was awesome. But it was a tough one with Morikawa.”

Most bets come with a sweat, for better or worse. Sherman took a bad beat on his Morikawa wager at 40/1 odds, as did Bogdanovich, a veteran bookmaker who took the personal loss in stride because the golf week was good for business.

“If I had to pick the next great golfer, it would be Morikawa,” Bogdanovich said. “He let one slip away, that’s for sure. But it was a good winner for us.”

Morikawa, a 23-year-old rising star, seemed to have the tournament in the bag before his putter sputtered at the worst time. But several other players also had a shot to win Sunday, with Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele each taking turns at the top of the leaderboard.

Long-shots Jordan Spieth and Harold Varner III got off to hot starts in the first two rounds, and Justin Rose was among the high-profile players who made late charges. The gaggle of players in the hunt created a spike in live wagering on Sunday.

“It was totally wide open on the weekend and still wide open coming down to the last few holes,” Sherman said.

The playoff prop hit at 4/1 odds, and a prop on the winner carding a birdie on the 72nd hole cashed at 4/1 when Berger sank a 10-foot putt to get into the playoff.

BetMGM reported a handful of bets on Berger at 70/1 odds, most for less than $100. A bettor at DraftKings sportsbook in Colorado wagered $1,000 on Berger at 71/1 odds.

Pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy fell out of the running in the final round. Some other popular players — Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler — missed the cut. Still, there was plenty of star power and suspense to make the event a major success, win or lose.

“I had Morikawa and Schauffele, so it was doubly brutal,” VSiN golf analyst Brady Kannon said. “But it was absolutely thrilling. What a way for golf to come back.”

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