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Sportsbooks Say 2020 Masters Was Biggest Ever Golf Betting Event

James Murphy
by in Golf on
  • Feedback from sportsbooks suggest that the 2020 Masters was the biggest golf betting event in history.
  • Most books were pleased that Dustin Johnson won the event as their biggest liabilities were on Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau.
  • BetMGM took a big hit on Dustin Johnson’s win including a $120,000 payout.

Golf has been a very popular betting sport among ‘sharps’ for awhile now but it looks as if the general public is starting to catch on as well. 2020 has been a breakout year for golf betting with sportsbooks in Nevada, Europe and elsewhere reporting solid growth. Much of this is by design as the PGA has been very proactive in embracing sports betting since the fall of PASPA. There’s also some degree of being ‘in the right place at the right time’. When most of the world’s sports went on hiatus during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic it was the PGA which became one of the first to get back to work. Even one-off made for TV events such as the TaylorMade Skins Game and the Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning v. Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady event attracted huge betting handle.

Golf has always been inextricably linked with gambling inside the sport and it was inevitable that this culture would extend to the sportsbook betting board. The game is now a huge betting sport both in terms of number of bets placed but also in the number of big money wagers it attracts. Six and even seven golf wagers are now an almost weekly occurrence. Longtime Wynn Las Vegas and current DraftKings sportsbook head Johnny Avello summed it up speaking with the GolfDigest website earlier this year:

“Golf is a game that continues to attract people who like to bet, and we continue to expand the offerings.”

No surprise that the 2020 Masters attracted a big betting handle but it looks as if having a final round on a big NFL Sunday may have helped rather than hurt. In an article by Todd Dewey in the Las Vegas Review-Journal several Southern Nevada bookmakers are suggesting that the 2020 Masters could very well have been the biggest golf betting event in history. Both William Hill and BetMGM told Dewey that it was likely their biggest ever handle on a golf event. William Hill took more than $1 million in wagers on the tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course won by Dustin Johnson.

The Masters was postponed to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that didn’t hurt the betting handle. The Masters futures market was on the board for 19 months at most books–many posted odds on the 2020 Masters not long after Tiger Woods won the 2019 tournament. William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich told the LVRJ that The Masters has a unique place among majors in terms of betting interest:

“It was up forever and it was up all four days it was going on. The Masters is just so popular. People know the course inside and out, so they dig it.”

“The other majors are played at different venues, so they just don’t have the same appeal.”

Most of the major Nevada sportsbooks were pleased with the outcome and took down a decent profit on the 2020 Masters including the Westgate, Stations and William Hill. BetMGM, on the other hand, found itself with a good deal of tickets on Dustin Johnson with the big blow coming via a $10,000 wager which cost the house $120,000. Here’s what BetMGM VP of trading Jason Scott reported in an email to Todd Dewey:

“The book had significant liability on Tiger Woods, but Dustin Johnson winning the tournament didn’t come without the sportsbook taking a hit as we had a significant amount of tickets and handle on DJ.”

DJ was the second most bet golfer at BetMGM. Most sportsbooks had their biggest financial liabilities on Tiger Woods and Byrson DeChambeau, who entered Masters week as the hottest golfer on the tour. BetMGM did catch a break with the second place finish of Sungjae Im. The sportsbooks had written a wager for $6,500 to win $650,000 on Im at +10000.

For the most part, sportsbooks did well despite Dustin Johnson’s dominating performance. William Hill’s Bogdonavich indicated that the big handle on the event combined with the short chalk price on DJ made for a profitable Masters:

“There was a ton of tickets and a ton of money on him, but the pool was so big and he was one of the smaller-priced guys, so we won. It just goes to show you how much money was in the pool.”

The Westgate’s Jeff Sherman confirmed that his book needed anyone but Tiger or DeChambeau:

“Tiger was by far the worst (liability). He was the only one in six figures for us. DeChambeau was our worst possibility among the contenders.”

Sherman has also posted opening numbers on the 2021 Masters with Johnson a +800 favorite to defend his green jacket. DeChambeau is second at +1000 followed by Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas at +1200. Brooks Koepka is at +1600 and the ever popular Tiger Woods at +4000. If you’re thinking of backing DJ to repeat keep in mind that only one golfer has been able to do so since Nick Faldo went back to back in 1989 and 1990–that was Tiger Woods who won the 2001 and 2002 Masters. The only other golfer to win back to back Masters was Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and 1966.

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