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LIV Golf and the future of golf betting

LIV Golf and the future of golf betting

There have been a few changes in golf lately. LIV have entered the arena, and the new formats they are bringing have prompted the other big Tours to respond in kind. What we really want to know though is how does this affect the golf betting markets? Golf data expert Bryan Nicholson explains what it all means for the future.

In golf betting, we are looking for Fields and events where there is potentially a larger edge and lower variance for the golf bettor. This is why smaller Field events and more obscure tours can be a great place to look for value. Contrary to popular belief, the majors are not the best golf tournaments to bet on for profit. They might be the most popular for betting, but in terms of a long-term edge, golf majors are difficult to win on consistently.

The conundrum of betting on Golf Majors

Why are the majors difficult to win on? They are lower edge, high variance – the exact opposite of what we want. In major golf, all the top players in the world gather to tame some of the toughest courses. In any given major you could make a case for all these people to show up, and you never really know who will be contending down the stretch come Sunday. It usually comes down to which of the elite names have the big stick and the flat stick working that week. In majors like the Masters, it’s hard to find any real value on the bigger outsiders because of the strength in depth towards the top of the betting market. We can see that a market leader or an elite name has donned the green jacket more often than not in recent Masters renewals, the latest being won by market leader Jon Rahm at around 10 to one.

Here are the last 10 Masters winners. Only Danny Willett could have been regarded as a significant outsider, and he had a lot of help from Jordan Spieth, amongst others, the year he won.

1.     Bubba Watson
2.     Jordan Spieth
3.     Danny Willett
4.     Sergio Garcia
5.     Patrick Reed
     Tiger Woods
7.     Dustin Johnson
8.     Hideki Matsuyama
9.     Scottie Scheffle
   Jon Rahm

Regarding pricing and trying to find an edge for major championship golf betting, all the information is out there. The bookmakers and traders are concentrating on these tournaments ahead of time given they are the golf betting markets with by far the most turnover. As described in depth in my book Angles & Edges, this leads to more efficient odds and pricing, and there’s usually a higher margin incorporated on the big golf betting events.

These markets are hard to beat, plain and simple. The caveat to this being, arguably, the Open Championship, where we can use the weather and the links’ golf angle to find value on outsiders. Wind in golf betting is one of the most important variables to pay attention to, and links terrain always throws up a few surprises.

How has LIV golf changed the market dynamics?

LIV has indirectly thinned out the Fields on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour. The European Tour golf betting markets have changed the most due to this. Guys like Thomas Pieters, who often led the betting in European Tour markets at short prices, meant there was more value to be had further down the market. We want to see big names like Pieters, Branden Grace, or Louis Oosthuizen, and others at the top of the market combining to take up a large slice of the book percentage. With these guys having now defected to LIV, the European tour events look a lot more competitive in the pricing department, and it can be harder to find good value odds.

What I’m noticing nowadays are much more competitively priced golf betting markets that reflect both a player’s ability and their actual chances more efficiently. The front-runners in a golf market usually take up around 30% of the book, with the guys that make up the Field at the back of the pack accounting for around 20%. This means that if we attack the Field in between these tiers, we are playing on a much more level playing field percentage wise against the bookmaker. With the newest dynamics of these markets now coming into play, it’s becoming harder to find some value in tiers two and three of the betting market.

Designated and elevated status events

A big change to the PGA Tour - which has been instigated by the emergence of LIV Golf - is the arrival of new designated and elevated status events. These are events with elite fields and higher purses which are mandatory for the elite players to participate in.

In 2024, eight designated no-cut events with elevated purses will be scheduled for the PGA Tour, where the Fields will be limited to 78 players. These events will include championship courses like Bay Hill, Riviera, and Muirfield Village, and others may include a rotation concept.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said: “the changes will transform and set the future direction for the PGA Tour”. The elite players will now compete more often, and it will be harder for the next grade of player to get in. This means we will see more major-type golf markets for several weekly PGA Tour events where an edge is harder to come by, just like the major golf betting markets.

On the European Tour, this now means the B-grade PGA tour events will be lacking the big names at the top of the markets, meaning competition and pricing will be more competitive and efficient. Essentially, we will be looking at prices of around 33.0 on players we used to get 50.0 on, given lesser strength at the top of the market. As I mentioned previously, the second tier of the golf betting markets is arguably where the best value is, and this is the section that has been hit the most.

LIV golf and the changing dynamics of golf betting 

With innovation comes opportunity, and the 54-hole dynamic on the LIV golf tour means outsiders have more of a chance to thrive. The more holes that are played in golf, the more the elite will come out on top. The first-round leader market was very exploitable for several years backing outsiders given this concept. With a shorter schedule, LIV golfers tend to be rustier, and there is plenty of social action involved at these events, not just the golf. These are more reasons why we can take on the big names at the top of the outright market.

The LIV Golf tour, with the team dynamic, lends itself to both prop betting and live betting. These kinds of markets are becoming more and more popular in the current era of golf betting. Markets like the totals on round, player scores, head-to-head matchups, or ‘what will player x do’ on the next hole are becoming more commonplace. Even betting on hole-in-ones and eagles are markets where we can find angles and edges. Pricing these markets on-the-fly isn’t easy for traders, and we can pick and choose and line shop the best possible odds as a golf bettor.

Watch out for more innovative golf betting markets popping up as time goes by, while live betting in golf also looks to take over. The involvement of IMG Arena and live shot data is so sophisticated nowadays that there are lots of options going forward for oddsmakers and golf bettors.

You can find more of these types of articles on our dedicated Betting Resources index. Follow Bryan’s work and on Twitter at @NicsPicks.

*Odds subject to change



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Bryan Nicholson
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