It’s a truism in sports that the big events bring out the casual punters. Plenty of soccers fans would have had a flutter on the FIFA World Cup last month. And when the Super Bowl LVII comes to Arizona next month, you can be sure it will bring out punters who wouldn’t normally place a wager any other time of the year.
In golf, the Majors tend to have the same effect. The bigger the tournament, the more sports betting wagers we see placed on it. But while there are many ways to bet on golf, the most popular way remains to pick the outright winner. And, you know what, it’s a difficult thing to do.
The main point of difficulty comes from the very large field. If you are betting on a football game, you are choosing between two teams; if you are betting on a horse race, you could have anything from 5-20 runners. But in a Major golf tournament, the field can be over 150 players. That’s a lot of extra variables thrown into the mix.
Golf always throws up an outlier result
Now, none of this is to say that golf is wildly unpredictable. It isn’t, at least not always. We had the Tiger Woods era when you could be sure that the great man would be in the mix in every Major. And there are even more recent cases, like Dustin Johnson’s Masters win in 2020 when the player seemed destined to win pre-tournament and all the way through it.
But golf, much more than any other sport, can throw up surprise winners. You don’t get winners of the Super Bowl with 150/1 odds, but you do get players like Phil Mickelson winning the PGA Championship at those odds. It’s part of the nature of the game that we always get outlier results: Mickelson is certainly not alone as a 100/1 winner in golf’s recent history.
And yet, the other important point to make about golf’s Majors is that they are uniquely suited to each-way betting. For the uninitiated, we are talking about betting on a player to finish in the top four or five places in a tournament. You will usually get a quarter or a fifth of the odds if that occurs. So, if you backed a 100/1 shot each-way, you would earn 20/1 on your bet if they finished in the each-way places.
Always a long-shot finishing near the top
The reason we bring this up is that golf’s Majors results are completely littered with players who have come out of nowhere to finish near the top. In the most recent Major, The Open 2022, Cameron Young, for example, finished second, and he started the tournament with odds well over 100/1 with most sportsbooks. Backing Young each way would, therefore, have been more profitable than backing the eventual winner, Cameron Smith.
But there is one more part of the secret sauce in the Majors’ each-way betting: Sportsbooks are more inclined to give extra places for these events. So, if a normal golf tournament has each-way conditions where a player must finish in the top five, a special bookmakers promotion for a Major might be up to ten places. That gives the punter a bit of leeway with their picks. Please note that these sort of promotions only come about in the days leading up to the Major, so don’t, for example, go looking in January for each-way markets for the Masters in April.
Finally, the kicker: While we say that each-way markets are your friend in golf Majors betting, we didn’t say it was easy either. Cameron Young might be in good form today, but his performances leading up to The Open 2022 were fairly turgid. It might seem easy in hindsight to pick a 100/1 shot to place in the top ten, but it’s not always easy in practice.