The world’s best golfers are up in arms this week at the Open Championship in the UK, where they have been asked to sign a waiver to declare that they will not place bets on the outcome of the championship. Betting is something of a tradition for many players at the Open, because, of course, sports betting is completely legal and readily available in Britain. At the 1971 Open, Lee Travino famously bet £100 ($171) on himself at 14-1, which helped him to almost triple his prize money when he blew away the field.
However, for the first time at the Open, the R&A, the governing body of the game outside the US, has officially warned players that such behavior is now off-limits, despite the fact that it claims the rules have been in place since 2011. It was news to some. One player, who wished to remain nameless, told ESPN that he was “shocked” when he was handed the waiver, while his caddy expressed his delight that the ban did not extend to caddies.
We sense a way around the rules with that one.
“30 Guys in Violation”
Pro golfer Graeme McDowell gave a more measured and professional response, however, stating: “It’s really no different than what we already have on the European Tour and PGA Tour, so it doesn’t change anything.
“Honestly I love to gamble,” he continued, “just not on golf!” he added quickly, lest there were any representatives from the R&A in the vicinity.
Alas, though, it seems that old habits die hard, as one anonymous player representative revealed to ESPN: “There’s probably … at least 30 guys in violation [of the no-bet waiver] already,” the source revealed, “and that number will be bigger by [the end of the week].”
The new regulations bring British golf in line with almost every other sport in the world, which tend to frown on players betting on the outcome of an event in which they’re participating. The English Football Association (FA) recently announced that, from the forthcoming season, all professional players in English football would be banned from betting, not only on competitions in which their team is involved, as was previously the case, but from all football matches anywhere in the world. The new hard-line FA rules could well be the catalyst that has prompted the R&A to clamp down on its players.
Keeping Sport Clean
R&A CEO Peter Dawson said: “I can say that this whole business of keeping sport clean in terms of betting is very high on the IOC’s agenda at the moment, and something that we’re following very closely because it’s just a killer to sport to think that any outcomes might have been predetermined. And I really don’t think that’s applying in golf. But we have to be vigilant.”
Meanwhile, those of us who are not pro golfers, and who live in countries where such practices are legal, we are free to wager on the outcome of the Open Championship to our heart’s content. And not just the outcome; most UK bookmakers are offering odds on anything from whether a player will make a cut to how many bunkers he might hit.
In terms of an outright winner, Rory McIlroy is favorite (at the time of this writing), at 5-1, and he would seem to be a solid choice if he can keep his composure up front, although a good outside bet could be Justin Rose at 16-1. He’s been on a tear, having just won two tournaments on the bounce.
And for a real long-shot, there’s always Lee Travino…