History Behind the PGA Tour
Purses began to rise and the popularity of tournament golf and its stars began to increase in the 1960s. Players like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were instrumental in the formation of a Tournament Players Division of the PGA of America. It would be able to address the needs of tournament players. With thousands of golf courses and their professionals as the focus, the players felt the PGA of America wasn’t supporting them in the way they felt was in their best interest.
The division formally broke with the PGA of America in 1968, and Joe Dey became its first commissioner. It wasn’t until 1974, when Deane Beman took over, that the PGA Tour began to make great strides under his leadership.
One of the most visible changes was the building of the TPC Sawgrass course. It has been the home of The Players Championship since 1982. Its signature 17th-hole island green has become one of the most iconic golf images in the world. When Beman took over in 1974, purses were $8.2 million. Purses increased to $53.2 million by the end of his tenure in 1993. This growth continued to $363 million by 2018.
How to Bet on Golf at Legal Online Sportsbooks in the United States
To date, there are more than 30 states with approved sports betting. Most states also allow mobile wagering outside of a physical wagering facility. Legal betting is available when the prospective bettor is located within the state’s borders through a mobile sportsbook operator or is physically present at a retail wagering location.
The best way to get started is to access a licensed website where the bettor is located. Then, open an account. It’s not necessary to be a resident. However, bettors must be present within a legal state. Geolocation software verifies this before the account places any wagers.
While all user interfaces differ, most are fairly easy to navigate. Those who find themselves in multiple states at different times can still place bets. However, an account must be established in those states.
Bets Available when Betting on PGA Tour Golf
The matchup bet is a popular wager among golf bettors. Odds are placed on head-to-head scoring among players. Establishing lines and odds much like those for team sporting events, the potential matchups are almost infinite. Players don’t need to be paired together to wager on who shoots the lower round.
However, at most online sportsbooks, the futures bet is the most popular type of PGA Tour wager. Bettors choose a player entered in the tournament to win the event. Odds are generally at around +500 to +1000 for the favorite depending on the size of the field. These can go as high as +100,000 for the longest shot in the tournament.
At +500, a $100 bet would result in a $500 payoff, and at +100,000. That same bet would result in winnings of $100,000. Most online sportsbooks accept wagers for as low as $5 on individual bets. So realistically, especially in golf, most bettors are more likely to place bets of $10 or $20. However, they can still result in significant payouts.
In tournaments on the PGA Tour, there are between 120 and 156 players entered, which for futures bets makes the likelihood of picking the winner quite low. Therefore, making wagers on multiple players to win the tournament is also a good strategy to employ.
Some sportsbooks offer wagers on where players will finish in the tournament, not just on whether they will win or not. It’s possible to place bets for finishes in the top five, top ten, top twenty, or whether the player will make the cut.
While the odds are expectedly lower, so is the risk, with many players capable of making the cut or finishing above a certain position. However, only one can come away the winner. These attractive wagers are not as common as the futures bets, as they take quite a bit more effort to establish odds, but they are a great way to go for bettors who are knowledgeable about golf.
Best PGA Tour Events to Bet
Multiple tournaments make up the PGA Tour season. Below are some of the most popular events.
The Masters’ Tournament
The Masters tees off annually during the first week in April at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. It was first held in 1934, the brainchild of renowned amateur golfer Bobby Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts. Jones also designed and built the golf course along with course architect Alister MacKenzie. The tournament, operated by the Augusta National Golf Club, is considered an invitational event by the PGA Tour.
Winners of the Masters receive a coveted green jacket and an exemption to play in the tournament until they reach the age of 65. However, recent changes to the course have prompted most champions to stop participating well before they reach that age. The winner of the prior year’s tournament also hosts a Champions’ Dinner on the Tuesday night before the start of play.
Jack Nicklaus has won a record six Masters Tournaments, with the last one coming in 1986 at the age of 46. With his comeback win in 2019, Tiger Woods picked up his fifth green jacket, one more than Arnold Palmer’s four titles. In the fall of 2020, after the tournament was postponed due to COVID-19, Dustin Johnson took advantage of favorable conditions. Johnson set a new record of 20 under par 268 on his way to his second major tournament victory.
The second major of the year is operated by the PGA of America, an organization that consists of golf course professionals who manage facilities and give lessons to golfers throughout the country. In 2019, changes to the PGA and European Tour schedules prompted a move from August to May, opening the possibility for an expanded choice of courses for the PGA of America.
The PGA Championship began in 1916 in the matchplay format. The PGA Championship changed to a 72-hole stroke play format beginning in 1958 when Dow Finsterwald defeated Billy Casper by two shots. Despite the change to stroke play and predating the Masters by almost 20 years, the PGA has traditionally been the least respected of the four majors.
One of the reasons is that the field is partially composed of club professionals who qualify by finishing in the top 20 in the PGA Professional Championship. Otherwise, the field is comparable to the other three major championships. Another has to do with the conflict with the Open Championship, which began to gain prominence with American golfers after Arnold Palmer won it in 1961 and 1962.
After moving to August in 1969, a month removed from the Open Championship, it has continually increased in prominence and has gained similar importance with the other majors. Jack Nicklaus holds the record for stroke play wins with five. Walter Hagen posted the same number of matchplay victories.
Jason Day shot 20 under par 268 at Whistling Straits in 2015 to set the scoring record to par. Brooks Koepka set the stroke record three years later at 16 under par 264 at Bellerive. By winning the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, Phil Mickelson became the oldest champion at the age of 50.
US Open Championship
The US Open began in 1895, and the most recent event held at Torrey Pines and won by Jon Rahm was the 121st edition. The USGA operates the championship. The field is composed of a combination of exempt players and those who advance through a series of qualifying tournaments in which almost 10,000 entrants participate. The tournament, now the third of four major championships on the schedule, plays at various courses throughout the country. However, its mid-June timing limits the geographic locations that are available for inclusion.
Since 1965, the 72-hole tournament has been held over four days. It begins on Thursday and ends on Saturday. Before that, the championship ended with 36 holes of play on Saturday. But after Ken Venturi suffered heat-related health issues on his way to victory in 1964, the USGA changed to the current format.
Three players have won consecutive US Open championships since 1950. Ben Hogan won in 1950-1951, Curtis Strange in 1988-1989, and most recently Brooks Koepka in 2017-2018. Koepka shares the scoring record with Rory McIlroy, shooting 16 under par at Erin Hills in 2017 to match McIlroy’s total to par at Congressional Country Club on his way to an eight-shot victory in 2011. Historically, the US Open has been considered the most difficult of the four major championships.
Tiger Woods, a three-time US Open winner, won by a record 15 strokes at Pebble Beach in 2000 on his way to the “Tiger Slam.” The record for U.S. Open titles is four, shared by Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, amateur Bobby Jones, and Willie Anderson.
The Open Championship
Commonly known in the United States as the British Open, the oldest golf tournament in the world was first played at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland in 1860. Played in July, the oldest major championship rotates among a group of courses within the United Kingdom.
Royal and Ancient, known as the R&A, operates the Open Championship. R&A, along with the USGA, establishes rules and oversees the game of golf on a global basis. The tournament is also conducted in cooperation with the European Tour and PGA Tour, both of which consider it an official event.
Although Americans Sam Snead in 1946 and Ben Hogan in 1953 won the Open Championship following World War II, a growing United States golf tour and difficulty in travel kept most American golfers away from the event. However, that changed in 1961 when Arnold Palmer won at Royal Birkdale and then the following year at Troon, prompting more players from the United States to make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
Tom Watson and Peter Thompson hold the modern record with five Open Championships. Bobby Locke won four times. Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player all have three titles. COVID-19 concerns canceled the tournament in 2020. However, it resumed in 2021 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club.
Where to Bet on the PGA Tour
BetMGM is available for legal wagering in multiple states. The site offers futures, matchups, and live wagering on the PGA Tour events. It also has futures bets available as the progress of the tournaments continues. So, it’s not necessary to place a wager before the start of the tournament with odds changing to reflect up-to-date scoring. Matchup wagers are not open to live wagering, just like betting on games or tennis matches.
However, live wagering allows bettors to bet on who will win the next hole for selected pairings on the golf course. That feature can add a lot of excitement to what can sometimes be a slow-moving event. Learn more in our BetMGM Sportsbook review.
Caesars Sportsbook has an extensive potential golf offering. However, it depends on the state in which wagers will be available, like live betting and other proposition bets. They offer futures and prop bets on major championships as well as the Ryder Cup and other exhibition events like celebrity matches. Read our Caesars Sportsbook review for more.
One of the pioneers in Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) has successfully moved into the sportsbook space. DraftKings operates a sportsbook in most legal sports betting states and provides DFS virtually nationwide. The sportsbook is accessible for odds from anywhere. However, bettors must be in a legal state for wagering.
DraftKings has futures and matchup wagering available for the PGA Tour events. It also has a very robust live offering with hole score, hole winner, and hole grouping matchups offered for bettors as they watch televised golf coverage. The whole grouping wagers are on which player in a group will post the lowest score on a stretch of three holes and propositions such as which player in the group will make the most birdies throughout the round. Read more about DraftKings Sportsbook.
The other DFS frontrunner has also made the transition to the legal sportsbook space. FanDuel’s live golf offering is not as extensive as some of its competitors, with only outright winner wagers available.
The user interface for golf also doesn’t make future bets on upcoming major championships easy to find. Still, it could be possible for more experienced users to be able to navigate the site more successfully. Learn more about FanDuel Sportsbook.
Top Golfers to Place Wagers on the PGA Tour
Current PGA Tour Players
- Jon Rahm – The aforementioned Rahm is a great bet for top-five or top-ten wagers. Rahm holds 11 top-ten finishes and 17 cuts made in 18 starts in the 2020-2021 season, including the COVID-19-induced withdrawal from the Memorial after leading by six shots. Rahm has won six times on Tour. He is just starting to hit his stride in the significant events, as demonstrated by his first victory in a major championship.
- Jordan Spieth – After struggling for the better part of three years, Jordan Spieth broke through with a win earlier in 2021 at the Valero Texas Open. Spieth has been consistently in contention ever since, with eight top-ten finishes since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January. With his midrange putting ability and solid all-around game, Spieth appears to be approaching the form that made him one of the top players on the Tour from 2015 to 2017.
- Justin Thomas – The 2017 winner of the PGA Champion with 14 Tour titles is experiencing a bit of a slump, at least by his standards. However, Thomas is as good a ball striker and consistent player as there is on the Tour. He was able to bounce back from adversity early in 2021 by winning the prestigious Players Championship. He should just be entering the prime of his career, as evidenced by his third-place ranking in the OWGR.
- Tiger Woods – Although Woods won the 2019 Masters to capture his 15th major title, it seems unlikely that he will fully recover from his injuries suffered in a January automobile accident, at least not enough to make him competitive again on the PGA Tour. When healthy, Woods was the most efficient and successful as any player that ever teed it up, winning about 30% of all the tournaments he entered from 1997 to 2008.
Past PGA Tour Players
- Jack Nicklaus – With 18 titles and another 19 runner-up finishes in major championships, the Golden Bear was a virtual lock to be in contention on Sunday at a major. He built his entire schedule around the four most important tournaments of the year, and his results show the focus he placed on them.
- Greg Norman – Norman was only able to win two major championships despite being in contention numerous times. He won twenty times on the PGA Tour from 1984 to 1997 as well as over 50 times on the European and other international tours. Norman was a legitimate force in the 1980s and 1990s. It took Tiger Woods to knock him out of the top spot in the world.
Past PGA Tour Players Play in the LIV Golf Tour
- Bryson DeChambeau – The quirky mad scientist, as he is known, won the 2020 US Open by six shots. Although he found a way to add a lot of length to his game, DeChambeau can also be wildly inconsistent with certain courses ill-suited to his style. The Augusta National is prominently on that list.
- Dustin Johnson – With a win in each of his 14 seasons, 24 total victories, and a pair of major championships, Dustin Johnson was usually a good bet when he entered into a tournament. Jon Rahm’s win in the US Open knocked Johnson out of the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).
- Brooks Koepka – For major championship wagers, Brooks Koepka demonstrated that he takes his game to another level for the biggest tournaments on Tour, somehow finding another gear when the stakes are the highest. Half of his eight PGA Tour wins have come in major championships. Despite injuries that forced him to miss the 2020 US Open, he recorded top-ten finishes in the last three majors, including a tie for second in the PGA Championship.
Betting on the PGA Tour FAQs
Where can I legally bet on golf?
More than 30 states have legal sports betting, including on golf.
What are the most popular tournaments to bet on?
Generally, the four major championships generate the most interest among bettors. They are the Masters’ Tournament, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and the Open Championship, more commonly known in the United States as the British Open.
What kind of wagers are available to make on golf?
Futures bets on the winner of the tournament are the most popular. However, wagers on head-to-head matchups per round and for the entire event are also prevalent. Live proposition bets on hole-by-hole scoring and over-under wagers on the winning score can also be found.
What are the top online betting sites for golf?
BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars have licenses to operate in the highest number of states, making them the most available. However, a bettor must be present in a state to place a wager with one of the licensed operators.