Golf betting is nothing new but if you think you can get one over on the bookies, you’d better be prepared to go the extra mile.
During the recent WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, a player’s agent pointed out a couple of dodgy looking characters in the crowd as we walked around.
“Take a look at this guy in action,” he said, pointing to a sunburnt individual with a sideways on baseball cap who appeared to be talking to himself beneath a giant cactus.
Holding a tournament programme up to his mouth to muffle his constant chattering into the microphone of the cell-phone headset he wore, “Runner A” was giving play-by play commentary on Graeme McDowell’s match with YE Yang. He sounded British.
“He’s got about a 20 footer but it’s very quick with a lot of break,” A said, before moving around to get a better look at McDowell’s line, “Yang’s short-sided in the bunker.”
If you were following the match on the PGA Tour’s Shot Tracker service, it’s likely that that information had yet to be posted on-line (possibly inaccurately). It’s also likely that TV pictures were at least a few seconds behind the ‘Live’ action or not broadcast at all. In the meantime, the odds kept changing and if you like to bet “in-running”, the bookie already knew more than you did.
“Runner B” was doing the same thing (they didn’t appear to be working together), though this character wore a natty, flat cap in a light shade of green. He could move too and was generally ahead of the crowd as holes were decided and already running to the next vantage point from where he could tell his employer the exact shape of Yang’s tee shot, the difficulty of McDowell’s lie in the left rough, and so on. He was also a Brit.
No wonder the European Tour is concerned about betting.
As the AP’s Doug Ferguson reported this week, “the European Tour has a new policy in its regulations this year that forbids a player or a caddie to place a bet on any golf tournament in which they are participating.”
Most reporters I know are poorer than field mice, so while they are often party to inside information that might be useful to a bookie, it’s the caddies that really have the inside scoop on putting yips, the marriage breakups, the overnight attacks of “Delhi belly” and other tidbits that could make picking a winner in a three-horse race significantly easier.
As Ferguson reported: “The first section of the policy is that no player or caddie can either directly or indirectly bet or be involved in a bet in a competition they are playing or have any influence. Another section forbids players or caddies to provide information in which either has inside information.”
The tour is trying to protect itself from the kind of scandal that has seriously undermined the integrity of international cricket and top class snooker in recent years.
Most people who like a flutter on the golf, won’t be too worried about the Arizona runners. A fiver each way on DA Points at 100 to 1 is not going to buy anyone a house in the Bahamas. But those who like to use betting exchanges and other more complex forms of wagering must surely know that the odds are stacked against them.
Who knows how many runners were in Arizona that week. Perhaps the big money was on the Yang-McDowell match. Who knows? It was fascinating to watch and brought home the reality while there are a lot of poor reporters knocking around, not many people know a poor bookie.