It had been a relatively slow start to the summer from a sports betting perspective. Yes, there was a World Cup taking place, but from a U.S. point of view, that was only going to be a drop in the bucket compared to some of the other sports. Baseball has a niche group of bettors that are without question lovers of the game and bet heavy amounts, but really everyone was turning their attention to the upcoming NFL and NBA seasons, where we expect to see by far the most volume.
But then, something happened. Tiger happened.
A strong performance at the British Open in late July, with Tiger taking the lead ever so briefly on the final day of competition, started to peak some interest. However, the time change tends to get in the way with that event, and Tiger’s round was over far before people are starting to tune in. This still created a news cycle that no other summer sport (sorry, Boston Red Sox fans) could attain.
Then, the unthinkable happened – Tiger was shooting the lights out on Sunday at another major championship, this time the 100th running of the PGA Championship. Now, people were tuning in, fans on the course were chanting his name, and everyone seemed to come to a standstill over those last few holes, even if you weren’t a golf fan. Social media was blowing up too:
While Tiger came up a couple of shots shy of winning the event, his second-place finish announced to the golf world that he was back, and the reaction to his recent return to the sport announced to the sports world that once again, Tiger Woods is a global superstar.
To the U.S. sports betting world, we believe it goes further: The industry needs Tiger Woods.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail. Starting with the obvious, golf is a much more interesting sport when Tiger is in the mix. Yes, we are in a period of time where there are more incredible young players than ever before, but the fact of the matter remains: none of these guys was having their name chanted by thousands of patrons at a tournament. There is only one golfer who gets a reaction saved for events like the Ryder Cup, and that is Tiger.
Casual bettors and sports fans watch
This year’s PGA Championship had a massive spike in television ratings on Sunday, and that can be directly attributed to how Tiger was doing. The event saw an increase in ratings of 69% over last year – a huge win for the tour and networks trying to sell ads. The fact that Tiger has moved from 700 to 20 in the world rankings means he will now qualify for all the invite-only events again, and his plan to play 5 out of 6 weeks is going to keep those ratings high.
His attitude is different
When Tiger was crushing the fields in the early 2000s, it came with a certain amount of swagger that inevitably caught up to him. The fact of the matter is that there are still a certain number of people who don’t forgive Tiger for his actions off the golf course. Well, the legend is trying his best to win those people back. There is one thing very different about the Tiger we saw over the last few weeks – he looks to actually be enjoying himself out there! He is smiling more, acknowledging fans, and is far more humble in his interviews. This new attitude may, in fact, win back some of those casual fans who judged him for his extracurricular activities.
Tiger loves betting as well
Make no mistake about it – golf is a game built for betting, and these guys know it. Tiger hosts a huge charity event in Las Vegas every year, and recently he and Phil Mickelson announced a made-for-TV event with a 10 million USD winner take all purse – also to be held in Las Vegas. IT can’t be long before more of these events are built, and this will give gamblers, especially casual fans of the sport, a great opportunity to place bets.
Oddsmakers love Tiger
Let’s get to the real heart of the matter – the betting. Already, Tiger has been placed in as the second favorite to win the Masters next year, and when he qualifies for the Ryder Cup team in a couple of weeks (yes, we think he will qualify as opposed to having to be a Captain’s Pick) the betting odds will shift dramatically as well. If you understand golf betting, you know that there are a lot more interesting bets to be made with Tiger in the mix. While it is true that the days of betting the entire field over Tiger are gone – think about that for a second, you could at one point take 160 players against the guy – he is still a huge draw for betting. Also, prop betting will be changed because Tiger is still a bit more erratic than before on the course. Bets on the number of bogeys he makes, or the eagles he used to make with certainty, are more interesting prospects and should see much better odds than in his glory days.
The casual sports bettor is the big fish that all U.S. sportsbooks are looking to land in this newly regulated environment. Those bettors need something shiny to get their attention -the Superbowl and the Kentucky Derby are perfect examples of events that bring a much different betting demographic to the betting window. Now, with Tiger Woods back in contention, the timing couldn’t be better. He will participate in at least 15-20 events a year, and this can only help to increase the handle in many of these sportsbooks. In-play betting will also help push the sport further, but we can definitely say one thing about sports betting in the U.S.:
We all want Tiger Woods to stay healthy, stay happy, and in contention – even his competitors know how good it is for all of them to have this legend around for a long time to come.