Yes, the tour only plays 54 holes instead of 72 as the PGA Tour does, it doesn’t have a 36-hole cut while most PGA events do, and the field is only 48 players instead of up to 156 at tournaments like this weekend’s PGA Championship.
But as top golfers gather in the Rochester, N.Y. area for the latter event – the second of men’s professional golf’s four “majors” – no fewer than 18 of those 48 LIV players earned invites (though Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey each have withdrawn).
The LIV list includes past major champions Brooks Koepka, the sixth betting choice to win on DraftKings at 20-1; Dustin Johnson 30-1; Cameron Smith 35-1; Patrick Reed 90-1; and Bryson DeChambeau at 110-1.
Feeling lucky? Phil Mickelson, who won this event just two years ago, is on the board at 250-1 to capture another such title.
Yet until last week, Ohio-based gamblers could not wager on the LIV events. That changed with the Ohio Control Commission’s recent announcement on newly-approved events that included last weekend’s LIV tournament in Tulsa, OK, where Johnson won a three-play playoff that included Smith, the reigning (British) Open champion.
Earlier this year, the commission also approved bets on the World Baseball Classic that was held in March; Major League Rugby and the World Rugby Cup; NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tennis; and boxing.
Approval Doesn’t Mean Universal Availability
Ohio betting apps, of course, can make their own decisions even after the commission opens the door. Last week Caesars, Hard Rock, betJACK, and Bet365 all offered wagers on the LIV event. But FanDuel, DraftKings, and PointsBet are among the books that did not take such action.
LIV Golf is funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, whose vast array of alleged human rights violations has made the tour a target of controversy in many sectors.
Those who signed on with LIV – some of them lured with signup bonuses that reached tens of millions of dollars – no longer are permitted to play most PGA Tour events. But the four majors are not run by the Tour, so each of them – The Masters, PGA, U.S. Open, and The Open Championship – serve as “reunions” of sorts and a challenge to digest for golf bettors.
DraftKings allowed LIV bets at the tour’s first event in London last summer in Arizona, Illinois, Oregon, Wyoming, and Connecticut – a sign that Ohioans soon may be able to wager on those events as well.
And of course, even states that don’t feature LIV events in their directory allow for LIV golfers to be chosen for the four majors.
Some of the confusion by regulators stems from LIV’s unusual rules. On the PGA tour, those players who miss the 36-hole cut – generally about half the field – receive no compensation, while LIV Golf players make money every week.
Also, the millions in bonus money mean many, if not most, LIV players were set for life financially before they ever hit a tee shot. And with a heavily-promoted format of 12 teams of four golfers each that also provides prize money, this limited-size field hardly is a carbon copy of the PGA Tour.
But as last week’s playoff between Johnson and Smith – South African Branden Grace also participated – suggests, the competitive juices in the world’s best players in LIV Golf have not disappeared under a huge pile of money. Koepka, who has won four majors, won a LIV Golf event just last month.
New Jersey and LIV
Last fall, former Democratic Party Gov. Richard Codey – still a state Senator – co-sponsored a bill that “Prohibits professional sports organizations operated utilizing funds primarily received from sovereign wealth funds from hosting sport or athletic events in this State.”
The bill, which was approved by the Senate, Referred to Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee along partisan lines in a 3-2 vote, which would have meant that last summer’s LIV Golf event at Trump National Bedminster Golf Course would not have a sequel this summer.
But although the Saudi involvement in the 9-11 attacks still is felt emotionally by many New Jerseyans who lost loved ones that day, the bill did not advance further. So a second LIV event at the course apparently will take place as scheduled on Aug. 11-12.
Want to bet on it? Don’t count on it – the state Division of Gaming Enforcement has yet to place LIV Golf on its “Approved Events List.”