DraftKings Director Talks 2024 WM Phoenix Open Debut, State of Golf Betting

Super Bowl’s final whistle spikes the winter-wonderland sports betting season for college basketball, the NBA, and NHL. It also foreshadows the coming of major golf events around the corner.

But at DraftKings, prime golf-betting season has already begun. The operator unfurls a mammoth PGA gambling party at its new sportsbook built right on a golf course for the $8.8 million Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The world’s top players converge in a beautiful setting among hundreds of thousands of people who can also wager the event live at the sportsbook or on mobile. And on Super Bowl weekend, no less! Talk about birdie, birdie.

Here’s a look at the unique DraftKings-PGA partnership and a betting overview of the upcoming campaign.

The Golf-Betting Synergy

DraftKings Sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale opened last October and has 13,000 square feet with 32 betting kiosks, six betting windows, and 3,400 square feet of video walls.

Bask in the sunshine, duck inside for a drink, watch the action on huge monitors, and gain a sense of being on vacation. Bettors can savor the live-book atmosphere while employing their hand-held sportsbookbook, a mobile wagering device, to get action on practically anything under the sun.

“We’re delighted at this setup,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today from the tournament site. “When you enter the course, you have to walk past this fabulous sportsbook that we built. There are wall-to-wall people here, and they bet both at our book and on mobile.

“There is a great atmosphere to watch games inside, as you would at a major sportsbook. And there are kiosks if you want to make bets that way, too. For us, this tournament is like a major.”

The PGA crowds will not only inflate Super Bowl betting totals, but also become a recruitment vessel for the operator in Arizona. There’s no telling how many future wagers will be placed throughout the United States on customers who participate in this live tournament.

But it will be substantial, with foot traffic of perhaps 700,000 spectators this week.

PGA reports list this tournament as its most highly-attended event every year. The 16th hole alone, nicknamed “The Coliseum,” is enclosed by a temporary 20,000-seat grandstand. Many students from nearby Arizona State University in Tempe attend, helping to create a unique golf atmosphere. Fans are raucous, both with cheers and even boos for a bad shot on the easy 16th, the shortest hole on tour at 162 yards.

This could be the only hole on tour where a player can be booed.

“There is something even more special about this tournament here,” Avello said. “At many tournaments, people feel like they have to be quiet. Here, the players are joking around a lot. It has a different feel to it. This is one big party atmosphere for the fans and the customers.

“We’re also happy that people can enjoy our facility this year. Last year, when the Super Bowl and this tournament were in Arizona, people walked past our structure, which was being built, and said, ‘This is a cool place. I have to come back.’ It looks like many of them did.”

Teeing Off: Betting Overview for the PGA Tour

Golf popularity has skyrocketed to the point where there are significant paydays in the winter.

That shows next week when the Genesis Open in Pacific Palisades, CA, has a $20 million purse. Then comes the Mexico Open in Vallarta with $8 million in prize money later in February.

Then, March comes in with a bang. The Arnold Palmer Invitational has $20 million in prize money in Orlando, FL.

The Players Championship in Ponta Vedra carries a hefty $25 million between March 14-17. It is the largest purse on the entire tour.

Golf Odds for Majors: The Masters OddsPGA Championship Odds | US Open Golf Odds | British Open Odds

Purses Bring Top Players, Betting Value

“Golf is at a real good level right now,” Avello asserted. “I appreciate what they have been doing with putting the best players together.

“These are star-studded fields each week. Anyone can win any week; it’s not like you are looking at only a few guys who can do it. It seems anybody can come here and have a great weekend. On this tour, it’s tough to win, especially every week.

“We have been happy with the growth of golf. This sport won’t compete with your majors like the NFL, NBA, college basketball, and college football. But it is right there when you look at the ancillary sports.”

The betting dynamic has been aided by partnerships that books forge with different players. Gambling menus featuring individual matchups and hole-by-hole results enhance the betting platform.

How to Approach Golf Betting

The menu can intimidate gamblers. The odds are long on many players, but it is hard to separate them.

Avello offered some gambling tips for beginners, which may also be a refresher course for veteran bettors.

“There are two big things I would look at first,” he said. “Go back and look at last year’s tournament at the exact location. See who was pretty consistent at this course the year before.

“The next thing you want to see is who seems to have been coming on in the last couple of tournaments. That could be the hot player right now. You will usually find that the odds even on that player are very favorable, perhaps in the +2500 to +3000 range.”

Weekend betting carries an excellent platform. Odds are adjusted after each round, and gamblers can gain fat prices on contenders as late as the end of Round 2.

Another handicapping angle is to hone in on when top players make their moves. Defending champion Scottie Scheffler was the +450 chalk to win the tournament, but a sizable +1600 to lead the field after the first round.

Players who win the tournament rarely sit atop the leaderboard after Round 1. Look for a long shot that day.

To Avello’s point, Sahith Theegala, who finished tied for 3rd and 39th in previous stints here, led the field at -6 after a rain-shortened Day 1. It remains to be seen if he wins the first day, but bettors who took him at +3300 to win the whole tournament like their early position.

Portions of the interview have been edited for style and clarity.

About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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