Most of us will not make it to Augusta National for this year’s Masters tournament, but many will certainly be glued to the television for most every stroke, or at least the after-round highlights. A daily ticket to attend each of the four rounds of the event can reach well into the hundreds of dollars, but there is a way to be fully invested for as little as $1 for the entire tournament – by selecting the six players from the field whom you think have the best chance of winning, or at least of making the cut.
“Fantasy” betting sites such as Fanduel and Draft Kings now legally take bets on all golf tournaments, foreign and domestic, every week of the season. What started as a roundabout way to pay fantasy baseball and football players for daily wagers now extends to golf and other sports. Although you can wager up to a few hundred dollars, casual fans like me plunk down as little as $1 to pick a team and then settle in to see if your “horses” make it to the finish. It is akin to owning your own baseball team and trading your players for a new crop every weekend. (Full disclosure, I tend to lose interest in any but the major tournaments when two or more of my players fail to make the cut after round two.)
You do not get to pick any six players, though. You have a budget, typically $50,000, for your entire team, and the betting site assigns values to each player such that you really only get to choose one or two Rory McIlroys or Justin Thomases for your team; you need to dig deep to find tour rookies or Monday qualifier types to round out your group. For this week’s Player’s Championship, I note that the favorite, McIlroy, is priced at $11,700. Pair him with Jon Rahm ($11,000) and you have spent nearly half your salary with four players to go. Good luck with Sepp Straka at $6,000.
Payoffs depend on the amount you bet and the various types of wagers. Since I wager only every few weekends, I tend to choose the events in which I think I have the best chance to make more than I bet. This past weekend, for example, for the Bay Hill Invitational in Florida, I chose a $5 event with only 71 participants and a total payout to the top 15 of $300; other events can feature thousands of participants and, of course, they will pay a lot more to the top finishers and will typically pay deeper into the group of also-rans. The Bay Hill winner in my betting group was only going to make $60 but the chances were good you could at least get your money back if you chose wisely. (Note: Some make a living from this. I’m retired.)
For a change, I did get my money back, and then some, pairing the eventual winner, Tyrell Hatton, with Sung Jae Im (3rd), always-in-the-money Colin Morikawa (T9th), Matthew Fitzpatrick (T9th), Talor Gooch (T13th) and Bubba Watson, my only big name choice, who missed the cut.
I can hear you saying, “Talor Gooch? How would he ever know to bet on Talor Gooch?” The answer is I have Sirius/XM radio in my car, I listen to the fantasy sports station, and every Wednesday they invite a golf betting expert on to discuss that weekend’s golf event and his picks, both the top-budget golfers as well as some deep sleepers. When I heard him say “Talor Gooch,” I figured few other players would take a flyer on the barely known Gooch. Other good sources for information and odds on all the tournament participants include the betting sites for William Hill, Bovada and others.
Draft Kings and the other fantasy sites – they try not to refer to themselves as “betting sites, will sometimes kick in a few dollars for new subscribers. This could be a good week to consider plunking down a dollar or two and settling back to watch the Player’s Championship. But I am offering no advice on picks, except to predict you will have fun and you have to be able to afford the losses (which is why I never bet more than $5). As they say in the investment business, “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.” My $27 of winnings this past weekend was a total surprise. Who knows what this weekend will bring.