PGA Tour: How to Bet, Odds, Betting Markets and Tips
Our complete guide to the world’s leading golf circuit – the PGA Tour. Everything you need to know ahead of placing a bet on one of the weekly tournaments in America.
How Does the PGA Tour Work?
There is a 12-month schedule that starts in the Fall and concludes with the FedExCup Playoffs in August and September of every year.
With the exception of December, there is a tournament more or less every week.
All four of the major championships (the Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and the British Open) are a part of the calendar. There are also two World Golf Championship events (the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play and the HSBC Champions).
Only these six tournaments – plus the Scottish Open, which is co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour – are not governed by the PGA Tour themselves.
In four weeks of the year, there are also “opposite field” events. These take place in the same week as elite field events and grant playing opportunities to players further down the rankings.
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What is the PGA Tour’s Schedule?
The schedule falls into a number of distinct sections.
The period from the start of the season, in September, until the end of November is referred to as the “Fall Series” and is largely made up of lesser events. Many of the world’s best players limit their activity at this stage, having spent their energy during the first nine months of the year.
This stretch includes the PGA Tour’s very own premier event – THE PLAYERS Championship which takes place on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. It is known as “the fifth major”.
The Masters takes place in early April and heralds the start of peak season with a highlight every month thereafter: the PGA Championship in June, the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July.
August then witnesses the conclusion of the season.
The final regular event is the Wyndham Championship, after which the top 125 players in the seasonal rankings gain full playing rights for the following season and earn a spot in the season-ending FedExCup Playoffs.
Those ranked 126 to 200 progress to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals where they fight it out with the best of the second tier to gain a further 25 available cards.
Those in the top 125 play in the first FedExCup Playoff event, the FedEx St Jude Championship, after which only the top 70 continue on to the second Playoff, the BMW Championship.
The final event of the year is the TOUR Championship which invites only the top 30 in the rankings after the BMW Championship finishes.
There is a further twist: players in this finale begin the week with FedExCup Starting Strokes.
The leader of the rankings starts the week at 10-under, second at 8-under, third at 7-under, fourth at 6-under, fifth at 5-under, players 6-10 on 4-under, 11-15 on 3-under, 16-20 on 2-under, 21-25 on 1-under and only 26-30 on level-par.
It is the only tournament in the world that works like this and it is designed to prevent confusion.
In the past, the TOUR Championship was played as a normal 72 hole event, after which the winner of the rankings was crowned FedExCup champion.
But the PGA Tour didn’t like the idea of different players winning the two titles – it was deemed messy.
The new idea remains a little controversial, but it does at least mean that everyone knows who wins the $15million bonus handed to the FedExCup winner.
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When Does the PGA Tour Start/End?
The season begins in September with the Fall Series.
The final regular event of the season is the Wyndham Championship in early August.
That is followed by the three-stage FedExCup Playoffs which conclude with the season-ending TOUR Championship.
How Many Players Are on the PGA Tour?
Regular events have 156 players in the field, but there are considerably more players on the circuit.
125 players have full playing rights and as many as 250 have some sort of category. More will play the odd event on invitation or via qualification throughout the year.
How Do Players Get on the PGA Tour?
The traditional route is a long one. Players must enter the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School and if they win a card they can play the following year on that circuit.
If, at the end of the KFT Finals, they are in the top 25 of the rankings they will earn a promotion to the PGA Tour.
There are, however, alternative paths to the PGA Tour but only if a player is very good.
The first is to gain invitations on the PGA Tour and excel. A win will immediately earn playing rights, but a series of fine results will also suffice.
The second option is more typical for international golfers. If they are playing well elsewhere (e.g. the DP World Tour) they will earn world ranking points which get them starts in the majors and WGC events.
If they then play well in those they can again leapfrog the KFT stage.
How Do You Bet on the PGA Tour?
Every week represents a new opportunity with a new tournament.
The standard methods of betting regard the tournament result: you can back a player to win, to place (top five, top ten, etc.) or each way (half the stake on the win, half on the place).
But beyond that, there are a number of other alternatives.
First Round Leader is a very popular market, as are group options: Top American or Top European, for example.
You can also back one player over another in 72-hole and 18-hole match bets which are mythical contests in the sense that the players don’t know they have been pitted against one another.
In each round, there will also be two or three ball contests relating to the official tee times groupings.
For more detail, our How to Bet on Golf guide provides all the answers.
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Is Course History Important?
Not always, but very often.
The PGA Tour schedule is very traditional with as many as 80% of the tournaments having a long history, and many of them are always played on the same courses.
This is in marked contrast to other tours which often venture to new venues and/or have many tournaments drop on and off the calendar.
When there is a depth of history on a course it can reveal what aspects of the game are important in the search for winners.
It might be that a course suits long-hitters, an accurate long game, a brilliant short game, or sensational putting.
It might be more complex than that. Maybe long but also aggressive drivers are suited, long game experts from 200 yards, short game maestros off shaved run-offs, or putters who favor fast greens.
Some courses also demand the ability to perform well in windy, cold, or even very hot conditions.
It should also be noted that some courses don’t favor players who have played it well in the past. They might be relatively straightforward tests and good form becomes more important.
Also remember that the bookmakers know all about course form, too.
In fact, medium-term quality, short-term form, and course form are the three elements that are initially built into a price. It’s vital to remember that because often it can skew a price.
Why Does the Grass Matter?
On the PGA Tour, there are essentially three different types of grass on the greens that influence putting performance and they need careful consideration.
Early in the year (and occasionally thereafter) the players contend with Poa Annua grass in California. It is notoriously stubbly in nature and produces a bumpy surface. Some players relish the odd test; others loathe it.
In Hawaii, Florida, and other southern states Bermuda grass is typical. The blades are thick and they produce grainy greens which can be difficult to read. In recent times Paspalum grass has become popular and it is similar to Bermuda.
Finally, there is bent grass which is seen most commonly in the northern states. It produces a smoother surface than Poa and lacks the grain of Bermuda.
Exceptional putters will perform well on all three of these grasses, but be careful. There are Bermuda experts who cannot put on Poa and vice versa.
It’s not only the grass on the greens which matters.
Some golfers struggle when hitting out of Bermuda grass in the rough or from around the greens – it is very different to chipping out of bentgrass.
Meanwhile, Zoysia and Kikuyu grass, sometimes used on fairways, has very different traits to bent and Bermuda – the ball sits up on it and it suits players who brush the ball rather than hit down on it.
Is the Tournament Location Important?
Yes, and not just because the location is often related to the grass types.
Californian coastal courses are also often chilly and vulnerable to poor weather, Florida golf is typically resort-style and blustery, Texan golf is very windy, Boston and New York galleries are famously raucous.
Some golfers appreciate these distinctions, others struggle with them.
What Other Course Dynamics Matter?
The length of the course is an important factor – layouts over 7,500 yards will hurt the chances of shorter hitters.
But also look closely within the overall length: Are the par-3s especially long? Are the par-5s only in range in two blows for the biggest hitters?
The course par can have an impact, too.
Put very simply, a traditional par-72 (with four short holes, four long and 10 par-4s) is different to a typical par-70 (which tends to have just two par-5s).
Immediately players who play par-4s better are better suited, while those who like par-5s have their opportunities cut in half.
But there can be distinctions within this: there may be only three par-3s or as many as five.
Also, consider altitude. Courses at great height will see the ball fly further. Some golfers can make this judgment easily, others get confused by it.
Are Statistics Important?
The PGA Tour is revolutionary in its use of numbers, having the best system (Shotlink) and the most sophisticated analysis (Strokes Gained).
PGATour.com has a wealth of categories which permit the hungry punter to delve into all manner of angles.
If you have the time, the stats are there, ready and waiting.
The research will be rewarded!
PGA Tour Champions
When a player turns 50 he becomes eligible for the PGA Tour Champions.
It has a full schedule, but one which is not as year-round as on the main tour.
Often times the events are 54 holes rather than 72.
The circuit is full of famous names and for good reasons – there are fewer players eligible (winners of major championships and multiple PGA Tour titles are greatly favored in the qualification process).
There are five senior major championships that are the highlights of the season: The Regions Tradition, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, the US Senior Open, the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, and the Senior British Open.
The PGA Tour is considered the best in the world and it is where the finest golfers test themselves.
It is also the favorite circuit for punters because there is unrivaled statistical coverage and a huge depth of course form.
A shrewd punter can have a great time betting on the PGA Tour.
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]