There’s no gambling at Bushwood … or Hoylake if you’re a player.
Prior to the start of the opening round, the R&A has, for the first time, required participants in this year’s Open Championship to sign an agreement that they will not gamble on the event.
For many of you this is probably a “wait, what?” moment. Pete Rose is banned from baseball for life for gambling and basketball’s biggest scandals in the past 20 years have involved players or officials gambling on games in which they were involved. You mean golfers have, before this week, been allowed to bet on the tournaments they are in?
Well, not exactly. Both the PGA Tour and the European PGA Tour have rules against gambling. But the R&A never felt the need. In fact, for decades wagering has been an integral part of the Open Championship, so much so that bookmakers set up shop in the tented village next door to vendors selling pints of bitter and kidney pie. In addition to putting down a few quid on who might hoist the Claret Jug, you can bet on the low player in each group, how many players will break par, how many will fail to break 80, who will lead after each round and what the winning score will be, among myriad other gaming options.
For years no one questioned players throwing down a note or two on this or that, usually a bet on themselves or, if they fell from contention, one of their friends. Why the issue came up this year is anybody’s guess but with all the added scrutiny the defending champion received from the SEC and FBI last year (all of which has amounted to naught so far), it appears as though the managers of this major didn’t want to permit even an appearance of impropriety.
Even so, caddies still can bet as much as they want. So if a player wants to wager, where there’s a will there always will be a way.