Midway through the first round of the 2019 British Masters at Hillside Golf Club, a pair of spectators behind the 16th green were musing on the unusual sight of conspicuously busy youngsters on each and every hole. Wearing backpacks and constantly tapping information into hand-held tablets, they were scurrying after balls, forever on the move, and often in communication with some distant authority via headsets.
After debating a few increasingly colorful options, the two observers settled on their original notion. “A university field trip,” they concluded, before one added rather tartly: “Because they can get a degree in anything these days, so why not chasing golf balls?”
In point of fact, those backpackers were actually involved in the test stage of an innovation that would, metaphorically at least, take the statistical arm of the European Tour (as it then was known) from horse and cart to Lexus in one fell swoop.
Previously reliant on the flawed and limited insight which traditional stats provide, sports betting data business IMG Arena now provides the circuit with both shot tracking and strokes-gained numbers. Little did they know it, but those two spectators had been granted a glimpse of a future that the LPGA Tour is now on the brink of, with news that IMG Arena has secured a partnership to provide official betting data and live streaming distribution rights for the women’s circuit.
“Our vision is to be the home of golf betting. We see women’s golf as an essential part of this vision, and the partnership with LPGA reflects this. For the first time, live data will be available across 30 LPGA tournaments.” – Max Wright, senior vice president commercial, IMG Arena
IMG Arena was launched in 2012 with a vision “to evolve and inspire how fans engage with sport,” a notion fueled by the belief that “data is just the start.” Very specifically, its Golf Event Centre is a bridge between two parties.
“We paved the way for a significant new revenue stream for our rightsholder clients, whilst at the same time delivering greater value to sports book operators and their customers,” said Max Wright, senior vice president commercial at IMG Arena. “It’s a purpose-built sports betting product enabling interactive in-play betting on golf for the first time.
“Our FastPath Data feeds combine with live streaming to allow fans to ‘step inside’ the ropes. Live and historical event statistics, detailed visualizations and ultra-responsive markets are presented via 2D and 3D interfaces to create a unique fan experience.”
The PGA Tour – and its established ShotLink – has been able to break new statistical ground without initial recourse to betting. In the case of the DP World and LPGA Tours, the potential costs were vast. With the opening of gambling regulations came the possibility to kill two birds with one stone: the stats had been monetized.
“Our vision is to be the home of golf betting,” Wright said. “We see women’s golf as an essential part of this vision, and the partnership with LPGA reflects this. For the first time, live data will be available across 30 LPGA tournaments. Within the Golf Event Centre there will be three tabs for LPGA – Leaderboard, Groups and Streaming. The LPGA streaming deal covers four hours a day of the world feed, delivering incredible content to fans, particularly at peak times during a tournament.”
In late 2021, IMG Arena and the DP World Tour launched a ShotTracker on the latter’s website, an evolution of the Golf Event Centre which includes detailed hole maps, ball location, driving, approach and putting distances of each shot, distance left to the pin (down to the nearest inch on the green) and lie type per shot (fairway, greenside bunker, trees, etc.). It covers every hole in tournaments located in Europe and the Middle East.
In the short term, there will be no absolute equivalent on the LPGA.
“The partnership will immediately mark a step change in the presentation of data-led content from the LPGA Tour,” Wright said. “It will provide a major commercial boost, introducing huge sports betting opportunities. We’re looking forward to working with the LPGA and ensuring the content keeps pushing the boundaries to deliver sports bettors with a unique experience.”
“The partnership is for official sports betting data and live streaming distribution rights. Fans will be able to see the enhanced data via sites like bet365, BoyleSports and Tipsport and many more partners in the future.” – Max Wright
The information will be freely available on betting websites – it will not require fans to be account holders or place bets to view. But, unlike the evolution of the DP World Tour version, fans will not have access to the information via the LPGA’s website.
“The partnership is for official sports betting data and live streaming distribution rights,” Wright said. “Fans will be able to see the enhanced data via sites like bet365, BoyleSports and Tipsport and many more partners in the future.”
Brian Carroll, senior vice president for global media distribution at the LPGA, is excited by the partnership’s potential, although a start date for content availability has yet to be finalized.
“This is a significant commercial partnership that helps grow the game with thrilling content reaching new audiences and driving fan engagement around the world,” Carroll said.
Intriguingly, there is also the capacity for players to advance their games, both individually and en masse. While limited in the first instance, in time the LPGA product has the capacity – in alliance with the introduction last year of KPMG Performance Insights – to transform performance.
“The difference between winning and losing in professional sport is defined by tiny percentages,” Wright said. “Using performance data to gain a competitive edge is something we know can help sports professionals. This is an area of focus and growth for IMG Arena in 2022.”
Duncan Carey, a performance analyst who has worked for the European team at the Ryder Cup and with individual golfers on all tours, is excited by the potential impact on LPGA golf.
“For players to improve they need to know exactly what to practice off the course,” Carey said. “They need to be smart, and having access to fully objective data – and the insights they provide – can only enhance that. Quality data will allow them to pinpoint precisely what they need to work on. It’s a very exciting development.”
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?