One of golf’s most hallowed events, the U.S. Open, is teeing off this week at relatively untested Chambers Bay Golf Course near Seattle.
For many who love golf, the U.S. Open is considered the ultimate test in the sport, often the toughest of pro golf’s four major championships. It also represents an opportunity for daily fantasy sports’ golf vertical to garner some attention, particularly with DraftKings’ $2.5 million Millionaire Maker that sold out its 141,000 entries on Wednesday.
Big news indeed for DraftKings’ golf vertical, which has grown with each of this year’s major championships.
Golf welcome to growth in DFS
For its part, such attention has been welcomed by many in golf circles, especially those in golf with missions to grow the well-publicized stagnation in golf participation.
One such organization is the World Golf Foundation, which has commissioned a study on alternative ways to attract new golfers (from FootGolf to fantasy golf), Steve Mona, CEO of the WGF, told Legal Sports Report.
“Without knowing the research findings yet, my belief there has to be some connection between it and the traditional game,” said Mona, adding that the study should be complete within two months. “Anything where someone is interacting with the game in any form we think, as long as it’s legal, is good for the game.”
Will that translate into a sponsorship marriage one day with DFS and the PGA Tour? It seems like a decent bet.
Perhaps golf’s highest-profile embrace came in March when the Tiger Woods Foundation inked a deal with DraftKings to become the “Official Daily Fantasy Sports Partner” for the Foundation’s Quicken Loans National and Deutsche Bank Championship PGA Tour events.
And the PGA Tour itself launched its own fantasy game, albeit a season-long contest, in May that uses the Tour’s proprietary technology that tracks data on every shot. Here is a commercial promoting fantasy golf with PGA Tour veteran Steve Stricker.
Culture could be ripe for DFS
To take it a step further, any embrace of the DFS golf vertical should not be surprising to those who know anything about the traditions of the game.
From nearly the time that shepherds used tree branches to smack around feather-stuffed balls, golf has been a game played for stakes.
Whether it be a $2 Nassau played among friends or a developmental mini-tour event in which the prize pool is entirely made up of the professional golfers’ entry fees, wagering and golf have long enjoyed a cozy relationship. In fact, wagering is so ingrained in the culture of golf that the United States Golf Association has set forth a “Policy on Gambling” in its official Rules of Golf.
That acceptance separates golf from many of the major professional team sports in North America.
Part of the reason is that golf’s origin is in Scotland, where the taboos about sports wagering reside an Atlantic Ocean away in the U.S. This helped foster a culture of stakes games in golf that dates back hundreds of years.
Mona points out that such wagering is usually limited to on-course competition between players as a way to make a game a bit more interesting.
“Having said that, having a little a wager on the game is pretty much been part of the game for a long time,” Mona said. “No one views it in negative terms, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. Like I said, as long as the focus isn’t on the gambling part, but rather the playing part where having a few dollars on the line is part of it, then I think it is fine.”
Nowhere to go but up?
The DFS sites such as DraftKings and Victiv, which is offering its own $75,000 U.S. Open game this week, seemed to have noticed. FantasyFeud is also live with a $20K contest.
“The overall increase in golf interest combined with the spike in engagement from the majors is what makes events like the U.S. Open a good fit for Millionaire Makers on DraftKings,” said Matt Kalish, DraftKings co-founder.
With an accepting golf culture and DraftKings’ major golf contests continuing to grow, to $3 million and 171,000 entries for the British Open, it appears that DFS for golf has a bright future.