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Randall's Rant: Betting will bring in the blowhards

By Randall MellMay 14, 2018, 10:28 pm

Legalized gambling will change the nature of professional golf more than it will any other sport.

Bet on it.

The game will get a lot richer and a lot less genteel.

You think today’s golf galleries are growing more unruly?

Wait until the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when most states have had a chance to legalize sports betting, if Congress hasn’t already stepped in to regulate it. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal law that prohibits sports betting clears the way.

With gambling unshackled, with betting on golf inevitably growing more widespread, interest in the game will evolve.

Legalized betting will change the nature of galleries, with fans slowly beginning to see their favorite players evolve into favorite investments.

Nobody likes an investment that loses money.

And golf, more than any other sport, is a lot more about losing than winning.

When a PGA Tour pro goes into a slump, he’ll be labeled a bum quicker than he is now. Golf will be about more than birdies and bogeys. It will also be about who is covering who’s bet.

In a few short years, “Get in the hole!” won’t sound so obnoxious being screamed as a putt rolls toward the cup.

“Get in my bank account!” will be the more likely refrain.

Or “Cha Ching!” after a putt goes in the hole.

Or “You cost me a hundred bucks, loser!” when a player misses.

With gambling promising to grow as a legal venture, PGA Tour pros will benefit. Economically, there’s a huge upside to this. Experts have estimated underground sports gambling is a $150 billion industry. When it surfaces as legal, it might do as much for the bottom line of PGA Tour pros as Tiger Woods ever did, and that’s saying something.

It’s a funny thing what’s happening now.

Apparently, “integrity” isn’t just a moral component of fair play in professional sports. It’s also a commodity.

The PGA Tour, NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL are already positioning themselves to earn a share of the legalized gambling market. They’ve started calling it an “integrity fee,” a charge that will be attached to every bet. The fee is aimed to help those organizations cover costs for the intensified compliance and enforcement that will be required to assure competition isn’t corrupted.

Apparently, compliance and enforcement is going to be really, really expensive. (Feel free to substitute the word “profitable” for “expensive” in that last sentence.)

American Gaming Association president Geoff Freeman says the one-percent integrity fee proposed on all wagers would actually result in those sports organizations taking 20 to 29 percent of a sports book’s total revenues.

Freeman called it a “proposal to skim money from American taxpayers,” because he says one percent off the top will decrease “the total amount of money taxable” by state and other governments.

Last month, the players unions from the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and NHL maneuvered to get their share of integrity fees.

They released this joint statement: “The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs ... we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses.

The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”

So, yes, the PGA Tour stands to profit from legalized gambling, as it should, but the profit will come with a sort of penalty tax. The nature of golf fandom is already changing, and legalized gambling will make it worse.

That’s because golf is a different kind of competition. We saw that in March, when Justin Thomas had a fan ejected at the Honda Classic. As he was walking to the 16th tee in the final round, Thomas said he heard a fan say, "I hope you hit it in the water.” After Thomas hit his tee shot, he heard the fan scream for his ball to “get in the bunker!” He had enough.

Why would a fan do that?

Maybe he was rooting for somebody else to win. Or maybe he’s not a fan of Thomas. Or maybe he had some money riding on the outcome.

With legalized gambling, there promises to be a billion new reasons for fans to root against a player, just as there will be a billion new reasons to root for a player.

Thomas had a right to be annoyed at the Honda Classic. Golf isn’t like the NBA. A fan screaming in a player’s backswing is different than a fan screaming at a player on the free throw line. A golf fan can control the outcome of an event a lot easier than an NBA fan can.

Nobody’s paying to see Joe Blowhard dictate who wins. But that’s the thing about legalized gambling. It’s a pretty good bet we’ll see more Joe Blowhards coming into the sport. And I’ll wager one of them costs a PGA Tour player a chance to win.

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Davies headlines field at Senior LPGA at French Lick

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2018, 10:40 pm

Laura Davies will be looking to win her second senior major championship this year when she tees it up in Monday’s start of the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Davies, who won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July, will join a field that includes fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Jan Stephenson, who was announced last week with Peggy Kirk Bell as the Hall’s newest members. Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Hollis Stacy are also in the 54-hole event.

Trish Johnson is back to defend her title after winning the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship a year ago. Brandi Burton, Jane Geddes, Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann are also in the field of 81 players who will compete for a $600,000 purse, with $90,000 going to the winner.

Golf Channel will televise all three rounds live from 4-6 p.m. ET on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Langer (65) wins regular-season finale by six

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 10:07 pm

CARY, N.C. – Bernhard Langer ran away with the SAS Championship on Sunday to take the points lead into the PGA Tour Champions' Charles Schwab Cup playoffs

Langer shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 for a six-stroke victory in the regular-season finale.

''I just played very solid all day long,'' Langer said. ''Putted well, hit the ball where I was looking and did everything exceptionally well.''

The 61-year-old German star has 38 victories on the 50-and-over tour, also winning this year near Houston. He has a record four victories after turning 60.

''I don't have anything to prove, but I still have golf,'' Langer said. ''I still want to improve my own game. I still want to play to the best Bernhard Langer can play. I don't think I need to prove anything, but I love competing, I love winning or being in the hunt. As long as I can do that, I think you're going to see me out here.''

Langer finished with a tournament-record 22-under 194 total at Prestonwood Country Club, the tree-lined layout softened by heavy rain Thursday from Hurricane Michael. He opened with a 62 on Friday to match Gene Sauers and Tom Lehman for the lead, and had a 67 on Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard with Sauers.

Full-field scores from the SAS Championship

''The 10 under was amazing,'' Langer said. ''I couldn't believe there were two other guys who shot 10 under.''

The four-time Charles Schwab Cup winner also won at Prestonwood in 2012.

''It's always fun to go back to where you've won before because you feel like you know how to play the course and you're somewhat comfortable and that's certainly the case here,'' Langer said. ''I've been probably 50, 70 times now around this golf course and I know how to play every hole.''

Scott Parel was second, closing with a double bogey for a 65.

''Bernhard is just in his own world this week,'' Parel said.

Jerry Kelly had a 68 to finish third at 15 under, and Lehman followed at 13 under after a 71.

Sauers shot a 75 to tie for fifth with Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) at 12 under.

The top 72 players in the Schwab Cup standings qualified for the playoffs, the three-event series that begins next week with the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va. Dan Forsman tied for 56th to jump from 74th to 72nd, edging John Huston for the final spot by $932. Huston tied for 46th.

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Pepperell captures British Masters, eyes Augusta

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 5:29 pm

WALTON HEATH, England -- Eddie Pepperell won his second European Tour title with a two-shot victory at the British Masters on Sunday and likely secured the even bigger prize of a place in next year's Masters at Augusta National.

The Englishman shot an even-par 72 and held off his playing partner, Sweden's Alexander Bjork (71), as the pair went to the 72nd hole at a wet and windy Walton Heath with Pepperell just a stroke in front.

Pepperell finished on 9-under 279.

Herbert Lucas (69) and Jordan Smith (73) were tied for third, another two shots behind Bjork.

English pair Sam Horsfield (69) and Tom Lewis (70) along with American Julian Suri (74) tied for fifth, one shot in front of tournament host Justin Rose (70).

The victory takes Pepperell into the world's top 35 and almost certainly secures a first appearance at Augusta in 2019. The top 50 at the end of the year are guaranteed a place in the first major of the year in April.

Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood (72) finished 2 under in a seven-way tie for ninth.

Full-field scores from the British Masters

A top-two finish on Sunday would have seen Rose reach the top of the world rankings for the second time this season, the 38-year-old having spent two weeks as No. 1 in September

Pepperell was ranked outside the top 500 as recently as May last year, but won the Qatar Masters in February and followed a runner-up finish in the Scottish Open with a tie for sixth in the British Open seven days later, carding a closing 67 at Carnoustie despite saying he had a hangover.

His three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke on Sunday when Bjork covered the front nine in 34 and Pepperell three-putted the ninth, the same hole where he enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one on Thursday.

However, the 27-year-old Pepperell promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and a par save from off the green on the 14th looked to have sealed the win.

There was still time for some late drama, though, as Pepperell dropped shots on Nos. 15 and 16 to see his lead cut to a single shot, but Bjork bogeyed the 18th after driving into the heather and Pepperell saved par from a greenside bunker.

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Disappointed Sharma fades to T-10 at CIMB

By Will GrayOctober 14, 2018, 1:46 pm

For the second time this year, India's Shubankhar Sharma watched an opportunity for a breakthrough win turn into a learning experience.

Sharma burst onto the scene in March, taking a two-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship only to fade to a tie for ninth. It was a similar story Sunday at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, where Sharma started the final round in a three-way tie for the lead but struggled to an even-par 72 that dropped him into a tie for 10th.

"Disappointing, not really happy with the way I finished," Sharma told reporters.

Full-field scores from CIMB Classic

CIMB Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The 22-year-old was 1 over for his first six holes, but he battled back with four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10 to get within three shots of eventual winner Marc Leishman. But his tee shot at the par-3 11th found the water, leading to the first of three straight bogeys that ended any hopes of victory.

"That was probably one of the worst swings of the day," Sharma said. "That 11th hole I think killed the momentum for me. A par there would have gone a long way, and I probably could have made more birdies after that."

Sharma remained optimistic this spring following his final-round fade in Mexico, and he retained a positive mindset despite a rough afternoon as he eyes upcoming starts at both the CJ Cup in South Korea and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

"Great experience. Very, very good to have two top-10s on the PGA Tour, so that's a good way of looking at it," he said. "Also, it pushes me to keep playing well. I feel like I have it in me to win out there on the PGA Tour, and I've given myself two opportunities. Game is in a decent place now."