While most members of the United States’ triumphant Ryder Cup team are likely taking a few days — if not weeks — to kick back and unwind with their families, the always eccentric Bryson DeChambeau is in Mesquite, Nev., where he’ll be the lone PGA tour member competing in the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship, which gets underway Tuesday.
DeChambeau is not the first PGA player to enter a long-drive tournament. According to PLDA co-owner Bobby Peterson, a handful of pros, including Davis Love III and Rory Sabbatini, have attempted to match strokes with the sport’s brawniest mashers. Many PLDA “hitters,” as they’re called, are built like linebackers, as is DeChambeau. If anything, DeChambeau will look more at home in Mesquite than he did in Wisconsin over the weekend.
But does he have a chance to actually win? PointsBet and MaximBet don’t think so, as each book is offering +2000 odds on a DeChambeau victory and -10000 on him not winning. PointsBet is only offering wagers on the tournament in Illinois, while MaximBet’s action is restricted to sports bettors in Colorado.
“He knows he’s not as fast as them, but he can put the ball in play and put pressure on people,” said Peterson. “I don’t think he thinks he has no chance. I think he’s a longshot, but he’s gonna scare people and knock some people out of the tournament. I mean, he’s not slow. He put up a 215-mile-per-hour ball speed this past week. That’s not bad.”
Intriguing over/under on Bryson’s biggest bomb
A more interesting wager involves the over/under on DeChambeau’s longest drive in the competition. Both PointsBet and MaximBet have set the o/u at 410.5 yards, with MaximBet offering -115 on each side and PointsBet offering -130 on the over and +100 on the under. That distance is well within the realm of possibility for DeChambeau, who launched a 417-yard bomb off the tee at the Ryder Cup on Friday, choosing a far-right flight path you’d be more apt to witness during a round of Golden Tee than in the world’s most prestigious team golf tournament. (In the long-drive championship, he’ll have to land his shots within a 60-yard grid, which is roughly double the width of the average PGA fairway.)
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 24, 2021
While 417 yards is nothing to sneeze at, it pales in comparison to a 474-yard drive that the PLDA’s top-ranked hitter, Kyle Berkshire, smoked in 2017. But for DeChambeau, who has drawn both cheers and jeers for his emphasis on distance over diligence, winning is almost beside the point.
“Bryson brings a lot of drama on himself, but at least he’s excited about golf and trying to grow the game,” said Matt Schmitto, sports betting editor for RotoGrinders. “We’ve definitely seen a trend toward golfers hitting the ball farther, but no one’s quite emphasized it like Bryson has.”
The genesis of DeChambeau’s PLDA foray occurred last year, when he and Berkshire hit some balls together in Dallas. Peterson said the two “hit it off” and that DeChambeau also spent some time on the range with Peterson, who’s Berkshire’s coach.
“He’s looking for speed and distance that he can take back to the PGA Tour and hit it straighter and further,” explained Peterson, who added that the PLDA’s regular hitters consider DeChambeau’s entry to be “a great idea.”
“It’s putting eyeballs on us,” he noted.
Will long-drive be the new cornhole?
Whether DeChambeau’s presence in Mesquite will legitimize long-driving as a regular sports wagering option remains to be seen. As of Monday, PointsBet and MaximBet were the only two books to offer any action on the competition, and it was restricted to the two DeChambeau-specific bets in the pair of states. But in an expanding legal gambling landscape where Coloradans still bet millions each month on table tennis and DraftKings is the official sports betting partner of the American Cornhole League, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think that the PLDA can grab a slice of the pie.
Schmitto thinks a PLDA partnership would be “right up [DraftKings’] alley — same with Barstool Sports,” adding, “I think some casual golf fans would like to turn on a long-drive competition for 30 minutes or an hour or have it on at Buffalo Wild Wings while drinking their two beers after work.”
“His participation raises the overall awareness” of the PLDA, said Doug Terfehr, MaximBet’s vice president of brand. “If that continues to drive awareness, you’d definitely see us pay closer attention.”
Generally speaking, Terfehr added, “I think anything you’re doing with Bryson right now is very topical and bettors are interested in it. He has fans, but he also has fans on the other side who thinks he’s not so popular.
“I think golf has started to build some personalities. Things like The Match have brought these challenges to the forefront in a competitive way, but a non-tournament way. For novice golf fans, that’s almost more fun than betting on actual tournaments.”
Photo: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY