Rahm was destroying the field
Even though golfer Jon Rahm didn’t even finish the Memorial Tournament over the weekend, many people who placed bets on him still won. In a goodwill gesture, several sportsbooks decided to pay out Rahm bets after he was forced to withdraw from the tournament after the third round because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Among the sportsbooks who are making their customers happy are DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetMGM, and William Hill. They are paying the price, too. According to The Athletic, 39% of the handle BetMGM attracted for the tournament was on Rahm and eventual winner Patrick Cantlay. The two combined for a third of PointsBet’s handle.
Why did the sportsbooks pay out on losing bets? Marketing, really. It’s a feel-good customer service story. Rahm was up by six strokes with just one round to go. It would have taken a massive collapse or a historic charge by a competitor for him to lose the tournament and the $1.67 million first place prize money. But when an official told him of his positive test right after he stepped off the 18th green, that prize went up in smoke. Per the rules, he had to pull out of the event.
Not all sportsbooks think it’s a good idea
Circa and the Westgate Las Vegas Race & Sports SuperBook opted not to pay Rahm bettors.
“Through the years, I’ve shied away from any payouts that involve subjectivity,” said Circa sportsbook director Matt Metcalf. “It never leads to a good place long term from a customer perspective. That said, I am happy for people who received payment and can understand the perspective of those companies choosing to do so.”
Essentially, it’s a matter of consistency. The sportsbooks have their rules and in this case, the rule was that if someone withdraws from a tournament, tickets with that golfer on them can’t win. I mean, Rahm didn’t win, so it makes sense. Directors like Metcalf would rather just be consistent, rather than open his sportsbook up to complaints and controversy if he makes an exception in one case, but not in another.
This didn’t have to happen
Though the video of Rahm breaking down in tears when told of his positive test and resulting ouster from the Memorial Tournament is heartbreaking to watch, not all are empathetic. The Seattle Times editorial board said that by choosing not to get vaccinated – the PGA Tour has provided opportunities to golfers since March – Rahm has put other people at risk, including fellow golfers, caddies, tournament staff, fans, and journalists.
“If one chooses not to vaccinate, one must own the deleterious outcomes,” the editorial board wrote. “Rahm lost a lot of money, but his real impact might only unfold over weeks.”
The Memorial Tournament had a tent open, run by OhioHealth, for people to get free shots, but according to the editorial board, few used it (though that could be because most people there had already started or finished their vaccination course).
Ironically, Rahm was in the testing protocol because he was unvaccinated. Though he hasn’t said whether or not he had received a vaccine, the PGA Tour does not require vaccinated players to be subject to weekly testing or the contact tracing protocol that Rahm was part of over the weekend. So, even if he had still caught COVID-19 after being vaccinated, there is a good chance he wouldn’t have been tested on Saturday (he was required to be tested every day of the tournament because he had been in contact with someone who had COVID-19).
Fortunately, Jon Rahm is asymptomatic, so hopefully he will remain healthy. He should be able to come out of his mandatory ten-day isolation in time to play at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where he will likely be one of the favorites.