Just two weeks before one of the most prestigious PGA Tour events of the season, DraftKings has announced it has become the first “betting operator” of the event.
The FedEx St. Jude Invitational, played at the TPC Southwind golf course this year from Aug. 5-8, is one of three World Golf Championship events on the 45-week tour.
The $10.5 million purses for each WGC event rank below only those for golf’s four “majors” and for The Players Championship — informally known as “the fifth major.”
The big paydays — $1.8 million for the winner — and bonus FedEx Cup standings points for the event lead to some of the most star-studded fields of the year, as most of the sport’s top foreign players work the WGC events into their annual schedule.
Former world No. 1 Justin Thomas is the defending champion, with fellow majors winners Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Shane Lowry, and Louis Oosthuizen among the top 10 finishers in 2020.
Memphis’ long tour history
The partnership is a particular coup for DraftKings because of the tournament’s broad popularity in Memphis, where the tournament has been held since 1958. Comedian Danny Thomas took over title sponsorship in 1969 on the promise that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital become the event’s official charity.
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford made a hole-in-one while playing with Thomas in the 1977 pro-am, and just two days later Al Geiberger became the first player in a PGA Tour event to shoot below 60 (Geiberger had a 59).
FedEx took over as title sponsor in 1986, and two years ago Memphis’ event became part of the WGC trio of tournaments.
DraftKings already is the “Official Betting Operator” and “Official Daily Fantasy Game” of the PGA Tour, and last fall the company signed iconoclastic golf star Bryson DeChambeau to a sponsorship deal.
In Memphis, “DraftKings House” will be located beside the 18th green with an open-air patio with so-called “unbeatable views.” That will ensure a visual presence to the tens of thousands of fans who attend the event that weekend.
“When the state of Tennessee legalized sports betting in the state last November, it opened the door for a number of new business opportunities in the sports industry,” said PGA Tour Executive Director Darrell Smith. “With the existing relationship between DraftKings and the PGA Tour, integrating them into the Memphis market at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational was an easy decision.
“We’re excited to be one of the first PGA Tour events to offer a public venue setting in this category.”
Tennesseeans already can wager legally on their mobile phones. But for many golf fans, the level of awareness of such options likely is quite low. Visitors to the DraftKings House presumably will come across volunteers who will be more than happy to show such spectators how to set up a DraftKings wagering account on those smartphones.
Playoffs??? Yes, DK is talking about playoffs
Tuesday’s announcement also included DraftKings’ new partnership with The Northern Trust event at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., on Aug. 19-22. The DraftKings House for that event — the first of the tour’s three FedEx Cup season-ending playoff events, and one that features excellent views of the Statue of Liberty — will be located between the 15th green and 16th fairway.
At the latter event, DraftKings will host its Fantasy Golf World Championship, with 40 top DFS players competing for $4 million in prizes. The winner will receive a $1 million prize.
Photo: Christopher Hanewink / USA Today Sports