Vince India and Jake Staiano can testify that the PGA Tour’s new era of transparency extends beyond installing glass walls in its ‘Global Home’ headquarters. They’re the Korn Ferry Tour players suspended on Oct. 27 for betting on Tour events, though none in which they competed. That the Tour acknowledged the sanctions — and actually announced them — is a welcome departure from the time when disciplinary action was guarded with a secrecy worthy of Dear Leader’s cholesterol in a banana republic.
Still, the announcement itself was a reminder that promises of transparency are not unlike poker — eventually you have to go all-in. And the Tour just ain’t there yet.
Like every league eager to profit from legalized sports betting, the PGA Tour is open to charges of hypocrisy by people who think in binaries. While there’s no ambiguity in the Tour’s Integrity Program Manual prohibiting members from gambling on professional tournaments, the organization’s official partners include bet365, BetMGM, betParx, DraftKings, Fanduel and PointsBet — abuse of which might lead one to their other partners offering beer, vodka and tequila. Yet it’s necessary to distinguish commerce from common sense. No sports league can permit wagering by those with access to inside information that might impact a competitor’s performance — injury, illness, an untimely meeting of spouse and lover — or by those with the ability, however slight, to influence outcomes. That’s why the Integrity Program ban extends to anyone who obtains credentials to an event through a player, like caddies, agents, family members or trainers.
COLUMNS: Read more from Eamon Lynch
It’s clear-cut on paper, but awfully difficult to enforce. I asked one player how common it is for his peers to gamble on tournaments, regardless of whether they are competing themselves.
“Rare,” he replied.
How about caddies?
He laughed. “All they do is bet.”
A sweeping judgment? Perhaps. So I asked a caddie.
“So many do it,” he said. “On the events they are in.”
It’s unsurprising that the ban on betting is routinely flouted, but uneven enforcement doesn’t render the policy problematic, any more than DUI laws are undermined by the fact that many offenders get away with it. What is questionable is a lack of context in announcing violations.
On Oct. 11, the Tour made public that Ben An had been suspended three months for violating anti-doping policies. Its statement noted that the…