Not so long ago, the amazing thing about Charles Barkley hitting a golf ball was that — well, he actually occasionally hit the golf ball.
The NBA Hall of Famer and current TV analyst’s herky-jerky, stop-action downswing was so tortured you wondered if the contortion (often accompanied by an expletive) might put him in traction.
So fitful were Barkley’s attempts that one broadcaster with archetypal British accent lamented sympathetically: “It’s painful watching, isn’t it, really. I feel sorry for him because he knows how good he can hit it when he hits it on the range.”
But that was the old Charles Barkley.
Once considered the best-known worst golfer in the world, Sir Charles has sharpened his game and we know this because the betting money tells us so. So does commentary on his swing in Golf Digest with credit going to swing instructor Stan Utley.
For years, Barkley has been a fixture at one of the better-known sports celebrity golf events, the American Century Championship in South Lake Tahoe, California. California sports betting has not been legalized.
So betting on the American Century Championship with Caesars Sportsbook is available only in Nevada, mobile and retail. If California voters pass one or both of the sports betting initiatives on the November ballot, it could have a serious effect Nevada sports betting.
Charles Barkley’s Tahoe History
Tony Romo & Mardy Fish Favored
Typically, odds for this tournament are posted for the dozens of current and retired sports stars who participate. For this weekend’s event, talented golfers such as former quarterback Tony Romo (+275), ex-pitcher John Smoltz (+450) and current NBA star Steph Curry (+1200) can be found among the short-odds candidates to win the event outright along with ex-tennis player Mardy Fish (+275) and female golf legend Annika Sorenstam (+850).
For Barkley, the odds of winning the tournament are simply numerical hyperbole, +750000, so as a betting proposition, it’s a humorous footnote. However, not so much of a laughing matter is the prop bet for Barkley to finish in the top 70 in the 54-hole event. Even for Barkley, that’s doable despite that fact that he’s cracked the Top 70 just once in the last 18 years.
Last year, he started at +1600 (a $100 bet wins $1,600) for the Top 70 prop with those odds dropping significantly. For this year, he was initially posted at +500 to hit the Top 70. However, as the tournament has gotten closer, Barkley’s odds for the Top 70 have been trimmed to +280 (a $100 “Yes” bet wins $280). On the other side, Grinches can bet “No” at -340 (bet $340 to win $100 on a Barkley fail).
“Charles Barkley has shown tremendous improvement year-over-year in this tournament,” Anthony Salleroli, Caesars Sportsbook Lead Golf Trader, said via email. “He was in the running for a Top 70 finish last year, but endured a tough 3rd round which landed him in a tie for 76th. You'd expect some score deterioration in the third round after two rounds of play. If he would've matched his second-round score in 2021, we would've been on the hook for some serious liability.”
"Our opening line this year at a ‘Yes’ Top 70 at 5-1 incurred some quick hits and our line was reduced accordingly. So, yes, he has shown substantial improvement and the ‘Yes’ money has piled in to land the current odds as they stand now."
Celebrity Odds Board
Can’t Bet on Himself
This all follows Barkley’s admitted self-wager attempt a year ago. In a press conference early in June, Barkley said he bet $100,000 on himself to finish Top 70 but his wager was returned. Betting on yourself is not permitted in Nevada.
“Last year, when I put $100,000 on myself and went down to the last few holes, that was exciting,” Barkley said during the press conference. “I hate they lowered the odds but I'm still probably going to bet another 100 grand on me being in the top 70. I didn't play great last year and I think I came in 72nd (actually, he was tied for 76th). So, I must have scared the sh*t out of them.”
Of the upcoming tournament, Barkley said, “I feel really good. I'm excited. I look forward to coming to Lake Tahoe, one of my favorite places in the world. The fans are amazing. But obviously, I'm there. So, since they want to lower the odds, I think I'll bet more so I win just as much as I should have won last year.”
Reminded that he cannot bet on himself in Nevada, Barkley said, “So, I'm going to get that money to a friend of mine. They pulled it on me last year. I won't let them pull it this year. So, one of my friends bet on me.”
How any of that may or may not work out remains to be seen but Barkley, known for his gambling behavior, has his own perspective.
“I'm a gambler,” Barkley said. “If you can bet on yourself on the blackjack table, why can't you bet on yourself on the golf course?”