It’s a new era for gambling and professional golf. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court legalized sports betting across the country. Shortly thereafter, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods announced a pay-per-view match in Vegas for a $9 million prize, complete with side action along the way.
And now, PGA Tour pros are revealing their greatest (or in some cases, most painful) gambling stories in a new series on the Action Network. Golf Writer Jason Sobel has been running each pro’s memory as its own piece all week, and you can see the full archive here. Featured golfers include Justin Thomas, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Kevin Kisner, Paul Casey, Marc Leishman, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson and Brendan Steele. The full slate is worth a read, but to get you started, here’s JT’s memory of teaming up with Micheal Jordan as a teenager in Kentucky:
Every year, Jordan and a group of friends would play Harmony Landing before the Kentucky Derby. Thomas’s dad, Mike Thomas, was and still is the head pro there, and Justin (and his game) was well known around the club.
Thomas would caddie for the group as early as age 13 but finally got a chance to play with Jordan and Co. a couple of years later.
“When I was 16, I went out with the group and they started on No. 3 for some reason,” Thomas said. “I was riding with MJ. When we got to the first hole, he said, ‘Go get your clubs.’ He told them, ‘Alright, I’ve got the little man. We’ll take whoever wants us.’ There’s eight people. He wouldn’t tell me the game; he said I didn’t need to hear that.”
Thomas played from the same tees as Jordan and his crew and got hot late in the round.
“We played the last seven holes and I made four birdies,” he said. “We drummed ’em pretty good. That was fun. He just made me feel comfortable. I’d played in some big national tournaments, but that was the biggest deal I’ve ever played in. It was pretty cool. We had a pretty memorable day that we still talk about.
“He always took care of everybody tipping, so let’s just say my tip was a little bigger that year.”