Colin Montgomerie told to keep Ryder Cup wild-card plans secret from team
A source inside the European Tour yesterday revealed that a betting scam staged by "unscrupulous insiders" means Colin Montgomerie will be "on his guard" to ensure his Ryder Cup wild-card selections do not leak out before his team announcement here on Sunday night.
Montgomerie has said he plans to speak to all the wild-card contenders before the official unveiling, meaning many would inevitably learn of his decision while bookmakers are still taking bets on who will get the nod. Whether he will now alter this plan after hearing the concerns of the Tournament Players' Committee is unclear. But many betting firms are not prepared to take the chance.
"We don't want to leave ourselves in a position whereby we can have our pants pulled down by potentially unscrupulous insiders chasing a quick buck," said a Ladbrokes spokesman yesterday.
While bookmakers are always suspicious of this type of market, their fears in this instance have been heightened by the betting activity before Montgomerie's appointment as captain in January 2009. The Scot was an unconsidered 50-1 outsider, but his price fell to 1-2 within a few hours of a committee meeting during which Montgomerie was persuaded to accept the role. Although the gamble was small in financial terms, in PR terms it proved very costly.
The Tour investigated and talked to the betting exchange Betfair. In the wake of that controversy, George O'Grady, the chief executive, said: "We can't really believe anybody in the committee room has used this information... but we are appalled that someone inside that room has perhaps inadvertently leaked it. The entire committee is concerned to make sure that nothing like that ever has a chance of happening again."
Yesterday, the Tour declined to comment on any gambling -related issue, although worries clearly exist of another betting scandal erupting on Sunday. "We are aware of this issue and it has been discussed by the committee," said the source. "Everyone involved with team selection is on their guard – and that goes all the way up to the captain."
It would not be the first time that curious gambles have been triggered in the run-up to the wild-card announcements. Two years ago, Ian Poulter shortened from being odds-against to 1-33 in the hours before Nick Faldo named him over the previous favourite, Darren Clarke, while after the 2006 match, Ian Woosnam explained to The Independent how criticisms of his handling of the captain's picks situation were uninformed. "A lot of money was being bet on who I'd select, so I had to keep quiet," said the Welshman, who was labelled by Thomas Bjorn "the most pathetic captain I've ever seen", after the Dane discovered his exclusion when watching on TV.
As one of the vice-captains this time around, Bjorn will now be aware of the tightrope the captain must tread. The bookies are also on high alert. Betfair, the betting exchange, will pull its shutters down early. "In this instance we think it will be prudent to suspend the market after the final putt has been holed in the Johnnie Walker Championship," said a spokesman. "If for some reason the team is already known or we believe it has become known, we will suspend at the time."
Even the bookmakers who will take bets in the hour between the conclusion of the final qualifying tournament and Montgomerie's announcement will have their finger hovering above the "suspend" button. "We do discuss the risks about insider trading on these type of markets and our traders will watch it very closely," said a Paddy Power spokesman. "If there is any activity that suggests insider knowledge we will close or suspend the market immediately."
It is a similar story at the spread- betting specialists, Sporting Index, who will also be keeping a close eye on who is wagering what. "We will be trading up right until the announcement, but trading conservatively," said their spokesman. "We would be able to tell by the profile of a client's account if anything unusual might be taking place. If, for instance, a client who usually has a smallish average stake size suddenly requests a bet far bigger than usual on the market in question, alarm bells would ring and we would limit that trade."
Wild-card pick betting
SkyBet are offering the following odds on who the Europe captain, Colin Montgomerie, will name at Gleneagles on Sunday evening as his three wild-card picks for the Ryder Cup.
1-10 Padraig Harrington
2-9 Paul Casey
4-9 Luke Donald
4-7 Justin Rose
7-2 Edoardo Molinari
5-1 Alvaro Quiros
12-1 Miguel Angel Jimenez, Rhys Davies
16-1 Robert Karlsson
25-1 Simon Dyson
50-1 Darren Clarke