The second of a two-part series
By Alex Miceli
Tiger Woods has spent most of his two-decade career as the top-ranked player in the world. He also was the betting favorite in just about every event in which he teed it up.
It didn’t matter whether the book was run in Las Vegas or Dublin. Woods was a bettor’s dream.
In late October, Woods was a 60-1 pick to win his fifth Masters green jacket. At the time, Woods hadn’t played on the PGA Tour in more than a year and was planning to return from back surgeries to play the Hero World Challenge, an 18-man unofficial event, in early December.
After showing signs of progress at the Hero, Woods improved to a 20-1 pick for Augusta.
“I would say he's probably about 30 percent more than the next guy, and I think he's about twice as much on the ticket count as the next golfer,” Jeff Sherman, the manager at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, said last month about wagers on Woods ahead of the Masters. “So, it's always out there. We have people that come through, put their five, 10 dollars when they're betting everyone else they might just throw it on him because even though he's sitting at 20 right now, that's just in relationship to other betting options through other sports and stuff. People are willing to throw $5 on something that could win them a hundred, especially on somebody that's done it before.”
So far this year, Woods has done nothing to improve his odds for the Masters. He missed the cut two weeks ago at the Farmers Insurance Open and then withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last week after a first-round 77. His odds to win the Masters have fallen to 50-1.
Yet, Woods’ allure endures among betters.
“Every time he steps on to a course he’s going to get most of the support of anyone that's in the pool,” Sherman said. “If he's playing well, they will support him in short odds, and if he's not doing well, they like the longer odds. We took some money on this year’s Masters right before the Hero at 50-1. Our largest wager was someone bet a thousand. So I went 40-1 off that, and then his performance – especially his first-round performance – at Hero, a lot of people saw some positive signs for being away for so long that his odds dropped quickly on the market. Nobody's odds are reactive like his are. He could play a good few holes and go down rather quickly, where it takes somebody else maybe a whole tournament to even see some type of reaction. So definitely more proactive with him than anybody else, just because of the type of support that he garners.”
Although no other golfer compares with Woods in the betting circles, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy have become favorites. McIlroy, a four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, has become a prohibitive favorite across the Atlantic.
“I've been taking some wagers on him at 8-1 for the Masters – sizable ones,” Sherman said. “And Spieth is pretty much a starting point.”
The book’s goal is to win $50,000 during each major, so the odds will reflect that as a goal post as bets are made. Exceptions exist. Afterall, it is gambling.
“Let's just say somebody comes to the window and they say, ‘I want to bet, you know, McIlroy at 10-1.’ We'll give him $5,000,” Sherman said. “If they're a house playing with us for years (and) they want to bet $10,000, we'll probably extend it to them. But just as a guideline, if somebody comes up and wants to bet someone, we'll take the bet to win up to $50,000, whatever their ticket pays to that, and then adjust the odds based on that. On a weekly golf tournament, I'll take to win about $25,000.”
Alex Miceli is founder and publisher of Morning Read.