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2022 Masters preview: Tiger Woods sideshow adds intrigue to 'Super Bowl of golf betting'

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When the statement was made by Tiger Woods on Sunday morning, it felt like football season. Woods declared himself a “game-time decision” to compete at the Masters, which means he might not decide until Thursday morning whether to tee it up.

Woods’ status is comparable to a quarterback playing or sitting on gameday. In his prime, Woods’ influence on a golf odds board was greater than the value of Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers to a point spread. But at 46 years old and a little more than a year removed from a serious car crash, Woods is more of a circus attraction than a serious threat to win this week.

Tiger’s tale is phenomenal for fan interest and wagering action. His presence as a player at Augusta National is welcomed by everyone. Still, as American showman P.T. Barnum reportedly said in the 1800s, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Woods’ odds to win at Augusta vary from 40-1 at DraftKings to 90-1 at Circa Sports. One Las Vegas bookmaker recently said the “true odds” on Tiger – eliminating factors such as the sportsbooks’ financial liability and the fairytale storyline – are probably 300-1. In other words, only suckers are taking double-digit odds.

“I hope to hell Tiger tees off in this thing so we don’t have to refund these bets,” Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “He’s got like no chance to go out and win.”

As Sherman was talking, a $50 wager on Woods at 80-1 showed up on his computer screen. Sherman scoffed at the bet, which was likely inspired by Woods’ win at the Masters in 2019.

“I know some will say, ‘I’ve seen him do it before. It’s Tiger Woods,’” Sherman said. “But his leg was shattered a year ago, and he’s not going to go out and beat all these young guys now. If he just plays this week, that’s his win. I hope he plays because it would add intrigue to the tournament. I’m not concerned about the liability on him.”

Woods’ win liability for the SuperBook, Sherman said, would be well over $100,000. Don’t be surprised this week to see a story with a click-baiting headline highlighting the millions of dollars books would lose if Tiger wins. Instead, be surprised if Woods makes the cut and is around for the weekend.

Circa oddsmaker Jeff Davis has posted six prop bets on Tiger that are generating brisk business. Woods is a -300 favorite to hit one shot and officially compete. There are props for his first-round score (75) and finish position (60.5) in addition to prices on a Top 10 finish (No, -1400), Top 20 finish (No, -540) and making the cut (No, -160).

"If Tiger tees up in the Masters, I would likely be fading him in most — if not all — matchups and any other betting options," said Paul Stone, a professional handicapper from Texas. "With questions surrounding his ability to even comfortably walk the golf course, I cannot envision him stepping up under these circumstances and competing favorably against the best golfers in the world."

On an odds board led by Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Speith, Woods is way down the list. There’s no bigger name in golf than Tiger, yet there are so many younger players with a sharper game at this point.

“I'm completely out on Tiger, and if he plays I will bet against him in every matchup,” said professional bettor Jeff Sealey, who’s traveling from Indianapolis to Las Vegas this week to get more involved in the action on golf’s version of the Super Bowl.

Sealey’s top pick is Brooks Koepka, who’s long off the tee, precise with irons and knows his way around the course. Koepka, Johnson and Xander Schauffele tied for second when Woods won in 2019. Koepka, 0-for-9 in majors since winning the PGA in 2019, offers respectable value in the 20-1 range.

“Long iron play is as important as driving distance, maybe even more so,” Sealey said. “Players end up hitting 50 percent more shots from over 200 yards than they do at an average PGA Tour event, so that's certainly one key area that I look at this week.”

Sealey made Masters wagers on Patrick Cantlay (25-1) and Will Zalatoris several weeks ago. Zalatoris’ odds were as high as 40-1 in late January before moving to 30-1 at most books. Zalatoris finished second last year, one stroke behind Hideki Matsuyama. Sealey is also eyeing long-iron wizards Hovland (18-1) and Thomas (15-1).

“When I ran my most recent model, Justin Thomas was at the top,” Sealey said. “I haven't decided yet if I'm going to bet JT or not, and I'm leaning toward not given the price, but that's who my model likes this week. The No. 2 player is Hovland, who has a fairly similar profile to JT.  I'm more apt to bet Hovland to win at a better price than I am JT.”

The current price on Smith is a sticky issue. I bet Smith at 41-1 in early January when the Aussie outdueled Rahm in the year’s first event in Maui. It’s tough to tout Smith now at odds around 16-1. He’s popular due to winning The Players Championship in March, and he has finished second, fifth and 10th in five trips to Augusta.

"As far as the favorites, I like Cameron Smith," Stone said. "My long-shot recommendation would be Matt Fitzpatrick (82-1 at Circa), who is in fine form and finished tied for seventh at Augusta in 2016. The greens at Augusta feature so much undulation and multiple levels that knowing where to land approach shots is a critical element for success. Strokes Gained: Approach is a stat I pay close attention to in handicapping this event, and Smith currently ranks eighth on the tour.”

Sherman plans to post 200 two-way props at the SuperBook by Tuesday, further proof the Masters is the Super Bowl of golf betting. The odds on this tournament have been up for almost a year, creating a unique dilemma for even the most selective bettors: With so many months to price shop, it’s easy to buy too many players on the futures board.

How many futures wagers are too many? There’s no right answer to that tricky question.

I have nine futures plays, might add a couple more and that’s probably too many. My bets so far are on Johnson (18-1), Koepka (20-1), Zalatoris (40-1), Smith (41-1), Joaquin Niemann (87-1), Seamus Power (125-1), Justin Rose (128-1), Cameron Young (425-1) and Cameron Champ (500-1). The long-shot plays in triple digits are mostly one-fifth of a unit, so I actually have wagered around four units on futures.

Sherman said he has bets on Koepka (20-1), Cantlay (30-1), Morikawa (30-1), Hovland (33-1), Smith (35-1), Scheffler (35-1) and Talor Gooch (275-1).

“There are so many good golfers now, and you can put yourself in a good position and get a lot of value with a group of guys who could be in contention on Sunday,” Sherman said. “Even if I bet seven guys, if one of them comes in, I’m still going to do very well. It’s not like I’m betting on a bunch of guys between 14-1 and 20-1.”

Regardless of whether Woods plays, the show will go on – and it should be another fantastic Masters tournament.

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