By never hitting a shot, Dustin Johnson made this a Masters to remember for golf bettors and bookmakers.
There are valuable lessons to be learned and house rules to be evaluated after Johnson withdrew at Augusta National on Thursday. The tournament favorite for most of the week, Johnson was forced to bail because of a back injury suffered in a freak accident the previous day. When he walked off the first tee, questions started flying in Las Vegas.
House rules at the South Point and Westgate sports books stipulate a golfer must start the tournament for action, so all bets on Johnson were refunds. The Golden Nugget and Wynn books adopted the same policy. However, at almost all other Las Vegas books, a futures bet is considered action whether the golfer plays or not, and that means no refunds.
Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and Gaughan Gaming sports book director, said granting refunds on players who withdraw makes sense as a “customer service” policy.
“Lots of refunds,” said Westgate oddsmaker Jeff Sherman, who noted Johnson ranked No. 1 in money wagered and ticket count for the tournament.
The South Point and Westgate also handed out refunds on Tiger Woods, who recently withdrew.
The Masters attracts the largest wagering handle of any golf tournament, with the odds posted for about seven months. So, here’s the lesson for bettors: Read the house rules, and if a book does not offer refunds on players who withdraw, do not bet there.
Johnson was the 6-1 favorite this week, but in his absence, Jordan Spieth went off as the favorite. Spieth made news in a different way, and it was not positive, either.
By the end of the first round, Charley Hoffman had grabbed headlines. Hoffman, a 2000 UNLV graduate who starred on the Rebels’ NCAA championship team in 1998, walked into the sunset with a four-stroke lead that was the largest for a Masters opening round in 62 years.
Hoffman, who fought through windy conditions to fire a 7-under 65, went off at 125-1 odds at the Westgate. There were 43 tickets written on him, Sherman said, “all of the small variety.”
The only players to break 70 on Thursday were Hoffman and William McGirt, a 300-1 shot at the Westgate. Hoffman’s 65 was 10 shots better than the day’s average score.
Adjusted odds posted Thursday night showed Hoffman at 13-2, making him the second choice behind new favorite Rory McIlroy at 11-2. McIlroy shot par and sits seven strokes back.
“There’s such a long way to go. It’s not like Hoffman’s on a path to run away with this,” Sherman said. “How well he played is surprising, for him to do that much better than the rest of the field.”
Hoffman’s best Masters finish is a tie for ninth in 2015. He has not finished in the top 30 in any of the other three majors.
Spieth’s odds dropped to 15-1 heading into Friday’s second round. He carded a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 15th hole by putting a ball in the water and three-putting on the way to a 3-over 75.
The worst news for Spieth backers: In the past 30 years at the Masters, no player who recorded a triple-bogey or worse has gone on to win.
But there are some other popular players within striking distance, including Justin Rose (9-1), Phil Mickelson (15-1) and Rickie Fowler (15-1). Mickelson is tied for fourth after shooting a 1-under 71.