Tiger could help fill summer hole

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN.com senior reporter) 

April 8, 2020 12:33 AM
Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, Part II?
© Imagn

A year ago, Tiger Woods authored an inspiring comeback story by winning the Masters and capturing his first major championship in more than a decade. In a perfect world, he would get the chance to repeat this week.

This is a much different world, of course. As summer approaches, the threat exists of several more months without a live major sporting event. No baseball, basketball or hockey games are on the horizon. All three golf majors staged in the U.S. are postponed and rescheduled, and the British Open has been canceled.

One of the most hyped TV shows is “Tiger King,” a Netflix documentary that has nothing to do with an iconic golfer.

But golf might be making a big comeback in the near future, if Woods has his way. According to reports, Woods has expressed interest in participating in another head-to-head duel with Phil Mickelson. It would be a made-for-TV event for a good cause, a fundraising match to help relief efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

If it happens, a betting line will exist. In fact, Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman already has posted a line.

“The betting handle would be huge for something like that if it’s up against no other sports,” Sherman said. “On an island by itself, it would be enormous. You have already got people yearning for live sports to watch.”

Some people are passing the time by wagering on Russian soccer, table tennis and video-game competitions, so it’s obvious betting would be heavy on a Tiger-Phil showdown.

In November 2018, Mickelson upset Woods and banked $9 million in a similar event billed as “The Match” at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. The golf was far from spectacular. This time, the sequel should top the original — unlike “Caddyshack II” — if it’s the only game going.

Tentative plans are for their second match to happen in Florida with a couple of superstar quarterbacks along for the round. Tom Brady would play with one golfer, and Peyton Manning would side with the other. Sherman opened the Woods/Manning team as a -150 favorite over Mickelson/Brady, if those are the pairings for the 18-hole match.

“You would go nuts on propositions and give people plenty of betting opportunities,” Sherman said. “I would like to see it.”

The focal point is to just put some sort of event on TV. In these times of social distancing, golf is more plausible than most other sports because it’s played in open spaces. A golf tournament would be easier to arrange, and the absence of fans would feel much less awkward than a football game in an empty stadium. Setting up a two- or four-player match in May should be a gimme putt.

“It could happen if you have high-profile guys like Tiger and Phil who can travel on private planes to get there,” Sherman said. “This kind of thing can take place. The biggest obstacle to golf is travel restrictions.

“Everything is still so fluid, so who knows? But I would expect the three majors to happen.”

The PGA Tour is scrambling to revise its schedule and salvage the three postponed majors. It was announced Monday the PGA Championship in San Francisco is moving to early August, followed by the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September and the Masters in November. The tour is expected to resume in mid-June with the Memorial, and without fans.

“I think golf is the one thing you definitely can do,” said Brian Blessing, a Las Vegas radio host and golf handicapper. “In golf, you get out there and stay away from people. You are in more danger going to the grocery store than you are on the golf course.”

Any event involving Woods would draw strong TV ratings, even if he’s not in peak form. Woods has not played competitively since mid-February, when he complained of back stiffness and finished a dismal 68th at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in California. The delayed schedule could work in his favor.

“This is an opportunity for Tiger,” Sherman said. “He would have been going into the Masters this week without playing for a while and with questions about his back tightening up. He could be in decent form and in better shape with the Masters in November.”

Sherman recently adjusted Woods’ odds to win the Masters from 20/1 to 16/1.

After Woods won his 15th major last year, the Westgate posted a prop on Woods’ total major wins by his 50th birthday on Dec. 30, 2025. No more major wins is the -145 favorite. There are options to bet Over four numbers — 15.5 (+ 125), 16.5 (+ 250), 17.5 (+ 500) and 18.5 (+ 1000) — and a 19th major would put Woods one above Jack Nicklaus’ record.

“All of the action is on the Over side,” Sherman said. “If he does end up breaking Jack’s record down the road, it would be a six-figure loser for us.”

It’s a unique prop because of the lengthy time frame and so many unknowns. Blessing said he would bet Over 15.5 with the belief Woods can win at least one more.

“There’s no reason Tiger can’t contend every year at the Masters,” Blessing said. “It all depends on his health. If his body’s not broken, he’s still got the skills to contend and win. I would give him more than a puncher’s chance to win another Masters. You have a run for your money at a plus price for the next five years or so.”

A year after Woods’ triumph at the Masters returned order to the golf world, everything about the sports world is out of order. The NFL draft will happen this month, and occasional UFC events might take place. Otherwise, only golf appears set to fill part of a gaping hole this summer.

“I’m trying to be hopeful for sports coming back,” Sherman said. “There is too much uncertainty in every aspect. You couldn’t even imagine this in our lifetime. It’s unbelievable. This is something you would see in a movie.”


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