It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of Tiger Woods’ latest triumph. His greatness is no longer just a memory. Contending is one thing, but winning is what matters. Woods’ win at the Masters, completing a comeback that spanned a decade, was extraordinary to witness.
Tiger never will win another major -- how many naysayers are eating those words? Now that he has done it, we know he’s capable of doing it again.
Still, all successful sports bettors know this truth: You need to be able to see through the media hype to find value in numbers. Woods does not deserve to be a single-digit favorite in future golf majors because he won at Augusta.
“I’m not ready to anoint Tiger as the best out there,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said.
Woods is the most accomplished golfer out there, not the best. It’s impossible to pinpoint who’s truly No. 1 because there are so many elite players. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and others will rotate at the top with Tiger. But Woods will be the favorite in the foreseeable future because of his popularity and the overwhelming betting action he attracts.
That means there will be value in other contenders. Just as McIlroy was a phony singledigit favorite at the Masters, Woods is becoming overvalued as his bargain prices disappear.
Oddsmakers need a starting point when forming a futures board. Tiger is the new starting point.
A few hours after Woods’ Sunday win at Augusta, Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman made Woods the 8/1 favorite in the next major, the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Long Island in May.
Sherman also took the first-ever step of opening odds on the 2020 Masters a year in advance. Masters odds typically are posted in August after the year’s final major. This time, because of Woods’ popularity, Sherman decided to treat the Masters similar to Super Bowl futures.
“It’s the biggest golf tournament of the year and the one everybody gets involved with, so I decided to put it up for the whole year,” said Sherman, who also made Woods the 8/1 Masters favorite. “Look at what Tiger has done. He contended in the last three majors, and he will get the most betting support.”
Before the Masters, when Woods was offered between 12/1 and 14/1 odds, Sherman said his true price on Tiger would have been 25/1. But betting action, liability and hype forced a shrinking of the number.
Woods’ win meant severe losses for books from New Jersey to Nevada, where William Hill paid out $1.19 million on an $85,000 wager on Woods at 14/1 odds and the Westgate paid $120,000 on a $10,000 bet on Woods at 12/1. The Westgate turned down the $85,000 bet on Woods, so the bettor went to William Hill, where it was accepted. Bookmakers will make sure Tiger does not crush them again, so those double-digit odds are history for a while.
Woods is playing well enough to warrant favorite status. His fifth green jacket, which was his first since 2005, was a continuation of Tiger trending in the right direction. In the past three majors, Woods’ worst finish was a tie for sixth at last year’s British Open. He finished second to Koepka at the PGA in August before breaking through to win the Tour Championship in September.
“It’s definitely not a shock,” Bogdanovich said. “Tiger was showing he was back.”
For the past year, it was obvious Woods had made the leap from off-course curiosity to serious contender. Eleven years after his 14th major win, which many doubters thought would be his last, Woods finally won his 15th. During the lean years, the betting public continued to support Woods, meaning the books won millions on Tiger’s failures before paying some back this week.
Despite the historic loss for William Hill, Bogdanovich said, “It’s great for golf.” Golf betting is not about to challenge the NFL, but Tiger’s resurgence will resonate and elevate the sport, much like Woods’ first major win at the Masters in 1997 and Jack Nicklaus’ 18th and final major championship at Augusta in 1986.
“I think this Tiger win at the Masters is bigger than Jack in ‘86,” VSiN golf handicapper Brady Kannon said. “The difference is that nobody gave Nicklaus a chance, and people definitely felt Tiger would be competitive here. Jack came back from four shots down with four holes to play. Tiger came back from oblivion, on and off the course, and it’s thrilling for golf.
“I never said that Tiger would not win another tournament. In fact, I felt he would, but I was willing to bet against him ever winning another major. It was not as much a bet against him as it was a bet on the current competition in today’s game.”
So where is the value? The first player to consider is Koepka, winner of the past two U.S. Opens. Koepka is a big hitter who should thrive at Bethpage in May, and he’s at 14/1 odds. Johnson (10/1), McIlroy (12/1) and Rahm (18/1) are posted at decent prices. The next tier of contenders includes Rickie Fowler (18/1), Francesco Molinari (20/1), Tommy Fleetwood (25/1), Xander Schauffele (25/1), Tony Finau (30/1), Adam Scott (40/1) and Patrick Cantlay (50/1).
Bogdanovich is not getting swept away in the Woods wave. When William Hill posts PGA odds, Bogdanovich said he’s not inclined to make Woods the clear-cut favorite and might group him with Johnson and McIlroy in the 10/1 range.
“I’ve got him there with Rory and DJ. From a pure handicapping standpoint, I don’t think Tiger is better than those two guys,” Bogdanovich said. “The Masters was great drama and great storylines, but I didn’t see great golf. Tiger was rock solid all week and the rest crumbled.”
Woods’ one-stroke win over younger challengers Johnson, Koepka and Schauffele was more dramatic than dominant, but it does set the stage for the rest of the year and future years.
How much magic is left in the balding 43-yearold with a bad back? The next two majors set up well for Woods, who won the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage and the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the setting for the tournament in June.
“We ask now if Tiger can catch Jack, and can he win three more majors to get to 18 for his career?” Kannon said. “How many more majors can he win this year?”
Tiger is certainly capable of winning another major this year, but the sharpest bettors will be trying to beat him as the favorite at single-digit odds.
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
(Bethpage Black, May 16-19)
Tiger Woods 8/1
Dustin Johnson 10/1
Rory McIlroy 12/1
Justin Thomas 12/1
Brooks Koepka 14/1
Rickie Fowler 18/1
Jon Rahm 18/1
Justin Rose 18/1
Source: Westgate SuperBook
2020 MASTERS ODDS
Tiger Woods 8/1
Dustin Johnson 12/1
Rory McIlroy 12/1
Jordan Spieth 14/1
Rickie Fowler 16/1
Brooks Koepka 16/1
Justin Rose 16/1
Source: Westgate SuperBook