Tiger in pack of contenders chasing Spieth

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

July 21, 2018 08:44 PM
Tiger Woods surged to four strokes back and is posted at 14-1 odds heading into the British Open final round.
© USA Today Sports Images

It’s nervous time for the naysayers who predicted Tiger Woods never would win another major. Never could come Sunday in Scotland.

Jordan Spieth is putting some bookmakers on edge, too. During a down year, and a month after missing the U.S. Open cut, Spieth was seldom mentioned by the so-called experts as the pick to win this British Open. But even when in poor form, a former major winner at long odds can prove to be a good bet. Spieth and Woods are examples of that this week.

Spieth, a 20-1 shot when he teed off Thursday at Carnoustie, is the new favorite on the Westgate’s adjusted odds board after Saturday’s third round. In a three-way tie for the lead at 9-under 204 with Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, Spieth is posted at 7-4 (plus-175) ahead of Schauffele (5-1) and Kisner (11-2).

The crowded leaderboard includes Tiger, who surged to four strokes back and is posted at 14-1 along with Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari. Woods fired a 5-under 66 on Saturday to climb into contention.

“It’s going to be intriguing,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “I always say our optimal position is Tiger being in the hunt and not winning. It’s great theater. It’s good for the betting handle and TV ratings. Our liability on Tiger is actually not that bad considering the other majors. It would be a small loss in the same realm as Spieth.

“We did take a lot of play on Spieth, and I didn’t have any problem taking it because he’s been so poor this season and really had not been flirting with winning.”

Spieth, last year’s British winner at Royal Birkdale, has not won in 16 starts in 2018 and none of his stats indicated a breakthrough was imminent. His tournament results previous to Carnoustie were 42nd-missed cut-missed cut. But he is scrambling well and whining less while taking advantage of a few lucky breaks. Spieth is the ultimate good-and-lucky golfer.

Woods, who also missed the U.S Open cut, has not won a major in a decade. After shooting par in each of the first two rounds, Tiger got hot with precision iron play and clutch putting in the third round.

The wagering action on Woods varied wildly this week. Sherman said the Westgate took a $2,000 bet on Tiger to win at 25-1 odds before getting a play from a “sharp group” on Tiger not to finish in the Top 20 at -150.

VSiN golf handicapper Brady Kannon said Kevin Chappell, two strokes behind the leaders and posted at 20-1, has a “sneaky good shot” on Sunday. Chappell, who won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the college player of the year in 2008 at UCLA, has no Top 50 finishes in the British Open but did tie for seventh at the Masters in 2017.

“I think Spieth is due for an off day. He’s been riding too high for three days to sustain,” said Kannon, who’s holding futures tickets on four players in the hunt — Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen. He planned to add Chappell, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson before the final round.

Golf handicapper Wes Reynolds said Fleetwood, four strokes back and at 20-1 odds, is his top pick to make a big run on Sunday.

Kisner, who was in horrible form this year, is seeking his first major win. Schauffele, the PGA Tour’s top rookie last year, is the player catching Sherman’s eye.

“I was impressed with Schauffele. He’s got a lot of confidence in his game,” Sherman said.

With stronger winds whipping in from the North Sea, the final round could be a wild one. Tiger typically plays well in the wind, and he’s gaining confidence.

British Open adjusted odds

(Westgate sports book)

Jordan Spieth 7-4

Xander Schauffele 5-1

Kevin Kisner 11-2

Rory McIlroy 14-1

Francesco Molinari 14-1

Tiger Woods 14-1

Kevin Chappell 20-1

Tommy Fleetwood 20-1

Alex Noren 25-1

Zach Johnson 30-1

Justin Rose 30-1

Matt Kuchar 40-1

Webb Simpson 50-1

Adam Scott 80-1

Tony Finau 80-1

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