Anyone who has hooked a shot from the tee into the trees can appreciate Phil Mickelson. Every round he plays has the potential to turn into a wild ride, a combination of beautiful and boneheaded shots.
Mickelson played the first round of the Masters wearing brown pants, which don’t match with a green jacket. But that’s not a big deal, because what we witnessed Thursday is sure to change dramatically by Sunday.
Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman, co-leaders after 18 holes at Augusta National, will not stay atop the leaderboard for four days.
Tiger Woods will rally. Adam Scott could make a run. Mickelson, a player who defines the tournament’s unpredictability, could do just about anything.
“There are so many good names at the top of the leaderboard,” LVH oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “People are loving this stuff right now.”
Sherman posted adjusted odds after the first round, and a player four strokes back and tied for 13th is the favorite to win. That could only be Woods, who recorded a 2-under-par 70 and still is at 7-2 odds.
“Tiger is actually in a good position because this is one of the better opening rounds he’s shot,” Sherman said after Woods played an uneventful round including three birdies and a bogey.
A major can be lost on the opening day — check out the scores for Nick Watney and Hunter Mahan — but it’s won on the weekend. In Bubba Watson’s case, this one looked like a lost cause early in the week.
A futures wager on a golfer is a short-term relationship, one that lasts four days at best. An investment in Watson, the defending Masters champion, was a ticket to a one-day stand.
Watson blew up en route to a 75, and you could see his unraveling coming. At a pretournament news conference this week, he cried his eyes out. When a guy gets too emotional, it’s seldom a good sign. And his adjusted odds of 125-1 are a bad sign.
But several other recognizable faces are still in position to give bettors a fun run for their money. Dustin Johnson is one. He’s one shot back and the second choice on the odds board at 8-1.
I bet Johnson at 25-1 and will hope our relationship lasts through the weekend. Johnson’s girlfriend, Paulina Gretzky, is the hottest player on the course, and he has a chance if she stays out of his way for a few days.
Johnson and Garcia are two of the most talented players who have not won a big one. Garcia, who fired a bogey-free 66, is at 10-1 odds, and that would seem to be an unwise wager considering his history of being a major headcase.
“I expected Sergio to play well, but I don’t expect him to win,” Sherman said. “He’s had so many opportunities and so many disappointments, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
The odds on Leishman, a 29-year-old Australian with one PGA Tour victory, were adjusted to 40-1. At 300-1 before the tournament, Leishman attracted only “a couple small tickets,” Sherman said.
The Australian with the greatest shot is Scott, a former UNLV standout. He started to put his British Open collapse in the past by opening with a 3-under 69. He had only one bogey and needed just 27 putts.
“I’ve got a funny feeling about Scott. He looks really good,” said Brian Blessing, a radio host and handicapper for DonBest.com.
Scott’s odds were adjusted from 25-1 to 15-1. He’s in the middle of a short list of quality players with Justin Rose (15-1), and Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood (all at 20-1).
Also in the hunt — sort of — are 53-year-old Fred Couples (4 under, 50-1 odds) and a 14-year-old from China who shot a 73.
Matt Kuchar, two strokes behind the leaders, is a sleeper with a legitimate shot to win. He finished third in the Masters last year, when Mickelson snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by turning into a knucklehead. Kuchar and Mickelson are each at 12-1, and neither is a bad bet. The Masters leaderboard is about to turn into a game of musical chairs.
Rain is headed for Augusta, Ga., and the players who start this morning — Garcia, Johnson, Mickelson and Scott are in that group — can fire at the flags because of softer greens.
Mickelson, in his postround interview, vowed he’s going to gamble and shoot for the pins, for better or worse. He won’t be as conservative as the brown pants he sported Thursday.
Woods still is the favorite, but bettors should be advised the final three days will be a wild and wide-open ride.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.