A bogey on No. 1 immediately put Rory McIlroy in a hole. But it's a bunker he can blast out of over the next three days of a British Open that will offer more illusions and surprises than online dating.
Some of the players who looked so promising in Thursday's first round could be exposed as frauds and gone with the wind by the time the newspaper hits the doorstep today, and the unexpected is what makes this major the most intriguing of the four.
McIlroy, the favorite going in, was off the leaderboard and hidden in the weeds about halfway down the list of scores at 1 over par after one round. Thomas Bjorn, at 150-1 odds at the Las Vegas Hilton, and amateur Tom Lewis, a field bet, shared the lead at 5-under 65.
You never know what you're going to get in the British, so the possibility of cashing a mini-lottery ticket has brought signs of life to the sports books this week.
Obviously, golf wagering will be better when Tiger Woods returns from seclusion, but for now it's surviving without his drama queen act.
"People are getting used to betting without Tiger, and maybe McIlroy has brought a little energy to golf," Cal Neva sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. "Golf is really a great sport to bet, and I think people are enjoying it.
"I was pleasantly surprised with the handle on this tournament. This one always lags behind the Masters and U.S. Open, and some of it is because of the time difference and the wacky hours."
I'm a night owl, so the wacko hours for a tournament held in Sandwich, England, are perfect. I bet five players to win and three matchups, and watched the action on ESPN from 1 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.
Lee Westwood, my best bet to win at 10-1, got off to a rough start and fired a 1-over 71 to tie McIlroy and 18 others.
"Westwood is still in contention. He settled down toward the end," Bogdanovich said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we still hear from him quite a bit over the weekend."
My money on Dustin Johnson (40-1) looked dead until he birdied the 14th and 15th holes, then aced the 16th to hit the hole-in-one proposition at plus-140. Johnson finished even to stay alive.
Just as in-running wagering is gaining popularity in basketball and football, adjusted odds and matchups keep bettors in the game during golf majors. Bogdanovich posted adjusted numbers at Cal Neva's books, including Binion's and Tuscany, and the Hilton did the same.
I took the adjusted odds on two players, Martin Kaymer (12-1) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (25-1), after the first round. Jimenez was one shot off the pace at 4 under and Kaymer was 2 under.
Bogdanovich said he also likes the chances of Graeme McDowell (2 under, 12-1 adjusted odds), Steve Stricker (1 under, 25-1) and Webb Simpson (4 under, 20-1).
"I think Stricker, McDowell and Kaymer are live, and I like McDowell a lot," Bogdanovich said. "Jimenez also can get it done.
"It's still wide open, and it's not even funny. This thing still could have a million twists and turns. The whole tournament is so wide open because the weather shifts so fast."
The Royal St. George's links course is a wild test because of seaside winds, contoured greens and 101 bunkers. Despite catching a fortunate break with mild weather, Phil Mickelson missed a gimme putt and shot par for the round.
It wouldn't be a major without Mickelson making a maddening mistake and Sergio Garcia slumping his shoulders.
Mickelson was one stroke ahead of McIlroy, but the Hilton posted Mickelson at 40-1 on the adjusted odds board while Cal Neva offered McIlroy at 10-1.
"A lot of good golfers are at 1 over," Bogdanovich said. "McIlroy took three weeks off after winning the U.S. Open, and it's tough to follow up that performance with another one. The natural letdown was definitely a betting angle."
But Bogdanovich said he wasn't betting against McIlroy, who called his shaky opening round a "good start."
When this wild ride finishes Sunday, hopefully some of us will hit a mini-lottery ticket.
■ BOTTOM LINES -- As soon as the NFL lockout is lifted, look for most Las Vegas books to post regular-season win totals, even before the free-agency frenzy. Oddsmakers want to be certain there will be a 16-game season before hanging the numbers with disclaimers.
"I think we all are waiting to put them up and we all are assuming something will get done pretty quickly," Bogdanovich said.
Football season is almost here. You can bet on it.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the "Las Vegas Sportsline" weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.