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U.S. Open bettors eager to back Woods; rain could be wild card

It’s never a surprise to see Tiger Woods at the top of the odds board going into a major. If he’s on the Sunday leaderboard and finally wins another one, maybe that would be surprising.

Woods is looking to stop a long dry spell this week at the U.S. Open, the stage for his most recent major win in 2008. Despite the drought, plenty of bettors remain eager to back Tiger.

“We’re getting steady money on him,” said LVH golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman, who set Woods as the 9-2 favorite at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

Woods, Rory McIlroy and Masters winner Adam Scott, a former UNLV standout, are grouped together for the Thursday and Friday rounds. There is major separation on the LVH odds board after Woods.

McIlroy and Scott are at 20-1 along with Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Matt Kuchar. Mickelson made a strong charge to tie for second in last week’s St. Jude Classic, McDowell has been in impressive form, and Kuchar won the Memorial two weeks ago.

Woods finished 20 shots behind Kuchar at the Memorial while carding the second-highest tournament score in his career. If not for that poor performance, Woods might be at 3-1 odds this week.

The LVH is offering a prop on Woods to win the U.S. Open, with “No” at minus-600. Also, the price on Woods to win zero majors this year is minus-200.

Sherman is unconvinced Woods is about to end his slump in majors, saying, “It’s such a deep talent pool with so many good golfers out there, it’s getting more difficult than ever.”

This might be the toughest major to handicap because heavy rain in Pennsylvania swamped the course this week, and the players have no course history to chart unlike Augusta National. But Sherman said Merion Golf Club, which is short and won’t play fast and firm, sets up for Woods to use more irons off the tee and shoot lower scores.

“There are a lot of guys I like this week from the perspective of hanging around,” Sherman said, mentioning Kuchar, McDowell, Kevin Chappell (80-1) and Michael Thompson (125-1). “I think Mickelson is another guy who could be right there. There’s no reason to think he can’t contend.”

The LVH has posted a long list of props and 60 player matchups. Woods is a minus-260 favorite over Mickelson, and Scott is minus-130 over Kuchar.

Adjusted odds will be posted after each of the first three rounds, and taking a wait-and-see approach often can be a better strategy for bettors as opposed to spraying money all over the board before play opens Thursday.

Despite the prestige of the U.S. Open, the books’ handle this week will be about half of what was wagered on the year’s first major.

“This is nothing compared to the Masters,” Sherman said.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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