Winless for 15 majors, Woods still a favorite

Just when it appeared Rory McIlroy was ready to take over the top spot on the odds board in golf majors, he had a minor meltdown by missing three cuts.

So what does the absence of a dominant player mean? Tiger Woods’ run at the top is not done yet, at least when it comes to betting options.

Woods tees it up as the 7-1 favorite in this week’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, even though 15 major championships have passed since he limped off the course at Torrey Pines near San Diego as a major winner in 2008.

During Woods’ four-year major drought, golf wagering has become even more of a guessing game with a variety of long shots and rising stars emerging as unlikely winners.

"It’s always wide open," said LVH golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman, and that sentiment seems especially true in this Open, which begins Thursday morning.

In early April, with Woods off a five-stroke win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, he swaggered into the Masters as the 9-2 favorite. McIlroy was the second choice. But the supposed two-horse race ended with Woods and McIlroy in a tie for 40th.

After a pitiful performance, by his standards at Augusta National, Woods eventually rebounded with a recent win at the Memorial. Is it another mirage?

"He looked lost at Augusta, but I don’t think we’re looking at a repeat of that," Sherman said. "I think Tiger will play well enough to put himself in decent position this weekend."

A week before Woods’ win at the Memorial, his U.S. Open odds were 15-1 at the LVH. Sherman said Woods has attracted more money than any other golfer, but he ranks fourth in the number of tickets written behind Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner, each at 25-1 odds, and Phil Mickelson.

The next four players on the odds board behind Woods are Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, each at 12-1, and McIlroy and Mickelson, each at 15-1.

"I have Westwood as the No. 1 power-rated golfer. I think Westwood is the starting point," Sherman said. "He’s been so close so many times in majors, and it seems like he always has a chance on Sunday."

Westwood was the first-round leader at the Masters and finished tied for third, two shots behind winner Bubba Watson.

Sherman said The Olympic Club course, which sits on a hillside south of the Golden Gate Bridge and features tight fairways and tiny greens, is a good fit for players such as Kuchar and Westwood.

The LVH offers a long list of player matchups and propositions, and Sherman will post adjusted odds to win after each of the first three rounds.

Woods, Mickelson and Watson are grouped together for the first two rounds. Woods is a minus-180 favorite over Mickelson and a minus-150 favorite over McIlroy.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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