Presence of Woods makes event major in books’ eyes

Every now and then, a debate arises about whether Tiger Woods’ dominance is good for golf. Ask any bookmaker, and the answer is obvious.

Woods is not merely good for golf — his presence as a prohibitive favorite creates great interest in the game.

Without Woods, a major tournament might be only a minor event for the sports books.

“There’s no doubt that if Tiger is not involved in golf, from a betting aspect, the interest level would be lower,” Las Vegas Hilton golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “He definitely makes a huge difference.”

Woods is a huge favorite to win the Masters, which begins Thursday at Augusta, Ga. As money continues to flow in, the odds on Woods are fluctuating between 6-5 and 13-10.

Sherman said the betting handle on the Masters, at this early stage, is higher than in any year he can remember.

One popular proposition wager pits Woods (plus-130) against the rest of the field (minus-150). Most bettors are going with the field, Sherman said, but that could change before the first round.

“This is as strong a favorite as Tiger has been,” Sherman said. “There are a lot of people who see that low price and say, ‘Make him beat me.’ “

Woods is a four-time Masters winner, but he has not won it since 2005. Zach Johnson was a long-shot champion last year, and Phil Mickelson won in 2006 and 2004.

Mickelson is the second choice on the odds board this week at 10-1. Johnson is not likely to repeat at 60-1 odds.

“You can’t discount Mickelson at Augusta,” Sherman said.

But is it wise to bet against Woods, who has won eight of his past 10 tournaments?

“I couldn’t bet against him. I think he’ll win,” Sherman said. “If Tiger doesn’t win, the biggest problem is finding the player who will win.”

One option is former UNLV standout Adam Scott, who is getting 25-1 odds in his search for his first major title.

Sherman recommends taking a shot with Geoff Ogilvy (25-1), Retief Goosen (25-1), Justin Rose (35-1) or Luke Donald (40-1).

“When you look at Tiger being at such short odds, it drastically raises the odds on everyone else,” Sherman said.

Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, held off Woods to win the WGC-CA Championship in March.

“Ogilvy has been on a hot run,” Sherman said. “We’ve been seeing a lot of support for him.”

The Hilton is offering 40 propositions and 33 matchups on the Masters.

Woods is a minus-450 favorite in a matchup against Mickelson. The prop for Woods’ first-round score is 72, and betting under the total is minus-130.

There also are odds on the exact number of majors Woods will win this season. He is 5-1 to sweep all four.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at or 702-387-2907.

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