If there is a dark side to Jordan Spieth, it has not been revealed yet. The new face of golf is a 21-year-old who looks like he never needs to shave and is as polite as a waiter.
Maybe the worst thing that could be said about Spieth is he‘s boring. He‘s not barking four-letter words, checking into sex addiction rehab and faking back injuries to bail out of tournaments. Not that all of those things are negative.
Tiger Woods is entertaining — win, lose or porn star. Lately, he has been losing a lot. But when he was winning, he was intimidating.
Spieth has been winning so often, he‘s beginning to resemble Tiger in at least one way.
"The kid is so good, it‘s unbelievable," said Jeff Sherman, Westgate Las Vegas golf oddsmaker. "I think he‘s starting to get that factor like Tiger had, where other players think, ‘I‘m going to have a tough time beating him.‘"
It‘s tough to bet against him. After winning the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth is the obvious favorite in the year‘s third major. Rory McIlroy is injured and suddenly out of the picture — and Tiger is no longer a serious threat – so Spieth sits alone atop the British Open odds board at 5-1.
But I‘ll bet against him winning again this week. The British is the most unpredictable major. It is played on a links layout, this time at the St. Andrews Old Course in Scotland, and the weather is usually tricky. In theory, European players have an advantage.
"This tournament is so wide open," Sherman said. "I wouldn‘t bet on Spieth at single digits, but the public is enthralled with him."
Almost half of the money bet on British futures at the Westgate is on Spieth. People love a winner, even if he‘s a little boring, and Spieth is coming off a remarkable comeback win in the John Deere Classic on Sunday. Eight rounds have been played this year at majors, with Spieth leading after seven of them.
However, he‘s starting at a disadvantage because he lacks experience at St. Andrews, and he has no top-20 finishes in two previous British Opens. There is a case to be made against him, aside from the odds. Some books in Las Vegas are offering Spieth at odds as low as 2-1 and 3-1, and that‘s a bad bet.
I bet on Spieth to win the Masters. I bet on Dustin Johnson, among a few other players, in the U.S. Open. A month after Johnson three-putted from 12 feet on the 18th hole to hand the second major to Spieth, the two are together in Scotland. Spieth, Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama tee off at 1:33 a.m. Pacific on Thursday.
This is a reminder to get your bets in early. The British Open might be my favorite sporting event mostly because it unfolds in the middle of the night, when I‘m wide awake. I‘ll have a lot of action going this week, including propositions and matchups. After the first round, Sherman will post adjusted odds early Thursday afternoon.
Johnson, the second choice at 12-1, is a player I will bet. The fairways are wide at St. Andrews, and he‘s a monster hitter who can drive over most bunkers. Spieth is better with the putter, but there is a sense Johnson will bounce back from the biggest disappointment of his career.
"I think he‘s going to rebound fine," Sherman said. "Johnson warrants being the second favorite."
Rickie Fowler, off a Scottish Open win and a consistent contender in recent majors, is another American player worth a look at 15-1. It would be surprising if Phil Mickelson (30-1) made a run following his poor performance in the U.S. Open. Sergio Garcia is not a player I would bet to win a major, but he can be a strong matchup play, and he‘s minus-125 against Mickelson.
I like to see playoffs — so this is a hunch and some wishful thinking – and I bet "Yes" on the playoff prop at plus-300. Minus McIlroy, the defending champion, there is one fewer great player capable of pulling away from the field. Expect a Sunday traffic jam atop the leaderboard.
Sherman is searching overseas for long-shot players such as Henrik Stenson (20-1), Paul Casey (40-1), Branden Grace (40-1), Shane Lowry (40-1), Victor Dubuisson (60-1) and Tommy Fleetwood (80-1). In this event, you can always count on an unknown or under-the-radar player appearing near the top of the leaderboard on the first day or two.
"I can give you a list of about 40 guys," Sherman said. "There are a lot of guys I could see doing well."
Stenson is not exactly a long shot, and neither are Adam Scott (15-1) and Louis Oosthuizen (20-1). Scott, a former UNLV standout, and Oosthuizen made big charges on the final day of the U.S. Open. Oosthuizen, who won at St. Andrews in 2010, is No. 1 in ticket count at the Westgate.
"Oosthuizen has been extremely popular this week," Sherman said. "It‘s crazy, especially because the odds are so short, and they are still betting him at 20-1. There‘s no value in doing that at this point. He‘s usually a 60-1 golfer."
Woods (30-1) showed up this week at St. Andrews, where he won in 2000 and 2005, and said he was shocked to see a course that is normally brown be so green. The fairways and greens are softer and not playing like a race track, but there are high winds in the forecast just to remind us it‘s still the British Open.
In matchups, Woods is a plus-140 underdog against Mickelson and plus-170 against Jason Day. Woods is a minus-180 favorite to make the cut, and the prop for his finish position is 40 ½.
"I think Tiger will do better than most people expect," Sherman said. "With his errant drives, he can get away with that here. A decent finish for him wouldn‘t be all that surprising."
Woods is set to tee off 22 minutes after Spieth. That is fitting, because at age 39, Woods is now chasing the kid.
Spieth is chasing Jack Nicklaus, the player he most resembles.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached 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). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.