It’s probably too much to ask, but how exciting would it be to see Adam Scott, the former UNLV standout and major underachiever, dueling with Tiger Woods on a dramatic back nine Sunday morning?
If the leaderboard after one round is a true indication of what’s to come, and often it’s not, this British Open packs the potential for an intriguing ending. Some of the biggest names in the game – Woods, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson – are playing great golf.
And so are some little-known names such as Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Lawrie and Brandt Snedeker. It’s a mixed bag, which is what we’ve come to expect from majors, especially those contested on the gloomy and normally windy northwest coast of England. But it was safe to wear a toupee Thursday.
The unexpected arrived in two other forms – mild weather and the mild-mannered Scott atop the field. He fired a 6-under-par 64 to overtake Woods and seize the lead.
But is he just a first-round fluke? I asked two oddsmakers and a handicapper, and each views the fast start by Scott, with a major title finally in his sights, as false hope.
“I didn’t like him at all going into the tournament, and he proved me wrong,” Cantor Gaming sports book director Mike Colbert said. “But I think Adam Scott will fade fast.”
Scott opened the week at 40-1 odds and closed at 30-1 at the LVH sports book, where sharp money supported him. So someone out there did foresee this from Scott. Now we’ll watch and wait for him to sustain it.
“I’ve seen it too much from him where he ends up fading at some point. I’m not that enthralled with him,” LVH oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “I would rather have him near the lead than have the lead, because it’s hard to hold it for four days.”
Sherman lowered Scott’s odds to 7-1, level with McIlroy and higher than Woods, who was three shots back but still the favorite at 5-1.
“Scott is not going win this,” said Dave Cokin, a Las Vegas handicapper and ESPN Radio host. “That’s a terrible bet.”
The best bet, Colbert said, is McIlroy, who recorded a 3-under 67 despite absorbing a two-stroke penalty for a shot that drilled a kid in the head.
“I like the way Rory played. I haven’t seen this from him in months. I give Rory a big shot to win this thing,” said Colbert, who also gives Colsaerts a good shot.
Adjusted odds to win were posted around 1 p.m. Thursday at the Cantor and LVH books, and Colsaerts, trailing Scott by one, took a major leap from 50-1 to 15-1.
Because the British Open is played in the middle of the night here, the adjusted odds have a longer shelf life. “It’s perfect for betting purposes,” Colbert said.
The polarizing presence of Woods, who has gone four years without a major win, also boosts TV ratings and the wagering handle. Woods closed as the 4-1 favorite at some books and 8-1 at the LVH, where I took a shot on him for the first time in a long time. He played almost flawlessly from tee to green, but barely missed a few putts, and appears to be in the hunt for the whole weekend.
“It’s wide open at the top,” Sherman said. “It’s more of a story of who took themselves out of the tournament.”
My tickets on Ernie Els (40-1) and Graeme McDowell (30-1) are alive. My tickets on Justin Rose (25-1) and Jason Dufner (40-1) are on life support. That survival rate is par for the course in golf betting.
Phil Mickelson (adjusted from 30-1 to 100-1) and Lee Westwood (12-1 to 60-1) failed to take advantage of a Royal Lytham & St. Annes course that played dead without the protection of wind and rain.
The proposition bet for the winning score was set at 5½ under par, and Scott beat that in 18 holes. Too many players made it look too easy.
But it will be a tough task for Scott to lead wire to wire. His caddie, Steve Williams, is Woods’ former caddie, and there could be nothing better than seeing those three in the final group Sunday morning.
“It would be a dream matchup,” Colbert said.
■ BOTTOM LINES – British bookmaker William Hill, which acquired the Cal Neva, Leroy’s and Lucky’s sports books, is close to announcing a strong lineup for its U.S. operations.
Several sources confirmed Nick Bogdanovich will be William Hill’s head bookmaker in Nevada and Jimmy Vaccaro has been retained as director of public relations. For starters, that’s as good as it gets.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans 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, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.