In many ways, Tiger Woods is living the classic story that inspires movie scripts. There was a meteoric rise to dominance and historic greatness followed by a sudden and stunning fall from grace. From phenom to failure, and now there is redemption.
Tiger’s tale is summed up by these numbers in the sports wagering world — from 100-1 odds to the 9-1 Masters favorite in the span of one year.
As a red sea of fans swarmed Woods and followed him to the 18th green on Sunday, when he capped the PGA Tour season by capturing the Tour Championship for his first win in five years, the star power of a player never was more evident.
“Because of Tiger, all eyes will be on golf,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said.
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More money will be bet on golf, and much of it will be wagered on Woods. The ripple effect will turn into a tidal wave, beginning this week at the Ryder Cup, then in a November match against Phil Mickelson in Las Vegas and especially so in April at Augusta.
“This time last year,” Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said, “you, me and everyone else thought he was never going to win. When you have Tiger playing like this, it’s just awesome. I’m elated that he won.”
Oddsmakers are typically cold-hearted numbers crunchers who seldom get swept up in emotion. Box scores and power ratings — not soap-opera storylines — shape the betting lines. Tiger’s comeback is a combination of it all.
Las Vegas oddsmakers immediately made Woods the favorite for the 2019 Masters. First of all, he’s playing well enough to win and has earned that status. Additionally, bookmakers know the betting public will tail Tiger at the windows, so there’s no reason to post a bargain price on the most popular player in sports.
In August 2017, the Westgate opened Woods at an eye-popping 100-1 odds for the 2018 Masters. Woods had endured four back surgeries in three years, his chances of winning a tournament were a punchline and he was in the process of plummeting to 1,199th in the world rankings. Still, he was heavily supported by bettors and finished a relatively encouraging week at Augusta in a tie for 32nd, 16 strokes back.
“I called it a year ago. I said if he could stay healthy for an extended period of time, he could pull it off,” Bogdanovich said. “It was all about his back. Obviously, he’s in a much better place mentally, too, because all of his off-course problems didn’t help. He has played well all year.”
In 18 starts in 2018, Tiger has seven top-10 finishes and the 80th win of his PGA Tour career. Of course, he has been stuck on 14 major championships since 2008. Suddenly, No. 15 is again realistic.
More than six months before the Masters, the Westgate has adjusted Woods’ odds from 12-1 to 9-1, with William Hill moving Tiger to 17-2 odds. The previous favorite, Jordan Spieth, is the second choice at 10-1.
“You thought this year’s Masters had a crazy buildup and buzz to it? Wait until next spring,” VSiN golf analyst Brady Kannon said. “Sunday was a massive day for golf.
“Tiger went through a rollercoaster of events off of the golf course in his personal life and multiple issues surgically. I wish for Tiger that his health holds up. If it does, we’re in for quite a ride for probably another five years. Tiger Part II is incredible, and the next question is, what will follow? The odds of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championships being broken just took a little hit. That’s another part of the Tiger story that we all thought was no longer possible.”
Major championships? The Westgate and William Hill books jumped all over those prop questions on Monday. Will Woods win a major in 2019? William Hill opened “Yes” +200 and “No” -240. The Westgate opened “Yes” +225 and “No” -275.
Sherman went even further … How many career majors will Woods win by Dec. 30, 2025? Sherman had to put a timeline on the prop, so he picked Tiger’s 50th birthday. Over 14½ is lined at -150; Over 15½ +200; Over 16½ +500; Over 17½ +1,200; Over 18½ +2,500. The Under price on 18½ is -15,000.
“I get asked so often about the odds of breaking Jack’s record,” Sherman said. “I doubt many people will tie up funds for seven years. The 14½ will probably get a majority of the action since it would be graded upon Tiger winning his next major.”
With betting windows now open in New Jersey and other states beyond Nevada, bookmakers will see an avalanche of action on Tiger each time he tees off in a tournament. Next year’s Masters wagering handle is expected to be a golf betting record breaker.
Next up is the Ryder Cup, which begins Friday in Paris. The Tiger-led American team is a -180 favorite over the European team headlined by Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, the players Woods just fended off to win the Tour Championship.
“I think the Ryder Cup handle will be tremendous, mostly because of Tiger,” Bogdanovich said.
On Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas, there will be increased interest in Woods’ 18-hole match play showdown against Mickelson at Shadow Creek. But it will be one-sided interest. Woods opened as a -130 favorite over Mickelson and the line is -220 and rising. Mickelson, 48 and appearing old and tired, finished last in the 30-player Tour Championship, 24 strokes behind Woods.
“Phil is lucky he’s locked into this. He’s going to be a tough sell,” Sherman said.
Woods, 42, has a magnetizing effect, and not just on porn stars and pancake house waitresses. Injuries and personal turmoil exposed his imperfections and vulnerability on and off the course. His arrest on DUI charges in Florida in May 2017 seemed to represent rock bottom. But now he’s probably more popular than ever, and he’s not the same player who missed the U.S. Open cut at Shinnecock Hills in June.
“When I watched Tiger over the weekend, he was driving it straight, the approach shots were right where he needed to be and he was making putts from distance. He had everything going,” Sherman said. “It looked like the Tiger of old.”