The first, and best, major of the golf year is now just a couple of days away. In my view, Tiger Woods has pretty much ruined regular golf betting. He's at 7/4 to win this year, a price that I positively cannot justify as containing even a tiny amount of value. The problem, however, is that he also makes it very hard to justify betting on anyone else. My typical response to that, then, is to look elsewhere for some action to make an already compelling tournament even more compelling. That's where prop bets come in. Here's a look at some of the more interesting props that Bodog has to offer this week:
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Tiger's first round score - Woods has played the Masters 13 times as a pro. How many times do you think he has shot below 70 on the first round? If your guess is zero then you are right. That means that betting that he will shoot 69 or less, even if it pays 5/2, isn't very attractive. When he has won his four green jackets he has shot a 70 three times, and a 74 once in the opening rounds. When he hasn't won he has averaged almost a 74. If you think he will win this week then betting he will score 70 or 71 is probably attractive at 21/10. Otherwise, 71 or higher at 1/1 would be the bet.
Highest score by any player on one hole - Whoever has the distinction of the highest hole score is going to have a very bad day. It's heavily favored that the highest score will be nine or higher - that is at just -188. That leaves eight or under at +138. Neither seems like much of a bet, but the optimist in me would say take the under and hope for the nicer payoff. Just don't bet your mortgage on it.
What will the winning score be? - Par is 288. You can bet that it will be 280 or lower for the potential payoff of -138, or 281 or higher at even money. Eighteen of the last 25 tournaments have been won at 280 or lower, so the under would seem to be great value. Not so fast, though - the course has been changed aggressively in recent years and the results are showing on the scorecard. The winning scores the last three years have been 280, 289, and 281. Based on that small sample size the over is at least worth a good look.
How many strokes will the winner win by? - Five of the last 25 tournaments have gone to playoffs. That means that there is no value in betting that this year will end in a playoff at 9/4. The same goes for one stroke - it has happened six of 25 times, but pays just 5/2. A two-stroke margin is where it gets more interesting. That is the most common margin - eight out of 25 times. It pays off at 7/2 if it happens. That means that it would have been quite profitable to bet on that outcome at that price over the years. Last year the margin was three strokes, and it was three two other times over the last 25 years. That makes 9/2 a terrible bet. Our final option is a margin of four or more strokes. That has only happened three times in 25 years, and not since Tiger erupted for a 12-stroke win in 1997 on a course that was far different than it is now. Betting that it will happen again this year at 10/3 would be a very bad idea. If you are interested in betting this then two strokes in the only one that makes sense. That's even more compelling if you look at a smaller time frame - three of the last eight tournaments have been won by two strokes, so this has been wildly profitable over that time.
Where will the winner come from? - Six of the last eight champions have been Americans. Twelve of the Top 15 money winners on tour this year are Americans. An American winner would pay 2/3 on this prop. That's not a great price, but you would have to say that it is at least fair. The most interesting one by far, though, is betting that the winner will be Australasian. It pays 11/1. Geoff Ogilvy alone almost makes that worthwhile - he's leading the money list, and he is at 16/1 in the future odds, so the rest of the guys you get are almost a throw-in. You get some good guys, too. Neither Adam Scott nor Stuart Appleby are in great form right now, but both are on the list of guys who could win a major one day. Vijay Singh has already won a Masters. Michael Campbell won the U.S. Open. K.J. Choi, Ryuji Imada, and Shingo Katayama are more than competent Asian players, and Ryo Ishikawa is supposedly the next big thing. They all come together, along with others, to make 11/1 almost a bargain.