The Tiger Conundrum for Masters Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 04/09/2008
Tiger Woods has made a mess of betting on golf. There is really no way around it. All you need to do to see that I'm right is to look at the odds for this week's Masters. Phil Mickelson is at 10/1 to win his third green jacket in five years. Vijay Singh, at 18/1, and Geoff Ogilvy at 20/1, are the only other players besides Woods under 25/1. Masters odds have Tiger at even money. Even freaking money. On the surface that is truly ridiculous, totally devoid of value, and impossible to deal with. There's just one problem, though - he may still be worth a play. Or at least he might be if you could consider this kind of potential payout on money that is tied up for four days appealing. That's why he has ruined golf betting - you can't really bet on him, but you can't really afford not to bet on him, either.
We don't need to spend a whole lot of time dwelling on how good this guy is - if you don't know for yourself then go read another article. He plays Augusta National like he owns it. In the last 11 years he has won it all four times, finished in the top eight four more times, and never finished worse than 22nd. In the last three years he has a win, a second, and a third. Even if you are pessimistic at his chances this year you still have to accept that he will almost certainly be in the mix.
So, Tiger has always been Tiger, so what makes this year different? Well, lots. After just one major win last year Tiger has come back with a renewed focus this year. That would be impressive for any player, but downright scary when you consider that he was already the most intensely focused player in the world. On top of that, his swing renovations are over and have paid huge dividends in consistency. The results have been so incredible that his fifth place finish last time out is notable because it's surprisingly bad. He has three wins in three other starts in the U.S. this year, and he added a win in Dubai for good measure. He's as close to unbeatable as he has ever been, and you can see it in the demeanor of the players who are supposed to be trying to beat him - they seem resigned to their fate.
That's not all. In an unprecedented move, Tiger has been openly talking about winning a Grand Slam in such a way that it seems perfectly clear that he fully intends to win one. He has been off for two weeks getting ready for this tournament, and it's not like he had a lot of problem areas to address, so the time only makes him even scarier. There's another factor, too - Augusta is his personal playground, but he has come up just short two years in a row. He had a three-year drought in the Masters once and didn't like it, so he will likely be highly motivated to avoid repeating it.
So, it all boils down to this - Woods is really, really good and will probably win. If you play this tournament at this time under these conditions 100 times he probably wins it at least 51. That makes 1/1 a reasonably price. Ridiculous, but true. So how do we deal with this reality? How to we bet on the Masters? Here are three options:
1. Bet on everyone else - You shouldn't literally bet on the rest of the field, but given the huge disparity in odds between Woods and everyone else you could easily bet on 30 or 40 guys and still have a shot at at least the same payout as you have if you bet on just one golfer in Woods. If you craft your bet carefully you could probably find 30 or so guys who have almost as much, or even more depending on your view, of a combined chance to win as Tiger does. That would mean that this could be a worthwhile bet, and it would give you a lot of different players to cheer for. That's one way that you could add interest to a tournament that has less hype and excitement at this point than any time in recent memory.
2. Bet head-to-head matchups - It's very possible to bet on this tournament and win regardless of what Tiger does. The matchup bets only require you to correctly choose which one of two golfers will finish higher. It doesn't matter where they finish overall. It's just their relative performance that matters. This is an appealing way to wager on golf at the best of times because it involves far fewer factors, so it can be handicapped much like any other sporting event that we are familiar with. In this case we might not get any better odds than we would if we bet on Tiger, but to win and pay off our golfer only has to beat one golfer instead of the whole field. That is attractive.
3. Just close your eyes and make the bet - We are quite possibly about to witness the start of an impressive time in golf history. Heck, we have been living in one for the last decade. If you aren't a hardcore golf bettor, and your interest is more in having some enjoyable action than milking out maximum profit, then it might be fun to have a ticket on the big guy in case he does what he is threatening to do.