Odds Reflect What a Freak Tiger Woods Is
by Trevor Whenham - 09/08/2006
Tiger Woods is a freak. The biggest freak there is. If you want to argue that then you just don't watch enough golf. The guy has won five consecutive tournaments. For any other pro, winning five tournaments all season would be a spectacular season. Woods plays fewer tournaments than most guys, but he has just clinched his eighth player of the year award in 10 years.
Betting on Tiger is often a good investment despite the ridiculously low odds. Unfortunately, the odds just keep getting lower. He was the favorite in all four majors this year (and the vast majority over the last decade). In both the U.S. Open (where he missed the cut) and the British Open (which he won), he was at 5/1 odds. After winning the British Open and the Buick Open, Woods was clearly on a roll. So much of a roll, in fact, that the odds on him were slashed to 9/4.
These low odds sound impressive enough, but you really have to put it into context. There were 156 players in the field, and the tournament was 72 holes over the course of four days. Despite everything that could go wrong for Tiger, or very right for any of the 155 opponents, oddsmakers and bettors determined that he was good enough to win the tournament once almost every three times it would be played. To make that even more impressive, the next closest player, his supposed biggest rival -- Phil Mickelson, had odds more than four times higher at 10/1. No one is even in the same class as Tiger.
When Tiger is hot like he is now he plays with the field like they are little mice and he has a paw on their tails. Shaun Micheel finished second in the PGA Championship behind Tiger. His -13 score would have been good enough to win each of the last four PGA Championships, but he lost to Tiger by 5 strokes. The most impressive thing about how Tiger is playing, however, is that he is doing all this just months after his father Earl, who was his best friend, passed away. That slowed him down initially, likely causing his poor performance at the U.S. Open, but it has fueled him and raised his drive to a new level since.
In his most recent win, his fifth in a row, Tiger won the Deutsche Bank Championship despite not playing particularly well in the third round. He gave up the lead then, but came back on the final day, took the lead early, and stomped on the throat of his opponents on the way to a win. The total dominance he showed leading up to the tournament meant that bettors had to settle for ridiculously low payouts. He was installed as the 6/5 favorite, but dropped to 5/6 by the time he teed off. A guy being less than even money against more than 100 opponents is mind-boggling. Rationally, it is impossible to accept odds like that, but Tiger is Tiger and you just knew he was going to win.
About the best odds you are likely to get betting on Tiger in the near future is in the Ryder Cup. The recent dismal American performances in the International competition put Tiger and his teammates the underdogs at +122. Europe is favored at -105. Tiger hasn't played particularly well in past Ryder Cups, but he has shown a new commitment to the tournament this year, bonding with the team and taking a leadership role, that should make the Europeans more than a little nervous.
Woods already owns the record for the second longest PGA winning streak with six tournaments, which he did in 1999 and 2000. He'll be the heavy favorite in his upcoming tournaments as he tries to pass that. Byron Nelson has the seemingly untouchable lead in that category with 11 straight wins. Unless Tiger starts to come don to earth, that record could be in jeopardy as well. The odds of him breaking the record are currently at 250-1, but they will fall with every win.
Next up for Tiger is the HSBC World Match Play Championship next weekend. This isn't an official PGA event, so it won't count in the streak. The Ryder Cup is the next weekend, and that obviously won't count either. The next chance to add to his total will be the American Express Championships at the end of this month. If he comes through the Match Play and the Ryder Cup playing well, we could see the lowest odds for Tiger we have ever seen in that tournament. His last event of the year is scheduled to be the Tour Championship at the beginning of November.
It's obvious that there is no value in betting on Tiger straight up in his upcoming tournaments. You'll get potential payouts so low that they aren't worth the risk. There is one way you can at least get some decent odds betting on the world's best athlete is to bet on his performance in the Majors in 2007. Pinnacle Sportsbook is offering odds on how many of the four tournaments he will win next season. The favorite is one win, at +155. Two wins is at +244. The odds get much higher to win three tournaments, but at +899 they are still almost incomprehensibly low, showing that people are uneasy about betting against him doing it. Look at it this way - the odds of Tiger winning three majors next year are lower than the odds of anyone but Tiger were to win the PGA Championships. Even a Grand Slam is unlikely, but not impossibly priced - at +1759 there are a lot of things viewed as less likely to happen. Incredibly, he is more likely in the eyes of bettors to win one or two Slams than he is to go winless. Zero wins would pay off at +278.
Since Tiger won the last two majors of this year, he is in range of a so-called Tiger Slam if he wins the Masters and the U.S. Open, giving him all four championships at once. He did that once before when he won the Masters in 2001. The odds of him doing it this year is +754, with failure priced at -834.
Finding a way to get acceptable odds to bet on Tiger may be the only way to make watching golf tournaments interesting these days, because Tiger's opponents sure aren't doing their part to make it fun to watch.