Masters hype

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Books post prop bets on Tiger Woods

The Masters has arguably been the top golf tournament of the year, but this year it takes on an entirely new meaning when Tiger Woods makes his 2010 debut.

What makes this week so huge is not just the tabloid journalism circulating around Woods, but Nevada sports books have expanded their betting opportunities with Woods back on the PGA tour.

Regardless of how golf fans feel – whether they reject Woods for his personal behavior or embrace him as an unfairly persecuted icon – they will all be paying attention to what’s going on at the Masters like never before.

Perhaps that’s not fair to the prestige of the tournament or to the other players who will be competing as well, but despite the circus atmosphere they are about to go through this week, they’ll all agree that the golf world will get more attention with Tiger Woods back.

The biggest beneficiaries for this week’s Tiger-watch are the networks carrying the event. ESPN coverage runs Thursday and Friday before giving way to CBS for the weekend coverage. Knowing the possible ratings spike from Woods competing allows them to increase their fees from advertisers.

On a smaller scale though no less important here in Nevada, we have expanded betting on the event. The Masters is always one of the larger bet upon events of the year in golf, but it should set records because of all the incremental interest like never before.

“It will be our biggest golf handle ever,” said Las Vegas Hilton Super Book’s golf expert Jeff Sherman, the foremost authority on golf odds in Las Vegas who also posts all his weekly odds on his website, Golfodds.com.

“Through the weekend, our handle is already up 33% from previous Masters and most of that is from the regular golf bettors who are looking for value on some of the others,” said Sherman.

In addition to the “usual” bets on who will win the Masters, some sports books have become creative in bets surrounding Woods.

For instance, there are many shops that offer odds on whether Woods will make the cut. One sports book, Lucky’s, even has posted betting odds for Woods’ score on every hole in the first round – that is, whether he will score under par, par or over par.

With Woods out of the picture for all the early season tournaments, it’s kind of taken some of the value and fun away of betting other golfers because there isn’t the value there normally is. If you take Woods and his normally expected odds of 5 to 2 out of the scheme, a bettor is left with much lower odds on a golfer like Ernie Els. When you put Woods back in the mix, the odds go up on all the other golfers.

“Right now we’ve seen an equal mix of bettors playing Woods along with Els and Steve Stricker. Those have been the most popular thus far,” said Sherman. “I think what we’ll see is a lot more Woods action the week of the tournament because that’s when we’ll get most of the people betting that aren’t really that big of golf fans that want to have something at stake for this big of an event.”

Els presents good value at 12 to 1 after winning the last two tournaments he’s been in while Stricker is at 20 to 1. The value Woods has is at 9 to 2 odds, which Sherman says is the highest his odds have been for any tournament since his first two years on tour.

“I don’t see Tiger winning at all, and I’d be very surprised if he had a top-5 finish. I’m looking somewhere around a top-20 finish,” said Sherman.

It may seem a tough forecast seeing how Woods has won a major tournament 14 times, including the Masters four times, but Sherman sees the layoff being critical along with his mental psyche coming in.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start slow on Thursday because he’s always been a slow starter, but I am concerned about the layoff. Usually a golfer needs about three of the early tournaments to get in golf shape and he hasn’t played any competitive golf for so long. He’s also extremely nervous about what to expect when he does play from just the fan standpoint.”

Sherman and the Hilton crew generally offer 40 props on the Masters every year along with all the match-ups and odds to win, but has added a few more wrinkles this year with Woods offering 15 more props than normal just for the anticipated curiosity for the event.

“We have all kinds of props surrounding Woods play specifically like what he’ll do on his first hole, either a par or other, over-under what his first round score will be and whether or not he’ll make the cut,” said Sherman.

A bettor can lay minus-800 that Woods will make the cut following Friday’s action, or they can take plus-600, meaning every $1 of action gets you $6 in return along with the initial wager. If Woods struggles as Sherman suggests he might, betting that he doesn’t make the cut could be worth a shot.

Woods has only missed the cut of a major twice in his career.

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