Woods inspires betting records for golf

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The combination of Tiger Woods playing his best golf in nearly two years, young guns making names for themselves and every continent represented high on the leader board made the 2011 Masters the most bet upon golf tournament ever according to the Las Vegas Hilton’s Jeff Sherman.

“The action far exceeded anything we expected,” said Sherman who has been setting golf odds in Las Vegas for the last 18 years. “I’ve never seen the handle this high before and a lot of it can be attributed to Tiger Woods.”

The Hilton had Woods at 9-1 in their early odds, which had been posted last year, and bumped him up to 10-1 the week of the tournament offering the highest odds known.

“We already had the biggest base of handle ever coming into the week and while Tiger spurred the action, the high odds on several of the current successful golfers was what elevated the handle to new heights,” said Sherman.

Just by witnessing the national buzz created by fallen celebrities like Charlie Sheen, it gives us a peak into the mindset of Americans, and Tiger Woods falls into that category. For some reason we like to see people at the top struggle, admit their faults – proving they are like us all, and then root them on when they climb back off the ground.

After all of Woods issues, he’s become almost more likeable than he ever was before all the marital problems. Not many men can say they that haven’t experienced the type of crisis Tiger has on a broad plain – minus the expensive companions – and there is also a segment of women who have forgiven their men for past transgressions.

What it’s done in the process is give Woods an entirely new fan base of people rooting for him saying, “He’s a real person who has had issues just like me. Go, Tiger!”

I found myself included in that group as I was glued to the TV for four straight days. I didn’t even have a bet on anyone, but found each hole compelling. When Tiger started his prowl to the top on Friday shooting a 66, I found it to be the most gripping television I had ever seen. Between the roar of the crowd on each hole, the humility and graciousness of Tiger tipping his cap to the fans who he hoped more than anything he could endear again, it was an epic weekend.

I think a lot people out there are similar to me in that they don’t watch much golf, but were captivated by what was going on and wanted to be a part of it somehow.

Just like the massive handle in the sports books, the Nielson Ratings for the event should be through the roof as it captured that fringe audience over the weekend.

The Hilton also capitalized on the frenzy of action by offering odds to win and matchups after each round, including live betting in the final round as the match was going on.

“That was pretty fun,” Sherman said of taking bets while the match was going on. “Myself and Ed (Salmons) were watching the live leaderboard and adjusting everyone with each shot they made.”

The eventual winner, Charl Schwartzel, is almost an afterthought and somewhat forgettable considering the rides Woods and all the golfers in their early 20’s gave us.

What will this Masters be more remembered for? Woods making a run amid his tough road traveled, Rory McIroy’s meltdown and shooting a shot in between houses just to get onto the fairway, or a South African named Schwartzel winning.

Most of the forgetting Schwartzel part can be attributed to not many having a bet on him.

“For almost a year we had Schwartzel 65-1,” said Sherman, “And then the week of the tournament we bumped him up to 100-1 just because there was hardly any action on him compared to the others who had risk. Even in our final day of booking, we didn’t see many takers at 12-1 with him despite being near the top of the leader board.”

Without Sherman having to say so, it’s fair to say they scooped all the chips off the betting table this week with Schwartzel winning. Sherman did say it was the biggest betting event of the weekend and came close to beating out the NBA handle over the four day stretch with four-day baseball handle topping the charts.

Even though Augusta may be tailor made for Woods, we saw that he is now close to “winning” and has “Tiger blood” running through his veins. It will be hard for the magnitude of what just happened over the weekend to be recreated, but we’ll see how it all goes down with the U.S. Open held in Bethesda, Md., in June.

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