Open season for Els repeat

Jul 15, 2003 7:01 AM

Any news from Sandwich, England makes me hungry. In this case, it means betting the British Open.

To my sad regret, Rocco Mediate (personal) and 2002 European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance (knee) have withdrawn. I guess that means betting Tiger Woods again.

Well, maybe not.

Remember, Woods was "slumping" until he won the Buick Open two weeks ago in Westchester County, N.Y., one of the few places Tiger can buy a million dollar home and be considered just one of the boys.

The win was Tiger’s fourth in 10 starts. That’s 40 percent efficiency in a sport where you can go years without capturing a PGA Tour event. Just ask David Duval, Corey Pavin and John Daly.

And, yet we’re seeing Tiger favored at 5-2 by Las Vegas Sports Consultants and 3-1 by Rob Terch at Casino MonteLago. Why so high? Well, he is 0-2 in majors this year. Of course, Phil Mickelson is 0-forever is sitting at 18-1 with David Toms.

Picking the winner of a golf tournament used to be the most difficult task in sports wagering until Tiger came along. At 3-1, betting a .400 hitter is simply a no-brainer.

However, the real favorite might be the one picked second. Ernie Els opened 10-1, but may drop after a wire-to-wire victory last week in Scotland. The Big Easy has five wins worldwide in seven months and fully recovered from a wrist injury that hampered him since February.

So, we’ll make Ernie our favorite to win the Open for the second straight year.

We’re probably going to be wrong, since it’s rare for any defender not named Tiger to repeat in golf.

So here are some other possibles we like. Maybe this will help in betting matchups.

THE CONTENDERS

(Las Vegas Sports Consultants odds)

Philip Price (5-2 field): Tied Clarke for the runnerup spot in Scotland after winning the previous week on the European Tour. Could be a sleeper in his homeland.

Darren Clarke 25-1: Always a threat in majors, though never a winner. Has come close at the British. Tied for second in Scotland.

David Toms 18-1: Excellent odds for a proven pressure player, who has won three times this year. Toms has had health issues and the crazy England weather could be a problem.

Jim Furyk 12-1: His consistency makes him a contender, but will be tough to put back-to-back majors together. Odds against him to win.

Jerry Kelly 50-1 (at GV Ranch): The guy just seems to pop up on leaderboards. The Open isn’t in Ireland, but Kelly green could be worth a lucky charm wager.

Phil Mickelson 18-1: Finished with a 68 in Scotland, but was all over the course. A birdie machine, but a double-bogey one as well. Too erratic to trust.

Nick Price 15-1: Playing his best golf in years. Watson gave us a thrill at the U.S. Open. It could be Nick’s turn. After all, it’s been a big season for the 40-somethings.

Sergio Garcia 25-1: The Spanish heartthrob has been close to finding his game. If he can get off to a good start, he’ll work the crowd to his side on the weekend.

Kenny Perry 30-1: Can’t ignore a guy with three wins and a third in last four starts. Not having played the Open in 10 years will hurt.