SIMPLY THE BEST, ER, BETS
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN WOODS WAS EVEN MONEY, BUT NOW THE WAGER IS IF HE’LL EVEN MAKE THE CUT
LAS VEGAS — The Tiger Effect psyched out fellow PGA Tour foes for about a dozen years and reverberated inside Vegas sportsbooks. From 1999 through 2009, Tiger Woods played in 190 tournaments. He won 64 and finished in the top 10 137 times. From 199904, he made every cut in 115 tournaments.
Maybe most impressive, a few times he went into a tournament at even odds, or less, to win, which still stuns Westgate SuperBook executive vice president Jay Kornegay.
“Before that, you wouldn’t see anybody in single digits,’’ he said. ‘‘But at one point, Tiger was even money or less than even money — in majors, too. At times, when it was snowballing, we needed him to win.
“There wasn’t much liability on him at even money, or -120. People were taking shots at other popular golfers. He was clearly, by far, the best golfer in the world. And we needed him to win, which wasn’t a bad thing.”
Since he suffered many injuries, including a smashed right foot, in that horrific rollover accident in early 2021, the Tiger Effect now pertains to making the cut.
At the Honda Classic in Los Angeles last week, that was a plus price around town. By a tiger’s whisker, he made it, but such value might have evaporated.
For the Masters, Kornegay gauged Woods to make that cut at -140. SuperBook golf oddsman Jeff Sherman responded with -150, so Kornegay rounded it to -145. To win, Tiger is 40-1 at the SuperBook, 32-1 to 50-1 around Vegas.
The SuperBook has written more Masters win tickets on Will Zalatoris, Jordan Spieth, Cameron Smith and Tony Finau, but Kornegay predicts a flood of action on Woods.
“I expect it to snowball as we get closer to the Masters. Wouldn’t you, if you’re a Tiger fan, kick yourself if Tiger won and you didn’t bet it? I understand the interest.
“It’s still Tiger.”
Wes Reynolds of the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) passed on Tiger making the Riviera cut. Instead, he invested in Luke Donald (who shot a 282) to beat Woods (283) in matchup action.
Asked if Tiger at -145 to make the Augusta cut does anything for him, Reynolds says, “Not really.”
Sean Alvarez, whose handicapping fortes are golf, the horses and certain baseball angles, nabbed +120 on Tiger playing Saturday and Sunday at Riviera.
“He had to make a late birdie just to make the cut,” Alvarez says of the second round. “But, yeah, give me Tiger Woods to make the cut at plus money; it’s Riviera, it’s Tiger and he wants to get right for Augusta.”
Both Alvarez and Reynolds want to see Tiger play again, another tune-up, before he tees up at Augusta on April 6.
Reynolds had hoped he’d play this weekend at Bay Hill, where Tiger has won eight times.
“I thought that would be a good place, but maybe it wasn’t enough rest time. I thought he’d play at least once in between Riviera and Augusta. Maybe it’ll be Valspar?”
In two weeks, the Valspar Championship takes place at Palm Harbor, Florida, across the Sunshine State from Tiger’s lair in Jupiter Island.
Plus, since 1983, according to Golf Digest, Tiger has an incredible 16 tournament victories in Florida. Next are Ernie Els and John Huston, with five apiece. On the current tour, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott have three.
A match-play event and the Valero Texas Open come next, then the Masters.
Tiger’s driving at Riviera did impress Reynolds.
“Obviously, it’s the physical wear and tear you’re most worried about,’’ he said. ‘‘His mind is still sharp. What happens when he gets in the really tough rough? Will he be able to recover? That’s always what separated him from everybody else.”
At a pro-am event once, Phil Mickelson strolled by Alvarez’s bag, noted his spiffy Augusta-green club covers and wondered aloud where he could get some of those beauties.
“I know a guy,” Alvarez responded. He’d been working for Callaway, thus the connection. He once played a round on Maui with Tony Finau and his brother Gipper. With much work, Alvarez would shave his 10-handicap to a four. He enjoyed watching Tiger go 69-74-67-73 at Riviera.
“He was flagging irons, making putts, and getting up and down from types of places that we don’t normally see from people who finish 50th in a tournament,” Alvarez says. “He was getting that feel back.
“Around the greens, he eyes those landing spots, has that feel. That’s the first thing that goes, if you take time off.”
When I inquired Sunday at a shop about Tiger’s odds to win at Augusta, a ticket writer said, “Forty to one . . . should be 400-to-1.”
A professional caddy recently trumpeted, to me, his 125-1 Tiger-to-win-Augusta ticket, bought late last year at Circa Sports. Circa also offers No on him at -9000 — risk, say, $90 to win a dollar on him not winning in Georgia.
“Even if he doesn’t play another tournament before Augusta,” Alvarez says, “he’ll be there to win that tournament, not just to take a ceremonial drive on the first tee.”
Woods, 47, won his first Masters in 1997, by a cartoonish 12 shots, his fifth in 2019. Alvarez won’t miss a chance at No. 6.
“I’m not going to let Tiger tee off at Augusta without having a couple bucks on him to win.” ✶