Since bursting on the scene more than a decade ago and quickly establishing himself as the man to beat in every tournament he enters, the fundamental question for golf betting fans always has been whether to take a short price on Tiger Woods or whether to shop for longer odds and wager on someone else.
As Woods eyes a 15th Major title at the US Open on the Bethpage State Park Black Course in Farmingdale, New York, June 18-21, there are valid arguments on both sides of that question.
Statistically, Woods has won 14 of the 52 Major events in which he’s participated, a success rate of 26.9 percent, nearly identical to his winning percentage in non-Major events and light years ahead of any other player on the PGA Tour.
However, as a gambler, if you’d bet on Woods in every Major outing, you’d need an average price of about 3/1 just to break even. Good luck with that. Woods, who was a high of 2/1 (and a low of even money) at 18 sports books surveyed in 2008, statistically, is a much better bet this year. The world’s No. 1 ranked golfer is offered at future book prices ranging from 2/1 to just under 3/1 at 17 international wagering venues surveyed. Better odds, to be sure, but based on pure arithmetic, still not quite what you’d want.
On the other hand, Woods is the defending champion in the US Open, having defeated Rocco Mediate in a playoff while hobbling around the Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, California on a badly damaged knee that subsequently required season-ending surgery in 2008. He’s won two other US Open championships, including one in 2002 when he tamed the notoriously difficult par 70, 7,214-yard Black Course at Bethpage to beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes. Given that he was the only player to break par on a layout where the cut was a lofty +6, Woods should have an inherited home course advantage at the Long Island venue.
Although he returned from surgery with a victory on the PGA Tour in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, March 29, Woods could do no better than a tie for sixth in this year’s first Major, The Masters, in April. Of concern to Woods backers may be that since his surgery, Woods has been about 30 yards shorter off the tee, a loss of distance that could hurt him at Bethpage.
Of course, if you decide not to bet on Woods, there’s still the thorny question of where to place your money.
One logical place would be on Phil Mickelson, who already has a pair of victories this season and finished fifth at The Masters. Mickelson, who has been the runner-up at the US Open on a record four occasions, is listed between 8/1 and 14/1 in futures. However, Mickelson recently took a leave of absence from the PGA Tour to be by the side of his wife, Amy, while she battles breast cancer. So Lefty’s US Open status, including his focus, remains unknown.
Beyond Woods and Mickelson are several golfers hoping to take advantage if either of the top two stumbles. Geoff Ogilvy, the US Open champion in 2006, and Padraig Harrington, a winner of two Major events last season, each are quoted at odds of about 16/1.
A pair of former US Open champions, Retief Goosen, who captured first-place trophies in both 2001 and 2004, and Jim Furyk, the 2003 winner, each are in the 25/1 to 33/1 range, about the same future book odds afforded Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia.
The foursome at 33/1 to 40/1 includes Henrik Stenson, Sean O’Hair, Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry.
Two-time US Open champion Ernie Els is offered at odds ranging from 40/1 to 50/1, about the same price as you’ll find on multiple Major winner Vijay Singh.
Angel Cabrera, the 2007 US Open champion and reigning Masters kingpin is listed at odds as high as 66/1.
So, do you chase a Tiger, Phil ‘er up or look elsewhere? Nobody ever said golf betting, particularly on the US Open Championship, would be easy.