Woods’s Bogeys Mean Major Profits for Vegas Sports BooksEben Novy-Williams
Tiger Woods, who withdrew from the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open yesterday with his latest back injury, has become a bookmaker’s best friend.
The most-supported golfer in both the number of bets laid and the total value of wagers, Woods’s failure to win a U.S. PGA Tour title since August 2013 and a career-worst round of 82 last week have turned a large profit for sports books.
With odds that bookmakers say would be as much as three times longer if not for Woods’s name and prior success, public support shows no signs of fading, even as the 14-time major champion’s play has gone from bad to worse.
“I wish there were five more of him out there,” said Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Woods, 39, shot his worst round as a professional Jan. 30 to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open by 13 strokes. He withdrew yesterday after 12 holes at Torrey Pines, where he’s won eight times. Woods blamed his latest back problems on a fog delay that postponed the start of his round by more than two hours.
“It just never loosened back up again, and when we went back out it just got progressively tighter,” he told reporters. “It’s frustrating that it started shutting down like that. I was ready to go. I had a good warmup session the first time around. Then we stood out here and I got cold.”
The SuperBook opened Woods’s title odds this week at 50-1, which was quickly bet down to 40-1. Sherman said Woods attracted five times more support than the next closest competitor.
“He’s still a betting favorite no matter what odds are posted -- whether it’s 50-1 or 2-1,” Jimmy Vaccaro, sports book manager at Las Vegas’ South Point Casino, said in a telephone interview. “Even though he can’t hit it two feet anymore, for the time being anyway.”
At Sportsbook.ag, Woods opened at 45-1, his longest ever odds at the website. Matt James, a spokesman for the book, said he was priced shorter than his true odds in anticipation of overwhelming support.
“Sure enough, within the first 12 hours we attracted enough action to make him a large loser in our book,” James said in an e-mail. “We immediately cut his odds to 30-1.”
Before Woods joined the PGA Tour in 1996, the favorite at a major tournament would often have odds of about 12-1. At the height of Woods’s dominance, he would sometimes tee off at 2-1.
Action was so heavy on Woods -- who won 11 major tournaments from 1999-2006 and held the world No. 1 ranking for more than 85 percent of those weeks -- that sports books developed lucrative-looking “Tiger vs. the field” proposition bets to try and even out the money.
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines having missed consecutive cuts for the first time as a professional. He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, 17 months before he crashed his SUV during an argument with wife, an incident that led to his admission of extra-marital affairs, divorce and a stint in rehab.
Sherman said that if any other golfer was playing at Woods’s current level, he’d have been at 150-1 this week. If world No. 1 Rory McIlroy was Woods, Sherman said, he’d be 5-2 to win the Masters Tournament in April, rather than the 9-2 odds the Northern Irishman currently has to capture the only major that has eluded him.
“That name just attracts the money,” Sherman said of Woods.
Vaccaro and Sherman compared Woods to the Chicago Cubs. Bettors religiously wager on the Major League Baseball team’s title odds, even though the Cubs haven’t won a playoff game in 11 seasons and last won a World Series in 1908.
“People would bet the Cubs all the time, no matter what,” Vaccaro said. “They’ve been chasing that for over 100 years.”
The same will apply to Woods “for a long time,” he added.
“They grab onto these icons and they go down with the ship to some degree,” he said.