- Public betting on Tiger Woods to win The Masters has created a good sized liability at most sportsbooks.
- Woods has been a perennial betting favorite throughout his career regardless of his current form.
- Pre-tournament favorite Bryson DeChambeau has struggled through the first two rounds.
The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National is being held this year under downright bizarre circumstances. The tournament was postponed from its traditional springtime date to November due to the COVID-19. The usual crowded galleries of spectators and ‘patrons’ is nowhere to be found either–the tournament is being held without fans in attendance though a few hundred members of Augusta National have been permitted to attend. The turf is unusually soft–typical for this time of year but not typical for a Masters. A sub-air system has been implemented in hopes of adding some additional firmness. Even the Augusta National’s trademark azaleas are absent since they’re out of season.
Some things, however, never change. Tiger Woods is drawing the biggest crowds as is the case every year though due to the few spectators on hands the number is in the dozens and not the hundreds. Woods is also an overwhelmingly popular choice in Masters betting as has been the case since the outset of his career. And as has been the case most years during that run he’s one of a few golfers on which sportsbooks have a financial liability should they win.
The narrative around Tiger’s downright shocking 2019 Masters victory has only increased betting interest. Last year, Woods wasn’t expected to do anything at the Masters but using his unrivaled understanding of the Augusta National course managed to earn his fifth green jacket. In the process, one William Hill bettor famously won $1.19 million from an $85,000 futures wager on Woods.
Could it be ‘deja vu all over again’ in 2020? It might happen. On Thursday, he shot a 4 under 68 for the first round. That tied his best opening round score *ever* at The Masters and was his first round without a bogey in a major championship since the first round of the 2009 PGA Championship. He wasn’t quite as sharp in Friday’s second round–he was at par through 10 holes when play was stopped because of darkness. That left him at -4 under and 5 strokes behind the leading quartet of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Cameron Smith and Abraham Ancer. Woods opened at +5000 and was bet down to +2500 before the tournament. He dropped to +1400 after Thursday’s strong opening round but is now at +2800 midway through the second round.
So which golfers are Nevada sportsbooks rooting for? From the sound it it, everyone not named Tiger Woods or Bryson DeChambeau. Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting reporter Todd Dewey got some input from the city’s bookmaking community after Thursday’s first round. William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich says that his store has a six figure liability on Woods and doesn’t want to see DeChambeau win either:
“It’s nothing like last year, but enough that it could sting. We’re good with everyone except (Bryson) DeChambeau and Tiger.”
Bogdanovich might be in the clear on DeChambeau. The PGA tour’s hottest player has struggled through the first two days of the tournament and at the time play was called on Friday was two shots below the projected cut line.
Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Jeff Sherman observed that with Tiger Woods and first round leader Paul Casey their course form at Augusta is more significant than current form:
“He hadn’t done much the last few months,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Jeff Sherman said. “Casey hasn’t been playing well, either. But they’re two guys that have played well at Augusta before.”
“You’ve got some guys that course form matters more than their current form.”
Sherman followed that up with a very prescient analysis of Tiger’s second round:
“He played almost a flawless round. I don’t think he can replicate what he did (Thursday), not making a bogey. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, DeChambeau and Rahm are right there. All the guys that have been playing very well the last few months ahead of him on the odds board, he still has to contend with.”
William Hill’s Bogdanovich is hopeful that Woods can contend throughout the weekend noting that it’s good for golf and clearly good for sportsbooks’ betting handle:
“He’s dialed in, and the weather is supposed to be good,” he said. “It’s good for golf. They bet him in any prop, and in-play wagering will be strong with him in there.”
“It’s a star-studded leaderboard. It figures to be a hell of a tournament. It’ll be wild watching the Masters on Saturday and Sunday with football flying around.”
Ironically, weekend weather conditions will be better than they often are in the spring when you never know what will happen. Saturday’s forecast is for sunny skies with a high of 72 and low of 60. Sunday will be even warmer with a high of 78 and low of 47.