Even bettor

There are many measures of Tiger Woods' domination of his sport but none more compelling or convincing as this: As a betting proposition, playing against nearly 90 of the best golfers in the world, Woods is just about an even-money wager to win the Masters beginning today.

When you consider all the variables in a golf tournament - essentially, that Woods has no control over the weather or the performance of his competitors - the fact that his odds are 6-5 to win the Masters (according to the Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book) is mind-boggling.


Phil Mickelson is a distant second at 10-1, and Vijay Singh is third at 20-1.

"When we first started putting up odds of golf tournaments sometime in the late 1980s, the favorite for a tournament might be 12-1 or 15-1," said Jay Kornegay, who now runs the Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book and previously was at the Imperial Palace casino. "After that, everyone else was 15-1 to 40-1; it was so hard to pick a winner."


But Woods has altered the golf wagering landscape in much the way he has changed a great deal about how the game is appreciated.

The odds on Woods winning all four golf majors are 5-1. The number was bet down from an opening line of 10-1. Actually, you can get longer odds (11-2) that he wins no majors.

"The first time we put up the odds on Tiger winning the Grand Slam when he first came along and was dominating, it was 80-1 and it was bet down to 12-1. So we learned that that opening line was not a very good number," Kornegay said.

Obviously, Woods didn't win the Grand Slam, "otherwise I might not be here talking to you now," Kornegay joked.

The betting public's confidence in Woods is well placed, though. He has won eight of his past 10 medal tournaments. For Woods' believers, that's a lot of paydays.

To be sure, golf is not a big moneymaker for casino sports books. Football, basketball and baseball are the obvious revenue leaders. But the Masters is the most wagered-on tournament of the year, and this particular Masters could wind up being the all-time leader, mainly because of the Woods-vs.-the-world theme.

Among the proposition bets Kornegay's sports book offers is this simple question: Will Tiger win the Masters? If you think the answer to that question is yes, a $100 bet will get you $125 if he does. If you believe anyone else in the field will take the green jacket, you have to lay just $145 to win $100.

The latter are tempting odds. You get Mickelson, Singh, Ernie Els and every guy you've never heard of (including last year's winner, Zach Johnson).


The pro gamblers in Vegas are actually leaning toward the field so far, Kornegay said.

"So for once, we get to root for Tiger," Kornegay said. "I'll take it."