The favorite at this year's Masters is the same as last year and
the year before: Tiger Woods. However, odds makers have not made Woods
the overwhelming favorite he's been in years past, according to Chuck Esposito, casino operations manager of the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. In fact, casinos are seeing significant money coming in against Woods.
"Woods is the favorite at 9 to 2 to win, but for him that's super-low," Esposito said. "We're seeing tremendous action on other guys. For example Anthony Kim opened at 15 to 1 and now he's at 10 to 1, Ernie Els opened at 20 to 1 and now he's 8 to 1, and Steve Stricker has gone from 25 to 1 to 8 to 1."
When Woods announced he'd play the Masters, his odds to win the tournament
were set at 4 to 1, meaning a $1 bet on Woods would pay $4 if he won. Those
odds actually went up this week--to 9 to 2--and could be as high as 5
to 1 by Thursday, due to uncertainty about Woods' game, according to Esposito.
"Usually he's at 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 to win," Esposito said. "This year is one of the best prices you'll ever get on Woods in the Masters. For him, 5 to 1 is a steal."
Esposito said the Tropicana is not offering a wager against Woods winning the tournament, but the casino is offering proposition
bets on how many majors Woods will win the year. No majors is 5 to 2;
one majors is 2 to 1; two majors is 4 to 1; three majors is 10 to 1;
and the grand slam is 25 to 1.
said he expects the total amount wagered on the Masters to be in "the
mid-six figures," and this year interest is higher than usual because
of Woods' high-profile absence from the game. That figure is a drop in the bucket compared to the NCAA tournament or NFL
football, but a big increase over events that Woods doesn't play. Casinos didn't even post odds on regular PGA Tour events until about 10 years ago, Esposito said, another sign of Woods' impact on the pro game.
"We'll have phenomenal crowds, especially when Tiger tees off," Esposito
said. "The Masters is such a huge event here. If Tiger is in the hunt
on Sunday, it will probably be standing-room-only crowds at every sportsbook in Nevada."
After Woods, Phil Mickelson has the second-lowest odds to win the tournament, 5 to 1.