Despite Tiger Woods's personal scandals and uneven play, one group of people had always stood resolutely behind him: Las Vegas gamblers. That's not true anymore as gamblers look at Phil Mickelson as the favorite this week at the PGA Championship.
"Action is definitely tame on Tiger," said Chuck Esposito, casino operations manager for the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. "The betting on him is the lowest it's been in a while."
Woods's poor play at the Bridgestone Invitational, where he posted the worst 72-hole finish of his career, drove the odds on Woods higher as gamblers flocked to other players. Woods opened at 10 to 1 to win the PGA Championship; now he's 12 to 1. The favorite, Mickelson, is 10 to 1, and Rory McIlroy is 15 to 1. The Tiger Woods of this tournament is the field (less-regarded players who don't have individual odds) at 4 to 1.
"It's actually similar to what you see in a tournament in which Woods doesn't play, with the favorite in the 8-to-1, 10-to-1 range," Esposito said. By contrast, Woods has gone off at even money or lower at some majors, and he's never been higher than 5 to 1. He remained the favorite at the previous three majors despite clearly not playing up to his standards this season.
"Gamblers will continue to back proven winners," Esposito said. "It's like in any sport, teams with a record of year-to-year success like the [New York] Yankess and the [New England] Patriots always get some backing."
Plus, Esposito said, the sports books were especially careful before offering higher odds on Woods.
"We've been reluctant to get carried away," Esposito said. "We've been forced to [raise the odds on Woods] because we're not seeing enough action on him. You could say we're trying to get some bites on Tiger."
Industry-wide, Esposito estimates that the total amount wagered on the PGA Championship is in "the bottom of seven figures." That number includes proposition bets, which have become popular. For example, Esposito said his casino takes bets on individual match-ups in the tournament. In the Woods-Mickelson match-up, Mickelson is an 8-to-5 favorite. Esposito said he can't remember Woods ever being the underdog in an individual matchup.
"But if Tiger wins, a lot will be forgotten," Esposito said. "I'm sure we'd have him as the favorite at the next event.