Parity is the new rule in golf, which has been both good and bad for Las Vegas sportsbooks, according to Chuck Esposito, sportsbook director at the Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas.
“The betting public will look at the players playing well and see a lot of opportunity,” Esposito said of this week’s wide-open U.S. Open. “But with Tiger everyone wanted to watch. When he made that front-nine charge at the Masters, the crowd here was unbelievable.”
With Woods on the sidelines, Phil Mickelson is the favorite at 10-1, a far cry from days when Woods would be anywhere from 3 to 1 to even money to win a major.
“Now you see favorites in the range of 8 to 1, 10 to 1, and 12 to 1,” Esposito said.
Mickelson was an 8 to 1 favorite at the Masters in April, while Woods was just beneath him at 10 to 1, despite playing poorly leading up to the event. Esposito said a Mickelson win would have casino sportsbooks buzzing, but not like they do when Woods plays well.
"Mickelson does have a huge amount of fans, but with Tiger, whether you love him or hate him, everybody wants to watch," Esposito said.
However, Esposito said he does not expect too much of a drop-off in total amount wagered on the U.S. Open, which he said is in the “high six figures” industry-wide (about 15 percent less than the Masters). The reason is that the anyone-can-win feeling about this year’s U.S. Open is creating interest among the gambling public.
“They’ll be a small drop off because of Tiger, but I think it will be good handle because the tournament is wide-open,” Esposito said.
Proof that no one has settled on a favorite is in the numbers. After Mickelson at 10 to 1, the next favorites are Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood at 15 to 1, followed by Luke Donald at 18 to 1, according to Esposito. Most of the other bigger names are in the 20-50 to 1 range, including Steve Stricker at 35 to 1.
In fact, after Mickelson, the most popular bet to win this U.S. Open is the field (i.e., someone not well-known enough to be listed). Esposito said the field will be listed between 10 to 1 and 8 to 1 by Thursday. Note: These odds are for news purposes only and are subject to change.