He hasn't won a major in four years, but Tiger Woods is the Las Vegas favorite to win this year's U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, just like he was at Pebble Beach in 2010, the last U.S. Open he was healthy enough to play. And he'll probably be favored at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion too, no matter what he does this year.
"We're not going to overvalue Tiger," said Chuck Esposito, race and sportsbook director at Sunset Station in Henderson, Nev. "You'll always have money on him, and he'll continue to be the favorite. You don't see anyone else on the horizon who generates such interest."
Woods's odds to win the U.S. Open are 3-to-1* -- meaning a $1 bet on Woods to win pays out $3. No other player has single-digit odds. His win at the Memorial two weeks ago drove those odds down, Esposito said, but Woods still would have been the clear favorite. He said the situation is similar to the Masters, where Woods's win at Bay Hill drove gamblers' interest in the event up and Woods's odds down. (Woods finished T40 at the Masters.)
"It's fun for us when he gets hot at the right time," Esposito said.
Fun and profitable. Esposito said that he expects the total amount wagered on the U.S. Open in Nevada to be in the mid-to-high six figures, and he credits Woods with creating that interest.
"It's similar to LeBron," he said. "Whether you're for Tiger or against him, you're going to tune in to what he does."
The only way Woods wouldn't be the favorite is for someone like Rory McIlroy to start winning majors like Woods used to. "McIlroy would need to dominate and win two, three or even four majors" to replace Woods as the favorite at a major, Esposito said. A tall order. McIlroy missed three straight cuts before finishing T7 at last week's FedEx St. Jude Classic. Woods has missed eight cuts in his entire career as a professional.
After Woods, it's wide open on the board, Esposito said, adding that there have been 14 different winners in the last 14 majors. The next favorites are Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and a surprising Rickie Fowler, all listed between 10- and 14-to-1. Esposito said Fowler would have been 80- or even 100-to-1 to win the U.S. Open earlier this season, before his win at Quail Hollow and strong showing in the Players Championship. Zach Johnson is also a hot pick, seeing his odds drop from 80- to 100-to-1 to 35-to-1.
After the Mickelson/McIlroy/Fowler group, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar are in the 15- to 20-to-1 range, according to Esposito, and Masters champion Bubba Watson is in the 22-to-1 range with Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott. Sunset Station sportsbook odds on U.S. Open (subject to change): Tiger Woods: 3 to 1
Phil Mickelson: 10 to 1
Rory McIlroy: 10 to 1
Rickie Fowler: 12 to 1
Jason Dufner: 12 to 1
Lee Westwood: 14 to 1
Luke Donald: 15 to 1
Matt Kuchar: 18 to 1
Zach Johnson: 35 to 1
*Story updated June 11 to reflect more recent odds on Tiger Woods