Jordan Spieth is a favorite to repeat. But Rickie Fowler has attracted the most action. And Tiger Woods still has a puncher’s chance at nabbing his fifth green jacket, though the odds seem slim that he’ll even play.
Those and other nuggets make up the latest Masters news from the gambling frontline of Las Vegas in advance of the most wagered-on golf tournament of the year.
“We look at the stats, historical performance, recent performance, all of that,” says Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports books for MGM Resorts. “But in golf, as in Nascar and so many other individual sports, popularity drives the betting board.”
By that measure, if this were high school, Spieth would have the hand of the homecoming queen. This year’s defending champ has been the Masters favorite since last summer, when the line on him opened at 7-to-1. His recent struggles have done nothing to dampen the gambling public’s enthusiasm for him. His odds are now down to 5-to-1.
Next up on the list, at 6-to-1, is 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, whose recent back-to-back Tour wins have brought him back into the conversation. He’s followed by Rory McIlroy, who needs only the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam. If the numbers are right, there’s an 8-to-1 chance that the Northern Irishman will do just that.
Then again, the numbers are rarely a reflection of a golfer’s actual chance of winning.
As an example, Rood cites Justin Rose, now on the blocks at 25-to-1. Never mind the fact that Rose has competed in 47 majors, and come away with just one major title.
“He’s obviously a great player, and there’s always that sense of potential,” Rood says. “But his actual odds of winning are probably more like 60 to 80-to-1.”
Popularity and potential. Both have influenced the action on Rickie Fowler, who has drawn more Masters wagers at MGM than any other player in the Masters field. Fowler is major-less, but his Augusta odds (10-to-1) are the same as those for Bubba Watson, who has won two of the last four Masters.
Compare those seemingly skewed figures to the odds for Phil Mickelson: 9-to-1 on a guy who has won three Masters in 23 appearances is a rare instance of the numbers roughly lining up with what a player has actually done.
Of course, the so-called “smart money” often gravitates towards numerical long-shots whose odds appear statistically out-of-whack.
Good luck sniffing out those sleepers.
Could it be Angel Cabrera at 100-to-1? Or Louis Oosthuizen at 40-to-1? Rood says he’s eyeballing Matt Kuchar (60-to-1).
“Throughout his career, he’s basically been a license to print money,” Rood says, “though maybe more for himself than for people betting on him.”
Then there’s Tiger Woods, who, during his early 2000s peak, warped the betting board like no other golfer before or since.
On the mend from back surgery, Woods is listed at 80-to-1, though the odds of him being ready to compete seem even worse.
“Tiger has shown that he can be a factor at Augusta even when he’s nowhere near his best,” Rood says. “So if there’s even a chance that he might play…well, put it this way: we’ve been getting a ton of bets on him.”