Fueled by Tiger Woods’ apparent return to form ahead of the 2018 Masters, sportsbooks in Las Vegas are reporting record-setting wagering on golf.
The 42-year old Woods hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2013, and he headed to Augusta National for his first Masters since 2015. Even so, bookmakers still had the 14-time Major champion priced as low as 8 to 1 before the tournament teed off April 4 – despite opening Woods at 100 to 1 back in August.
The precipitous plunge in Woods’ odds was generated by a torrid month on the links, during which the legend recorded T-12th, T-2nd, and T-5th finishes in his last three tournaments.
And while Woods struggled to keep pace with his younger peers, ultimately finishing at +1 for a T-32nd finish, legions of golf fans lined up to wager on the possibility of a Masters miracle.
During a segment on ESPN’s “Behind the Bets” podcast, Jeff Sherman – who serves as golf oddsmaker for the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook – revealed that Tiger backers had generated the largest golf handle he’s ever taken:
“I can safely speak for most books that this is going to be the all-time highest-wagered Masters or any golf event in the history of our booking.”
The Golden Nugget’s sportsbook director Tony Miller echoed those sentiments, telling gaming reporter Doug Kezirian that interest in a Woods comeback drove record numbers that may never be reached again:
“Since he’s been back and playing well, the interest has gone off the charts.
If Tiger makes the cut, the handle might reach a high that future Masters might have a hard time matching.”
According to Sherman, the murky status of Woods’ injury-ridden back led to the initial 100 to 1 line, a number which put sportsbooks everywhere in a bind as his play improved:
“At that time, we didn’t even know he’d be playing golf at this point. He looked closer to retirement than he did for competing where he is today.
He’s at least double our second-largest liability.
“If we didn’t have liability, he’d probably be 20 to 1 or 18 to 1. But he’s our largest liability. It would be the equivalent of the Knights winning their division.”
Over at the William Hill bet shop network, which covers several casinos throughout Nevada, sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that wagering on Woods sparked a 30 percent increase over last year’s Masters handle:
“It’s not even close. Tiger Woods is the most important factor, but there are a million other stories, too.
Phil (Mickelson) is playing great. Bubba’s (Watson) playing great. All the young guys are playing great.
And betting is at an all-time high.”
Another factor driving Vegas’ astronomical take on the Masters was the expansion of proposition betting options.
Sherman observed that the Westgate SuperBook posted 100 prop bets for the tournament this year, more than double the 40 Masters props on the board last April. And as he explained in an article posted to the Action Network site, Sherman included 11 prop bets linked to Woods’ performance, while no other golfer in the field had more than 6 prop options.
Of course, the most popular prop on the board pitted Woods against his archrival Phil Mickelson. The Westgate SuperBook’s line had Woods as a (-120) favorite over “Lefty” (Even), and sure enough, Woods wound up the winner on that wager after Mickelson carded a +2 for a T-36th finish.
As for the exact figures comprising Las Vegas’ record handle, golf bettors will have to wait until May for the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to release April’s revenue reports.