Woods' struggles cause oddsmakers to scramble

By Will GrayFebruary 4, 2015, 12:30 am

As Tiger Woods chunked and skulled his way to a missed cut last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, there was a large sense of disbelief. There were questions left unanswered, and there was uncertainty about what next to expect.

For one man, though, there was work to do.

Jeff Sherman is the assistant manager at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and a one-man band when it comes to setting and adjusting weekly betting odds for golf tournaments. As Woods misfired on chip after chip, Sherman knew that he would have to adjust his odds for the Farmers Insurance Open.

But how, and by how much? Setting prices on golfers to win PGA Tour events is a soft science, but even more so when it comes to the most popular player in the game.

“He’s the one guy that’s the most tricky because over the years, no matter how poorly he’s playing, people back him,” said Sherman, who has been creating golf odds at Westgate since 2004. “I could put him at 20/1 and if his name didn’t say ‘Tiger Woods,’ he could have been listed at 80/1. But you just get that type of action on him.”

Sherman had listed Woods at 20/1 to win last week in Phoenix, and he knew that number would be going up significantly for this week’s event. His usual process starts by surveying the field list upon its release the Friday prior to gauge its overall strength. From there, he’ll factor in a player’s current form and his past history at a given venue.

Track records don’t get much better than Woods’ profile at Torrey Pines, where he has seven Farmers titles in addition to his 2008 U.S. Open win. His short-game struggles were so troubling, though, that Sherman basically had to ignore his past success while assigning odds of 50/1.

“Obviously he’s going to a course he’s had tremendous history on, but you have to find a certain weight between history and current form,” he told GolfChannel.com on Tuesday. “The current form is throwing his history out the window this week.”


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Sherman’s goal in setting odds is not to offer a prediction on the event, but simply to generate a balanced level of wagers. The key for him is finding a number that will attract bettors, but not one that will create a significant liability for the house should the player win.

“We’re pushing to get the action, but the problem is if I was less or much less (than 50/1 on Woods), I don’t think I’d get many bets at all based on what everyone saw,” he said. “I’m just trying to find the number to get the action.”

To understand the new depths reached this week, it helps to remember the heights once achieved by Woods – even from a betting standpoint. The last four times he has played this event, his highest pre-tournament odds with Sherman were 7/1 in 2013. He went on to win that event by four shots.

Back in 2008, he was listed at even money (1/1) to win the Farmers, which he did. After winning each of his first three starts to begin the year, he then played Doral as a massive 10/13 favorite, meaning bettors had to lay $13 to win $10.

Even at the 2010 Masters, when Woods was making his return from a scandal and surrounded by more questions than answers, he still had lower odds than any other player in the field at 11/2. Just last year, he was listed as a 2/1 favorite at Torrey Pines.

“The crazy thing was that I opened the odds at 5/2 and I took a large wager on him to drive the odds down to 2/1,” Sherman recalled.

But now, with his swing still a work in progress and his short game nowhere to be seen, Woods opened at 50/1. It’s the highest number Sherman has ever assigned to the 14-time major winner, surpassing his 30/1 pre-tournament odds at last year’s PGA Championship.

Sherman’s focus also extends beyond this week’s event along the California coast. He posted full-field odds to win the Masters back in August, listing Woods at 12/1 behind only Rory McIlroy (5/1). This weekend’s result caused him to make his first adjustment to Woods’ odds for Augusta, dropping him to 20/1 alongside Phil Mickelson and behind Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth at 15/1.

“With it being that far out and with him having the ability to get some tournament golf under his belt before it happens, you just can’t be overly aggressive,” he said. “He has that extra time to be able to prep and get his form up, so you make the adjustment but you just don’t make too large of an adjustment this far out.”

As expected, Woods’ lofty price has drawn attention from the Las Vegas betting community. Sherman released his Farmers odds on Monday, and less than 24 hours later Woods had surpassed Mickelson as the player with the most wagers. Sherman is confident that trend will continue into Wednesday, when his sports book receives an estimated 80 percent of its golf wagers, and that Woods will ultimately lead the ticket count this week.

While Sherman had kept his odds on Woods steady at 50/1 despite an early influx of wagers, he moved them to 40/1 by Tuesday evening. Some offshore outlets were even quicker to adjust their prices; BetOnline.ag opened Woods at 50/1 to win on Monday and was offering him at 33/1 Tuesday, while Sportsbook.ag and Bovada.lv had both trimmed Woods to 30/1.

Dave Mason, a manager at BetOnline.ag, noted that their potential liability on Woods is 20 times higher than that of their next biggest exposure, Dustin Johnson.

"Although public action has decreased on Tiger the last couple of years, he is by far our biggest exposure this weekend due to the very long odds," Mason said.

Sherman doesn’t foresee the odds on Woods getting much higher than their current level when he makes his next start, which is expected to be the Honda Classic later this month.

“If he makes an improvement and just barely misses the cut, you’ll probably see a decrease in his odds. People will think he’ll be able to gain more next time,” he said. “For an increase to happen, he’s going to have to finish a couple spots higher or right about where he finished (last week) for things to really go up much more.”

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).