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.”

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


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Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.