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Tiger Tracker: 2018 Masters Odds Go Wild

Alex Kilpatrick

by Alex Kilpatrick in Golf

Mar 13, 2018 · 1:07 PM PDT

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods in 2007, the last year he won the PGA Championship. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License].
  • Tiger Woods played exceptionally good, Tiger-esque golf last weekend.
  • He’s now among the favorites at the Masters and the outright favorite at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
  • Is Rory McIlroy the new Tiger Woods?

As I’m sure you heard, Tiger played very well this weekend. He was contending right up until the end of the Valspar Championship, led after the second day, and even broke out the vaunted red shirt/black pants combination on Sunday. For fans of Tiger, and those eagerly awaiting his return to contention, it was cathartic.

More important than the result, though, is the way Tiger played. He was driving the ball aggressively, gaining shots all the way to the green, and playing an impressive short game. He hit some signature putts that, while they didn’t result in victory, certainly looked like old Tiger.

You don’t have to rely on the eyeball test, either: the statistics boffins in the golf world are all nodding approvingly. Tiger put up great numbers in shots gained, which correlates well with success; hole proximity, which is a passable metric; and swing speed, which is pure vanity. Did you know Tiger Woods has the fastest swing ever recorded? 

I’m sure the betting market will react reasonably to these developments!

2018 Masters Betting Odds

 Golfer Odds of Winning 2018 Masters
Dustin Johnson +800
Tiger Woods +900
Justin Thomas +1000
Jordan Spieth +1100
Phil Mickelson +1400
Jason Day +1600
Rory McIlroy +1600
Jon Rahm +1800
Justin Rose +1800
Bubba Watson +2000
Rickie Folwer +2000

Here’s a surprise, the betting lines did not react reasonably to Tiger Woods’ promising play. They stopped just short of making Tiger the outright favorite to win the Masters, and placed him ahead of Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, and Justin Rose, who make up four of the top-five ranked golfers in the world, according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

I don’t think this is all the sportsbooks, by the way. At this point, bettors are getting on the Tiger train at whatever odds are available, and the books have to go very short to keep things in balance. The odds were dropping in response to the volume of bets, then somebody went to Westgate and plopped down $4,000 on Tiger, so they kept dropping from there. I can’t imagine them dropping much further than they already have, but (barring an injury setback) I do expect Tiger to be the outright favorite come April 5th.

[E]xpect Tiger to be the outright favorite [for the Masters] come April 5th.

The books being so short on Tiger pushes some fantastic players into pretty great odds. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are both worth at least +1000, although the latter does carry the risk of an agonising Sunday, even if he does win.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Odds

 Golfer Odds of Winning 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Tiger Woods +600
Jason Day +1200
Justin Rose +1600
Rory McIlroy +1800
Rickie Fowler +1800
Tommy Fleetwood +2200
Hideki Matsuyama +2500
Tyrrell Hatton +3000
Henrik Stenson +3300
Patrick Reed +3500
Alex Noren +2800
Bubba Watson +3500

Tiger’s the outright favorite, and I’m not as offended as you might think. For one thing: Tiger knows his way around Bay Hill like few others, and has won this tournament eight times. He’s also won post-2009 infidelity scandal/injury collapse, which is very promising. Tiger won in both 2012 and 2013, long after the era of “is Tiger back?” had already begun.

These odds aren’t revolting to me because, if you blindfold yourself and spin around three times, things still make sense. A golfer who finished a close second last week is favored to win this week, at a course and tournament where he’s won many times before, including after the incident that most people agree marked his decline. Maybe +600 is a little rich, but you don’t have to account for anything supernatural to get these odds. You just have to assume that Tiger will continue to progress, even the slightest amount, as he has all year.

Rory McIlroy Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy at the 2015 Tour Championship. Photo by Cem0030 [CC License].

Is Rory McIlroy the new Tiger Woods?

This is a question that’s been asked since Rory started winning tournaments, and not always in a good way. In this instance, it’s definitely not in a good way.

To put things lightly, Rory McIlroy has not been playing the best golf of his life. He’s missed cuts, finished well over par, and generally done his best to look non-threatening on the course. He’s also listed near the top of every odds list you can find, for reasons that might escape you. In that sense, he is the new Tiger.

Blindfold yourself, spin around three times, and see if this (from 888sport) makes sense:

Odds Rory McIlroy … Odds
wins a 2018 Major +240
records a top-5 finish in a 2018 Major +330
finishes top-20 in all four 2018 Majors +450

Figure in that oddsmakers have Rory at +1800 for the Arnold Palmer invitational (which is this weekend) and +1600 for the Masters, and he becomes your new leader in the clubhouse for odds driven by name recognition only.

Could Rory rebound and win? Absolutely, but I’m not convinced that it’s going to happen this weekend (in the case of the Arnold Palmer Invitational) or in time for the Masters, which is now just three and a half weeks away.

My favorite explanation for Rory’s recent woes is that Wee-Mac can’t win when he’s romantically fulfilled. He famously ended his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in 2014, and perhaps less-famously went on an absolute tear, winning a handful of tournaments before securing the Claret Jug at The Open and the win at the PGA Championship. Since getting married in 2017, Rory McIlroy has not won a tournament. Sabermetrics.

[Rory McIlroy has] never finished in the top 20 of all four majors – few ever have – yet he’s given strong odds to do so.

More seriously, Rory is given just over 2/1 odds to do something he’s only achieved in three of his twelve years on tour. Even if we start the clock in 2011, after his first US Open win, he’s only won in three of those six years, which is still cutting it pretty fine. You’re doing a lot of mental acrobatics to consider 2018 a normal post-2011 year for Rory McIlroy, because so far it hasn’t appeared that way.

You’d also have to do a lot of mental acrobatics to convince yourself that 2018 is Rory’s year of consistent performances at big tournaments. He’s never finished in the top 20 of all four majors – few ever have – yet he’s given strong odds to do so.

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