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Vegas on top of The Masters



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The Masters has arguably been the top golf tournament of the year, but this year it takes on an entirely new meaning to the word “huge“.

When Tiger Woods makes his 2010 debut to the season at this year’s Masters, everyone will be glued to the set like never before. What makes this week so huge is because of the tabloid journalism circulating around all forms of media hyping this week into must watch television even for those who never watch golf.

The build up has already begun as the countdown to this week’s Tiger-watch nears. All age groups, ethnicities, and just about everyone else has some sort of interest built up for how they feel about the Tiger’s story. Some will say that Woods didn’t do anything that any normal man hasn’t done and that he has been unfairly persecuted by public opinion. Others will contend that by endorsing all the top flight products and attempting to maintain this larger than life persona that he let down those who looked up to him.

Regardless of how anyone feels, they will all be paying attention to what’s going on at the Masters like never before. Perhaps that’s not fair to the prestige of the tournament or to the other players who will be competing as well, but despite the circus atmosphere they are about to go through this week, they’ll all agree that the golf world needs Tiger Woods back.

The biggest beneficiaries for this week’s Tiger-watch are the networks carrying the event. ESPN coverage runs Thursday and Friday before CBS takes the weekend shift. Knowing the possible ratings spike from Woods competing allows them to increase their fees from advertisers.

On a much smaller scale here in Nevada, we have betting on the event. The Masters is always one of the larger bet upon events of the year in golf, but it should set records because of all the incremental interest like never before.

“It will be our biggest golf handle ever,” said Las Vegas Hilton Super Book’s golf expert Jeff Sherman, the foremost authority on golf odds in Las Vegas who also posts all his weekly odds on his web-site, Golfodds.com.

“Through the weekend, our handle is already up 33% from previous Masters and most of that is from the regular golf bettors who are looking for value on some of the others,” said Sherman.

With Woods out of the picture for all the early season tournaments, it’s kind of taken some of the value and fun away of betting other golfers because there isn’t the value there normally is. If you take Woods and his normally expected odds of 5/2 out of the scheme, a bettor is left with much lower odds on a golfer like Ernie Els. When you put Woods back in the mix, the odds go up on all the other golfers.

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“Right now we’ve seen an equal mix of bettors playing Woods along with Els and Steve Stricker. Those have been the most popular thus far,” said Sherman. “I Think what we’ll see is a lot more Woods action the week of the tournament because that’s when we’ll get most of the people betting that aren’t really that big of golf fans that want to have something at stake for this big of an event.”

Els presents good value at 12/ 1 after winning the last two tournaments he’s been in while Stricker is at 20/1. The value Woods has is at 9/2 odds, which Sherman says is the highest his odds have been for any tournament since his first two years on tour.

“I don’t see Tiger winning at all, and I’d be very surprised if he had a top-5 finish. I’m looking somewhere around a Top 20 finish,” said Sherman.

It may seem a tough forecast seeing how Woods has won a major 14 times, including the Masters four times, but Sherman see’s the layoff being critical along with his mental psyche coming in.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start slow on Thursday because he’s always been a slow starter, but I am concerned about the layoff. Usually a golfer needs about three of the early tournaments to get in golf shape and he hasn’t played any competitive golf for so long. He’s also extremely nervous about what to expect when he does play from just the fan stand point.”

Sherman and the Hilton crew generally offer 40 props on the Masters every year along with all the match-ups and odds to win, but has added a few more wrinkles this year with Woods offering 15 more props than normal just for the anticipated curiosity for the event.

“We have all kinds of props surrounding Woods play specifically like what he’ll do on his first hole, either a par or other, over-under what his first round score will be, and whether or not he’ll make the cut,” said Sherman.

A bettor can lay minus-800 that Woods will make the cut following Friday’s action, or they can take plus-600, meaning every $1 of action gets you $6 in return along with the initial wager. If Woods struggles as Sherman suggests he might, betting that he doesn’t make the cut could be worth a shot.

Woods has only missed the cut of a Major twice in his career, but one of them happened last year at the British Open. Then when you incorporate all the other things he has to deal with regarding his “transgressions” and all the hoopla surrounding that ordeal, compounded by not playing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he doesn’t make the cut.

Whatever happens this week, it will surely be memorable as more people are expected to watch and bet golf than ever before. Whether he does well or not, the weight of the monkey on his back will finally be lifted because it’s step that he’s actually moving on. There are things he could have done differently, in particular not hiding from everyone for so long more so than the admitted transgressions, that could have eased him into competition a little more comfortably.

But if that were the case, the ratings bonanza for the networks, lead stories on TMZ, and record handle at the sportsbooks wouldn’t be happening. If anything, we should thank Tiger Woods for adding real reality TV to our entertainment menu and giving so many people at the water cooler topics to debate on.

  
 
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