Jeff Sherman, sportsbook manager at the Las Vegas Hilton and Nevada’s premier golf oddsmaker, is on pace to take the most money wagered on the Masters ever. And Tiger Woods is receiving the most of it.
More money had been bet on Woods, who for the first time in 13 years is not the betting favorite, than any other golfer, said Sherman. But another golfer actually received more total bets than Woods. And it’s not tournament favorite Phil Mickelson.
Sherman joined Covers.com leading up the Masters and broke down what most believe is a wide-open tournament; a tournament where a longshot could easily be putting on the green jacket come Sunday.
Phil Mickelson -- +650
The Lefty jumped ahead of Tiger Woods as the clear-cut favorite to defend his Masters title by winning the Shell Houston Open in impressive fashion. His 20-under winning score featured a sizzling second-round 9-under 63.
He is the last player to win the Masters after winning the tournament the preceding weekend, accomplishing the feat in 2006.
Last year at Augusta, Mickelson shot three 67s to pull away from Lee Westwood and earn his second green jacket.
He looked zoned in at the Houston Open; it will be a surprise if he’s not in contention on Sunday.
Tiger Woods -- +900
Woods had been the favorite in 13 straight Masters, dating back to his Augusta debut in 1997. But that streak is done, thanks to a winless streak that stretches back more than a year.
A lot of folks point to his putting, which has suffered during his fall back to the pack. But his driver needs to shape up significantly as well. He’s hitting just 44.64 percent of the fairways, among the very lowest on Tour.
Still, even with all the distractions that surrounded him at last year’s Masters—his first since admitting extra-marital affairs--Woods managed to finish tied for fourth at Augusta National, a course he’s won at four times.
Nick Watney -- +$1,500
The 29-year-old is enjoying his best season. He leads the PGA in scoring average at a tidy 68.92 per round. He’s third in putting and fourth in scrambling. He bested Dustin Johnson to win the Cadillac and has finished in the top 10 in five of his six starts this season. Watney closed with a 7-under 65 on Sunday last year at the Masters to finish seventh.
Watney opened 30-1, but, according Sherman, received a “good deal of money” and enters the tournament as the third favorite.
Three Golfers Attracting Action
These contenders were among the golfers who received the most betting action to win the Masters at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Dustin Johnson -- +2,000
Heading into Masters week, the Hilton had received more bets on Johnson to win the tournament than any other golfer, including Woods.
“We opened him at 25-1 and dropped him to 20-1,” said Sherman. “But he’s seeing a lot of support.”
The 27-year-old Johnson is looking for his first major. He was in contention in the final day at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship last year, but hasn’t been able to put together a winning fourth round in a major. He infamously grounded his club in a bunker on the 18th hole of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, costing himself a spot in a playoff.
He’s yet to win this season, but has a second and third showing amongst his three top 10 finishes. He missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 27, his last tournament.
Martin Kaymer -- +2,000
Kaymer, of course, took advantage of Johnson’s blunder and beat Bubba Watson in a playoff to win the PGA Championship. He’s the No. 1 ranked player in the world right now and has already won this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January. He finished second at the World Golf Classic--Accenture Match Play Championship in February and 24th at WGC-Cadillac Championship, his last tournament.
Matt Kuchar -- +2,500
Kuchar may have replaced Steve Stricker as the best golfer to never win a major. He led the PGA Tour in earnings last season and is following that up with another hot start. He leads the PGA Tour in top-10’s with six in eight events, but has never finished higher than 21st at the Masters. And that came way back in 1998.
Three Best Putters in the Field
On Augusta National’s ultra-undulating greens, the putter is the most important club in the bag. These three guys can really roll it.
Robert Karlsson – +10,000
The Swede averages the fewest putts per round in the field at 27. His best finish at the Masters came in 2008 when he finished eighth.
Retief Goosen – +6,000
Coming off a career-high in top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, Goosen again has the flat stick rolling pure. He is right behind Karlsson with just 27.2 putts per hole and has twice finished second at the Masters (2002, 2007).
Kevin Na -- +20,000
He leads the PGA Tour in putts per round at 27.47, but has never made the cut in two Masters appearances.
Guys who could win with odds of +2,500 or higher
Hunter Mahan -- +2,500
Mahan shot four rounds of under-par golf last year at Augusta and finished 8th, his best finish at the Masters. He’s yet to win this season, but has been in contention in almost all of his nine starts.
Luke Donald -- +2,500
The Englishman with the picture-perfect swing is right behind Watney in scoring average at 69.31 strokes per round and defeated Kaymer in the finals of the Match Play Championship.
Beware, though, his best finish at the Masters was third in 2005 and he has missed the cut in three of his seven appearances at Augusta.
Rickie Fowler -- +6,000
Second on the PGA Tour in putting behind Na, the charismatic Fowler is a breakthrough threat, despite his retina-burning all-orange attire. The 2010 Rookie of the Year will be making his Masters debut, but got some experience under pressure at the Ryder Cup.