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Tiger Woods at The Masters is the ultimate sucker’s bet

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Just don’t do it.

The Masters - Preview Day 1 Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Tiger Woods is playing The Masters this week, giving the event a lot more mainstream appeal than it had three of the previous five years, when he wasn’t playing.

His presence makes the tournament a much bigger sports betting event than it would be otherwise. The people who run sportsbooks are poised to make a boatload of money off Woods fans who think picking their man is a way better investment than it really is.

The oddsmakers want you to believe Woods is the third- or fourth-likeliest player to win The Masters.

Last August, the Westgate SuperBook opened Masters odds with Woods tied for second at 12-1. Jordan Spieth led at 10-1, and Woods was tied with Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. In the eight months since, Rory McIlroy has climbed into favorite status at 7-1, and Woods now has the fourth best odds at 14-1. He is behind McIlroy, Johnson (10-1), and Justin Rose (12-1).

The big names will all be in contention, but with only one green jacket to give out, odds for any one player are going to be fairly long. You can convert the above betting odds into implied probability. Even McIlroy, the favorite, has just a 12.5 percent implied probability.

At 14-1, Woods’ implied odds of winning the 87-man tournament are 6.67 percent.

But there’s no reason to think Woods is even close to that likely to win.

The projection model at Data Golf, which relies on Strokes Gained data and adjusts recent scores for course difficulty, has Woods at 3.08 percent to win. By that evaluation, winning bets on him should be paying out at 31-1, not the actual 14-1.

Woods hasn’t done better than a tie for 10th place in any stroke-play event this year. He’s coming off a nice fifth-place finish at the Dell Match Play, a World Golf Championship event with a deep field. But match play’s weird as hell. Woods acknowledged after winning his first match against 22-year-old Aaron Wise that he’d have been way down the leaderboard after one day if it were a stroke-play and not match-play event.

The last time Woods played in a Masters-like field with every stroke being counted, he tied for 30th at The Players in March. He was out of contention by Friday afternoon.

He still hasn’t won an event with a field larger than 30 golfers since 2013. That’s not to invalidate his Tour Championship win near the end of 2018, but it is to say that we haven’t seen Woods conquer a big, elite field in a lot of years.

Woods is hotter than he is cold, but it’s not like he’s scalding. McIlroy and Johnson, the two best players in the world right now, are both killing it regularly (and both have fairly prohibitive odds at 7-1 and 10-1). Paul Casey, who you very well could’ve forgotten existed around 2012, has been on an elite run of play and sits at 25-1.

Or you could try your hand with someone like Xander Schauffele. The 25-year-old is ranked 10th in the world but, at 40-1, is tied the for the 16th-best odds to win. He missed the cut at The Players, but before that, he had four straight top-25s.

Woods has been competitive in a lot of Masters, winning four times, the last in 2007, and coming close a handful of times since then. Maybe you just think he has Augusta magic. There’s some evidence that Masters and Augusta history are helpful.

But dozens of players in the field have deep Masters experience, including many (like Jordan Spieth) who have put on much more recent clinics there.

On the sportsbooks’ part, the game with Woods is simple.

They know a ton of people will throw money on Woods just because he’s Woods, without much regard to whether he’s 14-1 or 30-1. They have to limit their liability in case he wins, and right now, they are taking in quite a bit of money on Woods.

At FanDuel Sportsbook, Woods leads the field with 10 percent of all bets to win outright. At DraftKings, Woods is tied with Rickie Fowler at 7 percent. At William Hill, he is tied for third with 4 percent of tickets booked, but he ranks first with 22 percent of all money wagered. The reason for that is on Tuesday, a bettor placed an $85,000 wager on Woods. It is the largest liability for an individual golf wager in William Hill US history. If Tiger wins, the sportsbook will have to pay the bet out 14-1, which comes to $1,190,000.

People cannot help but bet on Big Cat.

We didn’t write this post to hate on Woods’ game. Overall, he’s trending in a good direction, and he’s shown he can contend in majors again.

He could’ve won either The Open Championship or the PGA Championship in 2018, but he finished T-6 in one and solo second in the other. Those events are roughly as hard to win as The Masters, and Woods was four or five misplayed shots, in total, from winning both.

While his win at the TOUR Championship was against just 29 other players, they were the 29 highest-ranking players in the FedEx Cup standings. That was still a hell of a win, and it wasn’t long ago. He nearly beat Justin Rose to win the whole FedEx Cup.

So, Woods could win, sure. But there are so many red flags to tell you to stay far away at the odds bookmakers have given him.

Most of us who bet on The Masters will lose. But there are better value plays on the board than Woods, unless your entire goal is to have fun betting on Woods. If that’s what you’re after, we get that, and no hard feelings if you disregard everything above.