Sportsbooks Take a Beating on Tiger Woods’ Masters Victory
The eyes of the sports world were fixed squarely on Augusta, Georgia on Sunday as Tiger Woods was in contention for the Masters championship. The most popular golfer of all time, the man who turned the sport on its head two decades ago, came from behind to win his fifth Masters. And sports books got killed.
Ten or so years ago, it would not have been a surprise to see Tiger Woods come out on top of yet another major tournament. After all, he was the most dominant player in the world, probably the most dominant golfer of all time, for the first decade of his professional career. Through 2008, he had won four Masters and fourteen major titles, both second only to the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
Tiger Woods’ Career Outlook Looked Bleak
But he hadn’t won the Masters since 2005 and had not won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open, a span of nearly 4,000 days. He had competed in 28 majors in the meantime and lost every single one of them until this week.
In the last couple years, it looked like he might not even be able to play golf at all anymore. Only in his early 40’s, his back was barely functional. According to ESPN, at the champions dinner at Augusta National in 2017, he needed a nerve block just so he could sit in a chair. He had spinal fusion surgery shortly thereafter, the fourth back surgery in his career, but he was still far from being able to play golf at any sort of competitive level.
“Golf was not in my near future or even the distant future,” Woods said. “I knew that I was going to be a part of the game, but play the game again, I couldn’t even do that with my son Charlie. I couldn’t even putt in the backyard.”
“I was done.”
He has steadily gotten better over the past year, even winning a tournament in Atlanta last fall, but still… the Masters? To make the story even more improbable, he came from two shots behind to start the final round, and from three shots behind with just seven holes remaining. He had never done that in a major championship before. He had always played with the lead.
Woods Still Had the Confidence of Bettors
All that said, Tiger Woods wasn’t a longshot to win, mainly because he is still Tiger Woods. The Vegas odds on him winning the Masters closed at 12-1. A bettor SLS Casino in Las Vegas (operated by William Hill), got Woods at 14-1 and put $85,000 on arguably the best golfer of all time. That ticket has paid out at $1.19 million, the most William Hill has ever paid out on a golf tournament in the history of its U.S. operations.
“It’s great to see Tiger back,” William Hill U.S. director of trading Nick Bogdanovich said in a press release. “It’s a painful day for William Hill — our biggest loss ever — but a great day for golf.”
William Hill/SLS Casino wasn’t the only one to take a bath on Tiger Woods’ exploits. The Westgate Superbook had a net loss of close to $100,000 on Masters futures. Jeff Sherman, the Superbook’s vice president of risk, told ESPN that that this may have been the first time they took a net loss on the Masters winner and this was probably the biggest loss for a golf event.
Interestingly, the strength of Tiger Woods’ name generated wager volume, but at the same time, it also probably skewed the odds in the books’ favor.
“I thought he had a chance to be competitive,” Sherman told ESPN, “but I’m a little surprised by him winning, especially with the competition he faced. I said before the tournament that if you took the ‘Tiger Woods’ off, you’d have a golfer with the statistics of someone at 25-1 odds.”
So if you looked at Tiger Woods’ stats to determine his odds, but instead of “Tiger Woods,” the name at the top of the page was “Dan Katz,” that golfer would have something more like 25-1 odds. But not as many people would bet on “Dan Katz” as they would “Tiger Woods,” so the betting volume makes up for the difference in odds.
BetOnline.ag also suffered its biggest futures loss because of Tiger Woods, even worse than any Super Bowl loss. Caesars, though, eeked out a slight profit on the Masters across all of its sportsbooks. One dumb wager that someone made that Caesars will certainly lose was “Will Tiger Woods win all four majors?”
That one pays out at -100,000 odds and the bettor put $20,000 down on “no” to win a measly $20. Only one person – Bobby Jones – has even won all four majors, called the “Grand Slam” in a calendar year, and that was back in 1930. Tiger Woods won all four majors consecutively, but it spanned two calendar years. In the Masters Era (Bobby Jones founded Augusta National and the Masters; his Grand Slam was before the Masters existed), only five men, including Woods have won all four majors at any time in their careers.