Choi looks the best bet for punters
wanting to get away from Woods
Tiger Woods heads into next week's Masters as the shortest-priced
favourite ever to contest a major. The world No1 has been so dominant over the
past nine months that some bookmakers have issued odds-on quotes about him
winning a fifth title at Augusta. Paddy Power and William Hill are the only
mainstream layers that quote Woods at odds-against - both 11-10 - but should
the 9-1 (general) second favourite Phil Mickelson play poorly in the Shell
Houston Open, which started last night, even that stand-out price might
Bookmakers will be desperate for anyone
other than Woods to don the green jacket a week on Sunday. At the start of the
year Hill's reported that one punter staked £4,000 on Woods for each of
the majors. Hill's has also racked up a seven-figure liability about him
winning the grand slam. Woods's four wins from five starts in 2008 have forced
the layers to cut his price to win all four majors to 10-1 (Coral and
Sportingbet) from 50-1.
It is 25-1 bar the top two in the outright
market for Augusta and plenty of punters will not look beyond Woods and
Mickelson. For those who do not like taking odds-on prices in 90-runner-plus
events, some firms have issued a market "without Woods". Here, the top three in
the betting are Mickelson at 5-1, Ernie Els 12-1 and Vijay Singh 14-1. This
market might not be available over the weekend because of the participation of
players at Redstone. Understandably, odds compilers want to know how some of
Woods's rivals play before issuing their definitive prices.
lost only twice in the past 10 official tournaments he has played but it is his
course knowledge and experience which have been a significant factor in his
price. The 7,445-yard, par-72 layout suits his game perfectly. Long off the
tee, his short game is excellent and his "clutch" putting is better than any of
his rivals'. He ranks top in greens in regulation statistics on the PGA Tour
and third in putting average (putts per greens in regulation).
Crucially, his waywardness with his driver will not be punished thanks
to the wide-open fairways. The minor changes made to the course over the winter
should not affect the way he plays. Paddy Power is offering 66-1 that he
records a hole in one and is prepared to refund all losing ante-post outright
bets if he wins by five strokes or more.
With a hope of a bigger return
for a smaller outlay, there are some better bets to be had than backing Woods.
KJ Choi has attracted attention after winning the Sony Open and recording three
other top-12 finishes prior to this week's Shell Houston Open. At 40-1
(general) to win the Masters, there are worse each-way bets, but the advice is
to sell his finishing position at 29 - the quote Sporting Index has indicated
will be available. Sellers would have shown a profit in three of his five
Augusta starts at that price.
Paddy Power is the only firm offering
"top European" prices at the moment, with Padraig Harrington the 4-1 favourite.
Justin Rose trades at 11-2, Luke Donald 15-2, Henrik Stenson 8-1, Sergio
García 9-1 and 11-1 bar. Rose - three successive top-15 efforts in the
US coming into this event and fifth last year - and Donald, with two top-10
finishes at Augusta in three starts and two place payouts in his last five PGA
tournaments, should be on shortlists, with the preference for the latter,
each-way, given his bigger odds. Another European to look out for is Daniel
Chopra. The Swede is a must for "top debutant" prices, which will be available
Chilly and windy conditions saw the 2007 winning score a
one-over 289 but, with temperatures forecast to reach 27C next week, a sub-par
total is likely. Sporting Index offers a spread of 282-283 about the winner's
score and Paddy Power goes 5-6 that it will be 283 or less, which looks a fair