Tiger Woods tees off at the Masters with bettors standing to win millions if he defies odds

Just 14 months ago, doctors were considering whether to amputate Woods’ right leg after a crash

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AUGUSTA — Tiger Woods began his highly anticipated return to competition with a par on his first hole at the Masters on Thursday in front of a throng of patrons thrilled to see the five-time champion back.

Woods, wearing a pink shirt and black pants on his return to the Masters following a February 2021 car crash, was greeted at the par-four 445-yard first hole to a raucous reception from spectators who arrived at Augusta National in the early-morning hours to get a front-row seat.

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In his first competitive round of golf in 508 days, Woods sent his opening tee just short of the fairway bunker, watched his approach trickle off the front of the green and then chipped to 10 feet before saving par.

Woods’ accident, which nearly resulted in doctors amputating his right leg, cast serious doubt on his professional golfing future but the 15-times major champion said earlier this week that he feels like he can still compete at the highest level.

If Woods, 46, can pull off the unthinkable with a win this week he would become the oldest Masters champion by three weeks over 18-times major winner Jack Nicklaus, who collected his record sixth Green Jacket in 1986.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, who last year became the first Japanese man to win a major championship, was playing in the group behind Woods along with world number seven Justin Thomas and James Piot, who is one of six amateurs in the field.

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South Africa’s Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus of the U.S. and Tom Watson of the U.S. embrace on the 1st tee during the ceremonial start on the first day of play.
South Africa’s Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus of the U.S. and Tom Watson of the U.S. embrace on the 1st tee during the ceremonial start on the first day of play. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake

Rory McIlroy, who needs a win this week to complete the career Grand Slam, is due to go out in the day’s final group at 2:33 p.m. ET (1833 GMT) while former champions Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson and reigning U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm were also among the late starters.

The start to the year’s first major was delayed 30 minutes due to early-morning thunderstorms but the added wait could not dampen the excitement around Augusta National, which had its usual full house after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

Festivities began at 8:15 a.m. ET when honorary starters Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson, who have a combined 35 major titles between them, got the year’s first major underway with their ceremonial tee shots.

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Watson, making his first appearance as a Masters honorary starter, addressed the crowd as he approached the first tee where he spoke about what it meant to be part of a tradition that includes Arnold Palmer, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson.

“May I say something?,” the 72-year-old Watson said. “I would like to say how honoured I am to be with Gary and Jack.
“I watched this ceremony many times in the past … to be a part of this thing I am truly humbled.”

Tiger Woods plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 07, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia.
Tiger Woods plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 07, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When asked on April 5 if he thought he could win the tournament, Woods responded “I do.”

So, when he teed off, none perhaps watched more closely than the sportsbooks that stand to lose millions of dollars if he wins.

DraftKings Inc., MGM Resorts International’s BetMGM and Flutter Entertainment Plc’s FanDuel have all seen more money bet on Woods to win than any other player in the field. DraftKings has also taken more action than anyone else for wagers that Woods finishes in the top five and top 10.

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Woods is currently +4000 to win the tournament, which means risking $100 would net $4,000. DraftKings took a $10,000 bet on Woods to win at Augusta National, which would pay $400,000. The company stands to lose “millions and millions of dollars” if Woods wins, according to a company spokesperson. Jon Rahm is the favorite, at +1000.

On the whole, sportsbooks, colloquially called “the house,” tend to come out on top versus their customers. The house is set up such that if the same amount of money is bet on either side of a 50/50 wager it is guaranteed to make money no matter the result.

But when the betting goes heavily toward one side, the house can lose. Over time, such events tend to balance out, but a massive public darling like Woods exposes sportsbooks to more risk.

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In its third-quarter earnings call, DraftKings said NFL games at the start of the season had tipped the public’s way. But the company bounced back thereafter, generating a positive variance of more than $25 million in revenue compared to what it anticipated in the final week of October, due to favorable outcomes.

If the five-time Masters winner struggles, the house stands to do well.

There’s many ways to wager on Woods — or against him. You can bet on whether he makes the cut, which is about even odds, or if he will shoot better or worse than 73.5 in his first round on Thursday.

With reporting from Steve Keating at Reuters, and Bloomberg News


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