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Gambling on Tiger Woods in the Final 3 Majors of 2019

Tiger Woods with Majors logos
If this was an ordinary gambling blog, the title of this article would be “Why You Shouldn’t Gamble on Tiger Woods to Win More Majors in 2019.”

Wait, what? Why, the man just won his 5th Green Jacket in stunning fashion, executing his first official come-from-behind major victory with birdies on Augusta’s back 9 in a storm-chased finish. How could we not believe in Tiger?

After all, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps is a believer, and he knows a thing or 2 about competitive sports. Phelps joined with Tiger and an adorably-dressed hipster chick on the 16th tee on Sunday to will Woods’ amazing tee shot closer and closer to the hole.

Come on, baby! Come on, baby!

Here’s a clip of the ball obeying the trio’s instructions.

Remember that handicapping the best betting markets is about weighing odds against real chances. Tiger Woods may have a slightly better chance than Justin Rose to win a particular tournament. But if Las Vegas and London give Rose (+10000) payoff odds (fat chance, but just an example) against a (+1000) line for Tiger, Rose becomes the correct wager even if his world-famous counterpart is more likely to prevail on Sunday.

Golf’s media and fan base tend to ignore the long-term trends of the game and focus only on what happened yesterday. If you’re reading this blog post on the day it is published (Monday 4/15) then Tiger Woods literally won at Augusta National just yesterday.

Tiger’s betting odds have already shortened for upcoming major championships. BetOnline has placed an (+800) futures line on the 43-year-old icon to win the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in May, (+900) on Woods to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, and (+800) on a Tiger victory in the British Open at Royal Portrush later in summer.

Bovada Sportsbook is giving Woods (+10000) odds to win the Grand Slam in 2019. That might seem like a super-long shot gambling line until you realize that other Masters champions might be (+100000) in the same market as of mid-April. Golf betting sites know that casual bettors are moved by what they see in the moment. But nobody has pulled off a Grand Slam since Bobby Jones around 100 years ago.

Is Tiger a good gamble at the next major? Maybe. Just not today, and not until the odds change – which they always do.

Tiger Woods in 2019: Predicting the Ebbs and Flows

My goal on this blog is to give dynamic advice that can help a household handicapper shape her strategy over the coming months. Articles that only tout a single golfer for a single betting market as of the day the story is published are fine. But those bloggers shouldn’t recommend a play on Tiger at the PGA or the U.S. Open, not at the current short odds. Golf is too transient of a sport for “impulse” wagers on the hottest linksman as of a day after his most-recent triumph.

Does that mean bettors should shy away from picking Tiger altogether following his Masters win? Hardly.

We’ve established that while some online sportsbooks may offer only a single pre-tournament futures betting market on the Shell Houston Open, the action on major championships is so lucrative that gambling sites put out “floating” outright-winner odds that change from round to round.

That’s our opening to strategize potential bets on Tiger Woods in 2019.

Tiger has re-invented his style of golf. The aging veteran can no longer out-slug his rivals off the tee, and he can’t muscle mid-irons out of heavy rough like he once did. Woods won his latest Green Jacket with a patient and steely game plan that makes his golf resemble that of Ben Hogan more than John Daly.

How does Tiger Woods’ new, precise style fit in to a futures gambling strategy?

Simple. They’re called “futures” because people can wager on them now or later. But the best time to bet on Tiger Woods is no longer days or weeks in advance of the 1st round. Sharks are advised to wait until the 1st and possibly even the 2nd rounds of a major are completed before buying-in.

Tiger is about to become a Friday night special.

Tiger 2.0: Less Likely to Have Short Weekend Odds

Woods began his epic streak of major championship success with a run-away win at Augusta National in 1997. The young phenom hit the golf ball farther than any of the other competitors (with the exception of Daly), hit recovery shots like Walter Hagen, and putted like a machine.

But as Tiger himself has said on a number of occasions, his golf game was seriously flawed in its nascent stages. His length off the tee and concentration on the green were tremendous advantages, but only when he reached the green in regulation. Tiger’s swing was so sloppy and undeveloped that he had to adjust the club head with his hands while striking the ball.

Woods’ late father once told him that he was aptly named, because he was always in the woods.

When Tiger was on his game, nobody on heaven or Earth could touch him. The 15-time major champion thus became one of the most-reliable frontrunner bets in any sport. Poor rounds on Thursday or Friday of a big tournament meant that even if Woods managed to make the cut, he was extremely unlikely to win on Sunday, because his fragile formula for success needed everything to be just right.

Of the millions of gamblers who have gambled on Tiger to come back and win from 2nd place or lower on Sunday at a major tournament, a cool 0% of them ever won. Until Sunday.

What has changed? Only the entire dynamic of how Tiger’s game fits into the Vegas oddsmaker’s SOP. In the old days Tiger was either playing well enough to win (in which case you could go ahead and count-out the other golfers) or he was having a sloppy-swing week and headed for a loss.

One of the tragedies of Woods’ self-generated family problems and subsequent long struggle with injury is that it prevented him from realizing great success in his 30s. Tiger was aware that his style generated as many frustrating in-the-pack finishes as wins from the front. He had already begun to tame and modify his swing and tactics as early as 1998, prompting a temporary slump that ended when he won the PGA Championship in 1999.

Though Tiger would go on to absolutely dominate PGA golf from 2000 to 2008, a missing element in his game was the ability to slowly catch up and overtake leaders on the weekend. He was still such an all-or-nothing player that he was either leading by Sunday morning or destined to fail.

That’s not the case now. Woods won the 2019 Masters in “Nick Faldo” fashion, patiently making pars and waiting for others to make mistakes on the final 18 holes.

Guess what? It happened.

Bettors must now recalibrate their Tiger Woods strategy to reflect the shorter, smarter swings of his final years on Tour.

Tiger is no longer a lock to win from the front. He led at the British Open last year and didn’t win, not managing to finish 1st in a tournament until the Tour Championship in September ’18.

It’s harder to run away from the field when others are hitting it farther than you, and when hitting into the rough means pitching-out for a par save instead of cranking a Popeye shot 200 yards out of the hay and making another birdie.

Due to his massive popularity and major championship history, Tiger will continue to garner very short odds-to-win when he’s leading the pack. That’s exactly when not to gamble on Tiger 2.0.

When is Tiger a good gamble? When he’s solidly “plodding” along (“plodding” was his favorite word in the post-Masters press conference) and hanging around the lead with unspectacular play on Thursday and Friday.

Bookmakers – let alone the betting public – will not be able to adjust to Tiger’s new trends and tendencies right away. He’s still the most naturally gifted golfer of all time (or at least a close 3rd behind Sam Snead and Moe Norman), and we’ve been watching him win major titles for over 20 years now.

Old habits are hard to break. There will still be a rush of betting action on Woods when he happens to race out to a Thursday or Friday lead. People will still get discouraged and lay-off the legend when he seems to be lagging behind over the first 36 holes.

That’s a glowing opportunity for gamblers who are as patient as Tiger has trained himself to be.

Here’s a quick glance at the 3 remaining majors of 2019…and how a solid futures line on Tiger Woods could materialize during each tournament.

2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black

The PGA has finally taken Big Jack’s advice. Nicklaus has always maintained that the PGA Championship has the strongest field of any major, and that the annual event’s biggest problem was that it occurred late in the season when everyone was starting to get tired of golf.

Fans and golfers alike have also criticized the PGA Championship’s choice of layouts.

Both complaints are salved by the 2019 schedule. The PGA is taking place in May, between The Masters and the U.S. Open, and it will be held at Bethpage Black, an iconic course designed by A.W. Tillinghast.

Bethpage is an extremely difficult course, but the layout is similar to Augusta National or Pebble Beach in that it punishes bad shots and rewards great play to a pronounced degree. The hairy rough and steep angles of the course do not forgive wayward drives and approaches, but things get a little easier for long and accurate hitters who get the ball up and onto the green quickly.

On an average Tour course, a player who is hitting it well might shoot 68 while another competitor who struggles with his swing might shoot 74. At Bethpage Black, a player who is swinging well can still shoot a 67 or a 68. But the guy who’s missing the fairway might blow up with an 80 or an 85.

I’m not sure Tiger can win from behind at Bethpage, despite the potential wild fluctuations in scoring. Too many highly-ranked golfers like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy have games that are well-suited for the New York course. If Johnson is putting the ball well and leading the tournament on Saturday, only a fellow long-hitter like Rory or Tony Finau is likely to catch up.

Woods drove the ball magnificently at Augusta this year. I don’t expect that to continue – he’ll still be capable of great driving rounds, but it’ll take 4 of them in a row to put together another methodical win at the PGA. Tiger was a longer hitter when he won the U.S. Open there in 2002.

2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

This is the one major for which Tiger might already be a decent pre-tournament pick at close to 10-to-1 odds.

While MyBookie and Bovada Sportsbook are each favoring Woods at (+750) odds-to-win on the Monterrey Peninsula, BetOnline is offering a (+900) line on Tiger at Pebble.

That’s not bad. Pebble Beach suits Tiger 2.0’s game in a number of ways. It’s a shot maker’s course off the tee in addition to around the green. Short par 4s will allow Woods to either take a precise stab at the green with his driver or 3-wood (if the wind is right) while some of the longer holes involve daring tee shots around trees, rocks and beaches. Others might be technically more accurate with the whoopin’ stick, but Tiger will hit clever shots and keep himself in the fairway often.

Putting at Pebble Beach is also a matter of nerves, balance (when the wind whips up, putters must work their leg muscles just to address the ball) and a veteran’s experience. That plays into Tiger’s hands too, while hurting less-than-dynamic putters like Finau and Johnson.

Rory McIlroy could be Woods’ toughest rival at Pebble Beach. The course fits the Englishman’s style well, and if it comes down to a battle of endurance, you’ve got to like the younger player.

But Tiger could still become a great mid-tournament pick at the 2019 United States Open. Nobody is more confident or more at home on the storied seaside course. He won the event by a billion strokes at Pebble in 2000.

Watch for the weather during the June tournament. If Woods is handed a late-afternoon tee time on a windy day, he could finish the first 36 holes with a modest score while still hitting it better than anyone else. Pairings on the weekend eliminate such disadvantages by forcing the leaders to play the same 18 holes at the same time.

Given how dangerous it can be to try to hold a lead at Pebble, I’m liking Tiger’s comeback chances from 4 or 5 shots down on the weekend…likely at (+1500) or (+2000) payoff odds.

2019 British Open at Royal Portrush

royal portrush

Consider that by the time The Open Championship rolls around later in summer, the story of Tiger Woods in 2019 will have a few added chapters. Those pages are currently blank.

Tiger could conceivably win 2 more major titles and have an historic shot at the Grand Slam. Or, he could fall short twice in a row and come with a 4-digit futures line to win at Royal Portrush.

Obviously if Woods is still playing great and winning PGA Tour events in mid-year, his opening outright-winner line for the British Open will be shorter than even the best English golfers like Rory and Rose. Again – that doesn’t make Tiger a bad bet. It just means that the gambler must have patience.

If there’s lots of birdies to be had on the old Harry Colt layout, I’m not taking Tiger Woods to win even if he’s well off the lead and enjoying a fine payoff market at betting sites. Tiger might be hitting average-length shots like Ben Hogan or Harry Vardon, but Hogan hated the British Open and Vardon didn’t have to play against Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas.

If the battle for the Claret Jug becomes a putting contest between Woods and a bunch of younger contenders, then I’m taking someone else in the field and not Tiger after 36 holes.

But if the wind and rain make the British Open into a struggle to make pars, there’s nobody in the world I trust more than Tiger Woods to find a way to win in 2019.

Consider that when the tournament is played in very difficult conditions, the leaders will post “E” or “-2” going into the weekend before likely falling down. Even par can win such a marathon. Tiger showed on Sunday at Augusta that he can out-grind a group of contenders who can’t avoid bogeys of their own.

Be a Betting Doctor – Have Patience With Tiger 2.0

With possible exception of the BetOnline odds for Pebble Beach, the futures lines for Tiger Woods in 2019 are currently shrunken too short to be of value, thanks to the fresh memories of his historic comeback win last weekend.

Be like Tiger 2.0 and wait patiently. The Friday and Saturday odds are likely to look very different than the pre-tourney lines…and Woods has 500% better chances to win from the pack now.

Tiger’s performances have always been hard to forget. With the veteran showcasing a fresh style and a whole new way to win big tournaments, the market-influence of lingering echoes from the past could be a smart golf gambler’s very best friend this summer.