It’s been nearly a month since I’ve graced this space with comments on the World of Golf, but you really haven’t missed much. Worldwide, the Race to Dubai wrapped up it’s 2017 season and saw Jon Rahm capture the DP World Tour Championship (the European Tour’s equivalent of the PGA’s Tour Championship), while Tommy Fleetwood held on to win the Order of Merit (which sounds much, much more prestigious and regal than “FedEx Cup Champion”).
As for golf in the good ‘ol USA, the PGA Tour held a few C-List events that registered very little on the Richter Scale. The most notable development was that Patrick Cantlay, considered by most as the next breakthrough star on the PGA Tour, notched his first career victory at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas. He sputtered towards the finish line but held on in a playoff over Alex Cjeka and Whee Kim to capture the win. While the field was quite weak, winning on the PGA Tour is such a difficult feat and he’ll be one to watch in 2018.
My apologies, though, for the little input I have on Austin Cook’s victory at the RSM Classic a few weeks back. I was too busy putting in 54 holes of golf on my honeymoon in the Canary Islands (pro-tip, schedule your wife for her spa days the same days you tee it up – happy wife more tee times, that’s how the saying goes, right?). With apologies to Austin Cook’s family and friends, I think this might be the last time you read his name in anything I write on this website.
However, I’m now back stateside just in time for TIGERMANIA 2017, aka the return of unrealistic expectations and molten lava hot takes as Tiger returns to professional golf at the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas. I touched on the insanity that arises out of any return of Tiger Woods to the golf circuit a few weeks ago, so if you want a refresher, click here. One development since then that should be noted, though, was that a month ago Tiger Woods was 125/1 to win the Masters. As I sit here on my laptop typing away while the Golf Channel replays early 2000’s Tiger Propaganda on the airwaves, he’s all the way down to 35/1(!!!!!). That’s, um, something. Bet that at your own risk.
This week marks golf’s version of Groundhog Day, as we’re right back with Tiger as we were one year ago. We’re hearing the same things from Team Tiger about how well he’s progressed, that he’s at peace with himself off the course, how he’s missed the camaraderie with the new crop of golfers out on the course, how he’s feeling healthy for the first time in “X amount of time”, etc. Might as well just replay Frank Nobillo and Brandel Chamblee arguing with each other last year to save on production costs at Golf Channel.
Last year I was very, very cynical about his return. Golf was in such a good place with all the great young players, and I felt he’d just be a distraction missing the cut every other event. This time, though, let’s just enjoy him for whatever he is. Between his chipping yips, his DUI, the multiple back injuries and Mac Daddy Santa, anyone who longs for the Tiger of old has been put through significant trauma the last 2 years (following the Tiger Tracker twitter handle has been like seeing someone go through a 12 Step Program). Who knows how long his back will hold out and how long we’ll get to see him out there. Sure, the noise around him can suck. But if he were to ever capture some magic on a weekend, the golf world will melt and get much needed positive exposure.
In the meantime, the books are taking advantage of the hype to roll out special Tiger Woods props. Here’s a breakdown of the major ones you might want to take a look at:
Will Tiger Woods Hit the Fairway on his Opening Tee Shot: Yes (-160), No (+130)
In 2015, this was a popular prop offered by the books that were comically an ATM for anyone who bet “No”. It was so bad, “No” became a decisive favorite before it was mercifully taken off the board on tournament cards.
Despite being the underdog, No is the public play here as his struggles on the opening tee are pretty widely known. But before we autoplay that, let’s take a look at the opening hole and what club Tiger will hit off the tee.
The first tee at Albany is a 451 yard Par 4, dogleg right. The landing zone in the fairway is fairly wide, however, there are two bunkers on the left side of the fairway that could pose trouble to anyone who wants to be aggressive and hit driver. One requires a carry of 286 yards, while the other requires a 300-yard drive. The optimal play here seems to be a long iron or fairway metal off the tee to set up about a 170-180 yard approach.
Now, as cool as Tiger has appeared in the press conferences this week, even he can be susceptible to 1st tee nerves that we all face, particularly when all eyes will be on him. But between the wide landing zone and that he should be a little more conservative off the tee, I actually like YES at -160 here. My suggestion – the line has already crept down from opening at -165, so keep an eye on it tonight and tomorrow. Maybe you’ll reduce the juice on it with anti-Tiger Truthers slamming “No” that you’ll get a better price here.
Tiger Woods Opening Round Score – Over/Under 71.5 (-115)
I think this is a pretty fair number. You’re betting here on if Tiger will break par in his opening round. The course yields a ton of birdies, and the wind doesn’t look like it’ll be too big of a factor in the 1st round to make it tough sledding. Yet, I err to the side that he’ll still have some course rust to shake off, much like last year. Tiger shot an opening round 73 in 2016 before turning on the jets on Friday and Saturday, and I think the same thing will happen this year. There’s no pressure to make the cut, so he’ll be a little more conservative on his shot selections just to make it through the round in one piece to have confidence heading into the weekend. So I’ll take OVER 71.5 on his opening round, but I think we might be sweating that number as he heads onto the 18th tee box.
Like the hit fairway prop, you might be able to get it half a shot or two lower if you wait for public money to come in tomorrow on the Under. The Tiger Woods Propaganda Machine is in full effect right now, and that might swing the total down to 71 or 70.5 by the time Thursday rolls around.
Tiger Woods Lowest Round – Over/Under 68.5 (-115)
If we’re buying the narrative that Tiger’s weekend plays out like last year, then UNDER is the play on this one. The course’s only defence is the wind and other than maybe Friday it shouldn’t be too much of a factor. Out of four rounds, I think Tiger should be able to capture some magic and register a round at least -4 or better. Unlike the other two props above, if you’re on the side of under here, best get in now before it creeps any lower.
Tiger Woods Highest Round – Over/Under 74.5 (-115)
This is a tough one to gauge here. On one hand, at some point, Tiger should put up a clunker of a round relative to the field average. On the other hand, unless you’re completely in the weeds high numbers just aren’t there on the course. Last year there were only three rounds where someone posted a score worse than 75 (Tiger was one of those culprits, though). The year before that, only one. It’s a very, very easy course for the pros, even for generational talents past their prime with backs made of Doritos. If you had to put a gun to my head, I’m going to go with UNDER here, but I’d feel more comfortable if it was half a shot higher. Maybe wait and see where this is tomorrow before putting a bet down on that.
Will Tiger Woods finish DFL – Yes +280, No -360
While I don’t think Tiger will be sniffing the top of the leaderboard like he was last year (which there are props available on Top 5 and Top 10 finishes), I don’t think he’ll be finishing dead last either. There’s going to be a guy or two who show up just for the free paycheck and FedEx points, mail it in after a couple bad rounds and party it up in Nassau like they’re Robert Allenby.
For Tiger, though, he’s going to be fully engaged all four rounds. This tournament is far more important to him than, say, Alex Noren or Francesco Molinari. He’s looking for anything positive in his game heading into 2018, so he should have an edge to his game that others at the end of the leaderboard might lack.
The problem is that you’re laying major juice on NO, so unless you completely detest the Tiger Woods Hype Machine and want an excuse to root against him, best avoid betting this prop.
Outside everything Tiger Woods, you could make a case for a dozen golfers to win the tournament this week. And because there are only 18 golfers teeing it up, you can also justify betting one of the favorites at under 10/1 odds.
I would tend to shy away from the guys who played in events last week, as those were held on the other side of the planet. Golf is a game of feels, and as someone who’s currently battling jet lag, I’d imagine it’ll be a tough go for anyone whose body feels like it’s 12-14 hours in the future. With the winner slated around -20, it’ll only take one bad round to ruin someone’s chance of winning. So cross off Jordan Spieth (6/1), Justin Rose (9/1), and Tommy Fleetwood (25/1) from your tickets.
After that, I like elite ball strikers who are currently in good form and are birdie machines. That’ll widdle my list of guys I like to Justin Thomas (6/1), Rickie Fowler (8/1), Brooks Koepka (9/1), Henrik Stenson (15/1) and Patrick Reed (20/1). I think one of these five golfers hoist the trophy on Sunday afternoon and then spend half an hour fielding “IS TIGER BACK?!?!?!” questions from the press. Because at the end of the day, Tiger still rakes in the eyeballs.