08/19/2002 12:00AM

Beem's win no sweat for casino

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Palms sports book supervisor Jeff Sherman, who sets the golf odds for the just-off-the-Strip casino, was able to watch the end of the PGA Championship like a regular fan on Sunday.

Bookmakers usually watch the end of a sporting event and cheer for whatever will win more for the house. But in this case, most of betting decisions were in the bag when Tiger Woods pulled to within one stroke of leader Rich Beem.

Even though Beem won his last tournament - The International two weeks ago - he wasn't listed among the 49 golfers on the Palms's betting board. He was lumped into the field wager, which opened at 8-1. Bettors didn't give those hackers much of a chance, so Sherman raised the field to 10-1.

But there Beem was, leading Woods by only one stroke heading into the back nine, and those odds looked even better when Woods bogeyed the 13th and 14th holes and Beem found himself up by six shots. But Woods never seems to be out of it, which is why he continues to alter the way oddsmakers have to book golf. Sherman had opened Woods as the 2-1 favorite, but even that didn't scare away bettors and he was bet down to 5-4.

Woods birdied the last four holes and came up just one stroke short as Beem won his first major.

"I thought it was exciting to see how Tiger put some drama into it," Sherman said. "After what he did earlier, most golfers would fold, but he bounced back and showed how great he is even in defeat."

Sherman said the house fared a little better with Beem winning than it would have if Woods had won. However, the Palms had a prop that was up before the Masters in which bettors tried to predict how many majors Woods would win. The house would have fared better if Tiger had won his third, but Sherman said it was still a small win for the house with Woods winning two. Bettors would have really cashed in if Woods had won the grand slam.

Sherman said the bettors bet the over on the winning score prop (over/under 274 1/2), lowest round shot by any golfer (64 1/ 2) and highest round shot by any golfer (85) - and all three went over because of the inclement weather. But Sherman said the house did better on the head-to-head matchups and other props. For instance, bettors pounded the under on David Toms's finish position (19 1/2) and he didn't even make the cut, resulting in an over.

There are two tournaments this weekend, and the odds for them show how Woods is head and shoulders above the competition. Woods is the 3-2 favorite in the World Golf Championships: NEC Invitational at Sammamish, Wash., while Fred Funk and Chris Riley are the 12-1 co-favorites in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

Sherman has also posted odds on the 2003 Masters, with Woods the 7-4 favorite. Sherman said he struggled with what odds to attach to Woods.

"We would get flooded with money right away if we had him at 2-1, so we started him a little lower," Sherman said. "But it's still higher than what he closed at for the PGA."

Usually, futures have a disclaimer that the golfer must play for action or else all bets are refunded. But in the Masters future, all bets are action. Part of the gamble is that the golfer will be healthy and in the field.

"It's almost like the Kentucky Derby futures in that way," Sherman said.

Phil "the best golfer never to have won a major" Mickelson is the second choice at 10-1, with Ernie Els at 12-1 and Sergio Garcia at 15-1. Beem is 75-1. If you think someone could come from nowhere to win that tournament, too, you can get the field now at 20-1.

Edge to bettors, so far

Bettors continued their winning ways in week 2 of the NFL preseason, ending up on the right side of the line moves by an 8-5 margin heading into Monday night's 49ers-Broncos game.

Four times this preseason, oddsmakers have made a team a slight favorite only to have bettors pound the other team. Those switched favorites are 4-0 so far, and that doesn't include the Jets-Ravens game last Thursday, which opened at pick-em and the bettors made the Jets the favorites (the Jets won 34-16).

But even though bettors have been on the right side more often than not this preseason, they would be faring even better if they were just betting the away teams. Road teams are an amazing 21-8-2 against the spread.

Underdogs are 18-11-2. Scoring was up this past weekend, and the over now has a 19-14 edge.

Colorado St. (+2 1/2) at Virginia

The college players don't need preseason games (neither do the pros, but the owners like them because it's four added games of revenue) and they just jump right into games that count.

The first game is Thursday night in the Jim Thorpe Classic. Colorado State expects to compete for Mountain West title while Virginia is a middle-of-tobacco-road pick in the ACC. Now that doesn't automatically mean Colorado State is better, but Colorado St. could be an upper-tier team in the ACC and won't be intimidated by playing Virginia.

Coach Sonny Lubick knows how to get his team out of the gate quickly. The Rams are 5-0 against the spread in their last five opening road games. Colorado State QB Bradlee Van Pelt isn't pretty. He looks like a linebacker playing quarterback, but he's a winner. RB Cecil Sapp, the team's leading rushing two years ago and the Liberty Bowl MVP from that season, returns after missing all of last season with a string of injuries. He will make a potent one-two combo with Henri Childs, who started at tailback last year. Both should have success right away against a Virginia defense that allowed over 200 rushing yards a game last year.

PLAY: Colorado St. for 1 unit.