08/14/2005 11:00PM

Book fares okay with Lefty's win


Lefty was all right with his backers in the PGA Championship.

They didn't even mind waiting for the tournament to finish Monday morning to collect their bets on Phil Mickelson at odds of 12-1, after Mickelson birdied the 18th hole at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J., to defeat Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn by one stroke.

Mickelson is always popular with bettors, but Jeff Sherman, sports book supervisor and golf oddsmaker at the Las Vegas Hilton, said his future book still fared well. Tiger Woods, as usual, attracted the most betting action as the heavy 2-1 favorite, and with a large field, bookmakers also collected more than enough on the other losing golfers to pay off the generous price on Mickelson, who won his second career major.

"The odds to win fared well, while [head-to-head] matchups were also a small winner," Sherman said. "Betting handle in the majors was strong again this year as interest continues to rise in golf."

Sunday's rain-shortened action gave Sherman the chance to put up odds on Monday morning's action. Mickelson, who held a one-stroke lead with five holes to play, was the 4-7 favorite, with Elkington at 4-1 and Bjorn at 5-1. Both challengers had their chances to birdie the final hole, but couldn't convert.

Sherman said the Hilton was a small loser in its season-long prop on how many majors Woods would win. The prop required bettors to pick how many majors he could capture this year, with 2 being offered at 7-1.

Later Monday, the Hilton put up its opening odds for The Masters next April. Sherman has Woods as the 5-2 favorite, with Mickelson the second choice at 7-1, Vijay Singh at 8-1, Ernie Els (who will be returning from knee surgery) at 12-1, Retief Goosen at 15-1, and Sergio Garcia at 25-1. In all, Sherman lists 99 golfers, with a "field" bet of all other golfers offered at 25-1.

Sports book notes

Tony Stewart, the 4-1 co-favorite along with Jeff Gordon, won Sunday's Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen Nextel Cup race in Watkins Glen, N.Y. It was Stewart's second straight win on a road course - he won last month in Sonoma, Calif. - and the second straight year he won at Watkins Glen. It was also Stewart's fifth win in the last seven races, and he has taken a comfortable lead in the series standings, so expect his odds to continue to drop.

* Former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, a -200 favorite, won a unanimous decision over Monte Barrett on Saturday night in Chicago. Rahman and Barrett are close friends, and the crowd of 15,000 at the United Center regularly booed the fighters when they appeared unwilling to exchange blows. Rahman, who is now 41-5-1 with 33 knockouts, holds the WBC's interim heavyweight belt and is hoping for a legitimate shot vs. WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko.

* After starting the season strong in the American Bowl and Hall of Fame Game, NFL preseason bettors cooled this past weekend. Bettors were right in backing the Bills as 7-point underdogs vs. the Colts, betting the line down to +3 as the Bills pulled the outright victory, 17-10. Bettors were on the wrong side, though, when they bet the Chargers from 2 1/2-point underdogs to 3-point favorites vs. the Packers (Green Bay won, 10-7) and the Bengals from 2-point dogs to 3-point favorites over the Patriots (New England won, 23-13).

Overall, favorites were 8-7 this weekend heading into Monday night's Eagles-Steelers game, so with the Falcons upsetting the Colts in the American Bowl and the Bears and Dolphins pushing in the Hall of Fame Game, favorites and dogs were split, 8-8-1.

After the two neutral-site games, home teams were 9-6 against the spread over the weekend. Unders were also 9-6, though with overs in the American Bowl and Hall of Fame Game, the under is 9-8 over all.

Race book notes

For the past dozen years, the Las Vegas Hilton has hosted its Pick the Ponies tournaments on the Wednesday through Friday before the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup. This weekend marks the first time the Hilton is holding a tournament in August. It will be held this Thursday through Saturday, with each player making 10 mythical $200 across-the-board bets each day.

"We wanted to add another tournament, and this made sense, with the popularity of racing at Del Mar and Saratoga," said race and sports book director Jay Kornegay.

As of noon Monday, 155 entries had been accepted for the field, which is limited at 200. Interested handicappers can still enter by Thursday. The entry fee is $500 with the early-bird bargain of $400 having passed Aug. 8. The traditional Pick the Ponies tournaments have easily sold out the past few years, but Kornegay said he isn't discouraged by the lack of a sellout so far.

"Anytime you try something new, you have to expect word to spread slowly," he said, conceding that a lot of tournament players might have already set their travel schedules before this event was announced in June.

* Also on Thursday, the weekly contest at the Coast Casinos (the Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Suncoast) has a carryover of $8,300 in its progressive jackpot for picking the first five winners at Del Mar. The entry fee is $10, with a limit of 15 per person. All entry fees get added to the progressive jackpot, so it will easily pass $12,000 this week and could approach $15,000. The person whose horses compile the highest contest points (mutuel payoffs, plus bonus of 5 points for a win, 3 points for place, and 1 for show) will win $2,000, with $1,000 for second place and $500 for third.