04/12/2004 12:00AM

Mickelson's win a hit with bettors, not books

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Phil Mickelson's victory at the Masters last weekend was good for the sport of golf and certainly good for the many bettors who cashed a ticket on him.

But it wasn't the best result for most of the sports books here in Las Vegas, as Mickelson is always a popular bet. When the Palms put up its Masters futures last August following the PGA Championship, Mickelson was offered at 20-1. He was bet down to 6-1 early last week and still saw action, closing at 9-2.

Jeff Sherman, who sets the golfing odds at the Palms, said his book still made money on the tournament.

How did that happen? Well, it can be summed up in one word: volume.

With the odds up for the better part of eight months, the Palms was able to attract bets on the entire field (or at least the 49 golfers whom Sherman had posted, plus a "field" bet at 6-1).

Sherman said the Palms also did well on the rest of its wide variety of wagers.

"The Tiger [Woods] vs. Mickelson matchup got two-way action, and the large moves on the matchups went to the house," he said. "We lost a little on opening-round scores props, but won on the exciting finish, when Mickelson birdied 18, as that putt sent the winning score prop under and prevented a playoff, both good for the house."

Sherman had set the over/under on the winner's score at 279 1/2 and more bettors took the over. Mickelson's instantly famous putt gave him a 9-under-par 279. The odds on whether there would be a playoff were 7-2, so that would have eaten into the house's profits.

The "will there be a hole in one?" prop was also 7-2. There were two on Sunday, but it only counts as one winning bet.

By Sunday night, Sherman had released his odds for the U.S. Open, set for June 17-20 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Woods is the favorite at 9-2, followed by Mickelson (6-1), Masters runner-up Ernie Els (8-1), Vijay Singh (10-1), and Davis Love III (14-1). Interesting longshots - especially based on their performances this past week - include Sergio Garcia (30-1) and K.J. Choi (50-1).

The odds on Woods are noteworthy, because he used to be so dominant.

"Obviously Tiger's results caused his bump up in opening U.S. Open odds," Sherman said. "Also, there should be even more backing of Mickelson now, so the gap is narrowing between Tiger and others in the odds markets."

* Most of the world's top golfers are taking this weekend off, but Love (6-1) and Els (7-1) are the top choices in the MCI Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. But the local eyes will be on the LPGA's Takefuji Classic this Thursday through Saturday at the Las Vegas Country Club. Sherman was still busy with U.S. Open odds as of Monday afternoon, but said he would have odds posted by Tuesday and expects to make Grace Park the 9-2 favorite.

Another tournament in town

Bally's Moolah, the highest of the high-end horse handicapping tournaments, will be conducted Friday and Saturday.

The entry fee is a steep $5,000 and attracts some big-name players because it offers a berth in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to the winner. Last year, Andrew Osborne of Rochester, N.Y., outlasted a field of 14 to win the automatic berth and more than $38,000 in prize money. This year's field is expected to be around 20.

Each contestant makes 15 mythical $2 win and place wagers each day, with six races each day being mandatory. Prices are capped at 25-1 to win and 12-1 to place, with a five-point bonus for each first-place finisher. Call 800-468-8946 or go to ballysraceandsports.com for more information.

Brewster's Millions II

Lamon Brewster, available at 8-1 as recently as last week and bet down to 4-1 in Las Vegas and offshore, knocked out Wladimir Klitschko at the end of the fifth round in their heavyweight bout last Saturday night at Mandalay Bay.

Klitschko looked every bit the heavy favorite, as he pummeled Brewster early and often, winning the first four rounds on all three judges' cards, but Brewster stunned him in the fifth with a left hook. Klitschko, who has a reputation for having a "glass jaw," was sent into the ropes by a right uppercut and a left hook, and referee Robert Byrd ruled it a knockdown.

Byrd ruled that a second knockdown occurred after the bell, but then when Klitschko was unable to return to his corner under his own power, Byrd stopped the fight.

Bettors who didn't want to lay the big price on Klitschko and instead went with under six rounds were also winners.

Cory Spinks retained his welterweight titles with a unanimous decision over Zab Judah in the co-feature. Judah, stepping up in class, had been bet up to a -170 favorite, but it was Spinks who dominated most of the fight. Judah had a late rally, including a knockdown in the 12th round that earned him a 10-8 win on all three judges' scorecards, but it wasn't enough to beat Spinks, who is the son of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks. Two judges scored it 114-112, and the other judge scored it 116-111.

Favorites hot in NHL playoffs

Through Sunday's action, favorites were 14-5 in the opening five days of the NHL playoffs (it was an even more impressive 13-3 before dogs went 2-1 on Sunday). The record improves to 15-4 for home teams as the only home team to be an underdog was the Nashville Predators on Sunday vs. the Detroit Red Wings, and the Predators won 3-1.

Low-scoring games have been the norm as the under has gone 13-6 through Sunday.