07/15/2002 12:00AM

For once, Woods on side of casinos


After Tiger Woods put away all challengers in the U.S. Open four weeks ago to go 2 for 2 in majors for the year, the Palms made him the 3-2 favorite to win the British Open, which begins Thursday.

To capitalize on Woods's popularity, several casinos have also put up odds on Woods to win the last two legs of the Grand Slam. Surprisingly, oddsmakers found that bettors were willing to bet against Woods.

At Station Casinos, "Tiger will win one more major" opened as the -210 favorite, with "Tiger will win two more majors" at +300, and "Tiger will win no more majors" at +260. Professional bettors saw that last option as a huge overlay and pounded it to -120. The same thing happened at the Stardust and other books that put up similar props. Those books will be cheering for Woods, which actually is not a bad position to be in.

Among other challengers, the Palms opened Phil "the best golfer to never win a major" Mickelson at 12-1, and he was promptly bet down to 10-1. Nick Faldo was also very popular in the early betting. Jeff Sherman, sports book supervisor at the Palms, opened him at 60-1, and he was promptly bet down to 40-1.

"Faldo has won [the British Open] at Muirfield twice," Sherman said, "and with his strong showing at the U.S. Open, bettors feel he has a great shot to win again at this course."

With odds dropping on those golfers, Sherman has raised Ernie Els from 12-1 to 14-1 and David Duval from 25-1 to 30-1. As with all other major events, head-to-head matchups and other props, like over/under winning score or whether the winner is American, will be available at the Palms on Monday.

Celebs chase little white ball

The world's top golfers are overseas for the British Open, but some other famous athletes are teeing off Friday through Sunday in a celebrity tournament in northern Nevada. The 13th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship will be played at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course near Lake Tahoe.

Caesars Tahoe has posted odds on the tournament, which boasts a $100,000 first prize. Former Pirates and Dodgers pitcher Rick Rhoden, who has won this event five times, has been made the 7-5 favorite. Defending champ Dan Quinn, who played pro hockey for the Penguins, is 2-1. Former NFL kicker Al Del Greco, the winner of the 2000 title, is 9-2.

But those betting favorites won't be the fan favorites or draw the biggest galleries, not with a tournament that includes A-list sports celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Elway, Mario Lemieux, Jimmy Connors, Bo Jackson, Marshall Faulk, and Jerry Rice.

Jordan's odds are 50-1. Jordan finished ninth in the 1990 tourney, before he ever won an NBA title or one of his six NBA Playoff MVP honors.

Barkley is the longest shot on the board at 999-1. It reminds one of the time Woods was asked what Barkley's handicap was. Woods replied: "His golf game."

Caesars Tahoe also has prop wagering on pairings, like Rhoden/Lemieux vs. Quinn/Elway, as well as special parlays, such as 7-2 on Woods winning British Open and Rhoden winning the Tahoe Celebrity. It's 5-1 on a Woods/Quinn double.

NBC will televise the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.

News and notes

Nevada horse racing leaders will give a "state of the industry" presentation to the Nevada Gaming Commission at 10:30 a.m. on July 25 at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. The horse racing leaders said they will ask regulators to ease restrictions that have put Nevada's race books, which once paved the way for nationwide full-card simulcasting, behind the times. The public is invited to attend.

* The U.S. Senate voted 60-39 last Tuesday to override Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's veto and approve Yucca Mountain, located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as the nation's storage facility for nuclear waste. However, shipments would not take place until 2010 and Nevada's representatives have vowed to continue fighting.

* Also last Tuesday, the Culinary Union ended its strike against and came to terms with the Golden Gate, which was the sole holdout after monthlong negotiations that saw 35 Vegas hotels renewing their contract. The Culinary is now expected to target locals casinos that have yet to be unionized.

* The 7-7 tie in last Tuesday's All-Star Game caused Vegas sports books to refund all straight-up bets. However, bettors who took over 9 runs were paid because betting rules for baseball totals call for a game to go at least 8 1/2 innings to be official. Run line wagers were also paid, with the American League +1 1/2 as the winning side. Props bets, such as first player to homer, were also valid.

Spoiled for sure

When you've lived in Las Vegas for a while, you forget how things are different in the rest of the country. Some observations from a recent trip to Missouri:

* On a layover in Albuquerque, I had some spare change after buying lunch. On the way back to the waiting area, I held the nickels and quarters in my hand until realizing that there weren't any slot machines for me to dump them in.

* The riverboat casinos in St. Louis have to leave the dock in order for you to place a bet, and they're only open to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends.

* Also in St. Louis, hotel room service ends at 10 p.m. Say what?

* Las Vegas used to be where entertainers went when their careers were at an end. Branson, Mo., now holds that distinction. The top acts in town: Bobby Vinton, Mel Tillis, and Yakov Smirnoff.