06/18/2008 11:00PM

Woods's season-ending surgery promises to hurt golf betting


In recent years, some sports books have offered odds to win golf tournaments "without Tiger Woods," meaning they pay off on the highest finish by anyone other than Woods so bettors don't have to worry about Tiger beating their golfer.

With the announcement Wednesday that Woods will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the year, every book will be offering that wager on all tournaments.

Anytime a superstar is sidelined, it hurts his or her sport, but it's hard to think of another sport whose fortunes are so tied to one athlete. Everyone knows that Woods's presence in a tournament drives up sponsorships, purses, and TV ratings, but his impact can be seen in betting handle as well.

"The really disappointing thing is that his legend and popularity has been growing if that was even possible," said Las Vegas Hilton golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman, who also has his own website golfodds.com. "We had record handle on both the Masters and the U.S. Open, but now we expect the other majors will drop 50 percent."

Sherman bases that on the fact that when Woods doesn't play in a non-major, the handle is usually half of the non-major tourneys that Woods does play.

The most immediate example of how much Woods impacts betting on the sport can be seen in the odds to win the British Open on July 17-20 at Royal Birkdale in Lancashire, England. After Woods wrapped up his playoff win over Rocco Mediate on Monday (Note: Woods was available at an usually high 5-2 at the Hilton and more than 3-1 offshore before the U.S. Open mainly because he was coming off a layoff), Sherman posted Woods as a 7-4 favorite to win the British Open, with Ernie Els a distant second choice at 15-1, Sergio Garcia at 20-1, and Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, and Justin Rose at 25-1.

Upon the announcement of Woods being out, Sherman made Els and Garcia the co-favorites at 12-1. Els's odds dropped 20 percent, while Garcia's plummeted 40 percent. Mickelson and Harrington were both lowered to 15-1, with Rose dipping to 20-1. It was that way all the way down the list of 49 golfers who are on Sherman's list. Even John Daly, the highest individual golfer on the list, was lowered from 250-1 to 200-1.

More sports book notes

The Celtics routed the Lakers 131-92 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night to win their 17th title in franchise history. Despite Boston having home-court advantage due to its league-best record in the regular season, Los Angeles was favored in the series.

But those who took the +140 on the Celtics to win the series didn't get the biggest bang for their buck. At this time last year, with the Celtics coming off a 24-58 season, second-worst in the NBA but only getting the No. 5 draft pick in the lottery, they were as high as 100-1 to win the 2007-08 title.

That was before Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett by the end of July when most books lowered them to the low teens, including the Hilton who had them at 13-1, the same odds as the Miami Heat (who had their own reversal of fortune with the league's worst record at 15-67). The Celtics stayed in the 10-1 to 13-1 range until the start of the season in November but then won their first eight games and saw their odds drop to 5-1. They stayed among the favorites the rest of the season.

* Sports books are reporting significant handle from the Euro 2008 soccer tournament, saying it's second only to a World Cup. With the quarterfinals starting Thursday, Station Casinos was the first to announce it was adding first-half and second-half wagering to the regular menu of side and total that all books have been offering. The Stations are also among the books offering three-way wagers (team A, team B, and draw) for regulation time, or more specifically 90 minutes, plus penalty time.

Race book notes

On Saturday, the Red Rock Resort hosts a qualifier for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Entries are $200 and the deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Players make 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on races from seven contest tracks, with eight races being mandatory as chosen by Red Rock race and sports book director Jason McCormick and the other seven being player's choice. Payoffs are capped at $42 to win and $22 to place. The top two finishers earn berths into the $1 million NHC to be held Jan. 23-24 at the Red Rock, including hotel accommodations during the finals.

All entry fees are being returned as prizes in this qualifier, with the winner getting 50 percent, second receiving 20 percent, third 15 percent, fourth 10 percent, and fifth 5 percent.

* For those who can't make it to Vegas for the tourney this Saturday but can make it to Hollywood Park, Golden Gate Fields, Emerald Downs, or Hastings, those four tracks will be concurrently running the West Coast Handicapping Challenge in which the winner will earn a spot in the Gold Cup Handicapping Challenge at Hollywood (worth $7,500 as that's the live bankroll required for that contest) on June 28-29 and a chance to win one of 10 berths in the NHC.

There is no entry fee, but contestants must register and put $200 on a self-service wagering card. Players can make any single-race wager (except the super high five) from the four contest tracks. One rule is that each contestant must make at least one wager at each track, otherwise there are no minimums or maximums. Since it's a live-money tournament, players keep any parimutuel winnings. The person accumulating the highest bankroll will win the grand prize, which also includes airfare and hotel. If the winner can't make the trip next week to Hollywood, they can take $5,000 cash. Second place is $2,500, with $1,000 for third, and $500 for fourth.

Visit the customer service booth at any of the participating tracks for details.