ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- It wouldn't be Open week without a wager or two with a British bookmaker--an act that used to involve scribbling on a betting slip in a smoke-filled room adorned with TVs showing horse racing, but is now increasingly conducted online.
Tiger Woods, the man who crushed the opposition here in 2000 and 2005 -- he was 33 under par for those eight rounds -- has been the firm favorite all year, though his odds have steadily risen to a best price of 7-to-1 with betting exchange Betfair, followed by Rory McIlroy (16-1), Phil Mickelson (18-1) and Ernie Els (21-1). Two-time champion Padraig Harrington stands at a generous 26-1, reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell at 37-1, and man in form Steve Stricker, the world No. 4, at 41-1.
There are all kinds of other fun flutters on offer, too. You can get 15-2 on Tiger making a bogey or worse on the first hole (Skybet) -- or 9-2 on him missing the cut (William Hill). You can get 40-1 for either of the Italian Molinari brothers to win -- Edoardo finished first in last week's Scottish Open and Francesco tied fourth -- or 150-1 on someone with the surname Watson, i.e. Bubba or Tom, prevailing. A European winner is favored at 5-6 with Skybet versus 7-4 on an American champion. Ladbrokes has 6-4 on a hole-in-one during the tournament (not great odds with only two par-3s on the course). You can even bet on the length of the winning putt.
So who to pick? Anything can happen, especially if the wind blows and bad weather rolls in, as it's expected to do (Skybet has odds of play being suspended at sometime during the week of 2-1). Tiger Woods might come to life this week but his odds are still too low to be worth a punt. World No. 2 Phil Mickelson perhaps hits it too high in the wind and has only one British Open top-10 in 16 tries. World No. 3 Lee Westwood (25-1 with Betfair) would be a popular and deserving winner but his calf injury is a concern. We like in-form players who are good putters and no strangers to lousy weather: McIlroy and McDowell from Northern Ireland, and Wisconsin's Stricker.
-- John Barton