While gambling has historically been treated as taboo by sports broadcasts, it'll be front and center when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson square off in their $9 million match on Friday.
It is no accident that "The Match" will take place at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, a city associated more than any other with wagers. Gambling has been promoted as a defining feature of this event—Tiger and Phil will have the opportunity to make side bets on the course. Fans will have access to predictive data during the broadcast, ostensibly to help them make better-educated wagers. Fans are essentially being encouraged to bet on the action, a remarkable sentence to type given this country's historical aversion to and the long-standing illegality of betting on sports.
So let's oblige the powers that be and set aside money for some post–Thanksgiving action. Here are some of my favorite bets, ranging from the conventional (who will win the match) to the nonsensical (how many times Tiger will spin is club).
Odds via BetDSI.
Winner: Phil Mickelson (+170)
I know, I know, I know. Phil's game was a complete mess in the latter portion of last season. He went winless at the Ryder Cup and finished dead last at the Tour Championship, a full 24 shots behind the winner...Tiger.
But match play is a different animal. Mickelson still makes a ton of birdies—he was sixth on Tour in birdie average (4.31) last year—and those are the currency of match play. His tendency to make double- and triple-bogeys will not hurt him as badly in this format.
Plus, you have to think a reason Mickelson finished the season so poorly was fatigue. The guy is 48 years old—playing five weeks in a row is going to take a toll on a nearly 50-year-old body. Now, Mickelson is rested, rejuvenated and ready to go. I also like the course fit—Shadow Creek is a wide-open track, giving Phil ample room to miss off the tee. He'll be in play on every hole, which isn't the case at every PGA Tour event.
Above all, though, I just see a ton of value here. Mickelson is as prideful as they come; he won't roll over and let Tiger steal the show. Give me Lefty at nearly 2-to-1.
Will there be an eagle? Yes (+500)
The course is going to be set up for birdies galore, because that's exciting and that's what fans want to see. (Remember, this event is entirely made for TV.) Pins will be in accessible spots, and one has to think all four par 5s will be set up to be reachable in two. There's also a driveable par 4, the 11th. That means 10 realistic opportunities for an eagle...I'll roll the dice.
Will Tiger Woods record an official three-putt? Yes (+800)
Shadow Creek's greens aren't the trickiest in the world, and I don't suspect the pins will be in any particularly difficult spots. But 8-to-1 on a three-jack for a guy who had his fair share of putting struggles this season? Yes, please.
Amount of largest side bet: Over $50,000 (-115)
I'd be willing to bet, quite literally, that there's already a plan for one specific huge bet easily exceeding 50 grand. Whether it's a long drive contest or a closest to the pin or a push-up challenge, I have no idea. But if the match is for $9 million, you have to think there's more than enough money floating around to fund a $100k bet.
Total times Tiger Woods twirls his club: Over 3.5 (-115)
An all-time mortal lock. When Tiger's playing well, he's twirling on virtually every tee shot. It's a tactic of intimidation, and you better believe he'll be flossing on Friday. I suspect he'll twirl on the first hole. And, basically, whenever he hits a good drive. And whenever an approach is flying right at the flag. And a bunch of other times, too. Don't be surprised if this cashes in before they make the turn.
Will there be a hole-in-one? No (-1000)
Just going by statistics here: The odds of a touring pro making a hole-in-one are roughly 2,500–1. There will be two guys playing and four par 3s, so that's eight opportunities. Some simple math gets you to the approximate odds of it happening: 312.5–1. There will certainly be a par 3 pin or two at the bottom of a ridge, making it possible, but No is still a great bet here.
Total curse words said by Tiger and Phil: Under 21.5 (-115)
It's already confirmed that both players, who will be mic'd up, will be allowed to curse during the match (anything goes in PPV!) And Tiger is wont to cuss even on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, so he needs no invitation. All that being said, I can't see both guys going full potty mouth. They know they're wearing mics and they want this to appeal to families spending the holidays together.
All that being said...I guess this comes down to what is defined as a curse word?