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This was the only time to bet against Woods

June 19, 2008|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

LONDON -- Among certain Britons, Tiger Woods' announcement Wednesday brought a measure of relief and a hint of exhilaration.

These people don't dislike Woods -- not even close -- but they do run wagering houses.

Hours before the announcement, the William Hill bookmaker spokesman Rupert Adams jokingly had told interviewers his office would feel "very relieved" if Woods "decided to take the rest of the year off."

That's mainly because of a specialty William Hill offered, allowing punters to bet early in the year on Woods winning all four golf majors. It started at 50-1 and got enough play to drop to 8-1, then to 4-1 after Woods didn't win the Masters and William Hill changed the bet to three majors.

Had Woods won the British Open and the PGA Championship, the single hit would have run about $400,000.

"I feel guilty having said it now," Adams said Wednesday night. "Obviously when Tiger goes in for any major tournament and wins, the bookies as a whole take an absolute hammering."

When Woods won the U.S. Open on one protesting knee, it made everyone "nervous," Adams said, especially given they'd raised his odds when they first noticed him cringing last week. "We have a rule which is, in effect, 'Never take on Tiger,' " Adams said. "And we went against that rule."

With Woods removed, British Open wagering returned to a long-lost zone, "the old-fashioned book" as Adams called it, the book from 1990s yore when Nick Faldo or Colin Montgomerie or Nick Price at 8-1 constituted an extremely low price.

Woods had begun Wednesday at 13-8, and his exit jostled the board. Sergio Garcia dropped from either 20-1 or 25-1, Adams recollected, to a 12-1 co-favorite with Ernie Els, who started at 16-1 or 18-1. Phil Mickelson stayed at 16-1, owing to his meager history at the British. Defending champion Padraig Harrington sat 14-1.

The Ryder Cup slated for September also wiggled a bit, going from even money on both sides to 10-11 for Europe and 11-10 for the United States.

"It's real golf now," Adams said. "It's genuine bookmaking, genuine prices, wherein you can back anyone in the field. We expect to take probably more in terms of turnover."

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