Bets on Tiger's first drive
London - Forget about only winning the Masters, British bookmakers are taking bets on whether Tiger Woods will hit a tree on his first drive or if he'll kiss an anonymous blonde before teeing off.
Woods, who will make his return to golf next week at Augusta National after months of seclusion following revelations that he cheated on his wife, is shaping up to be a big market for bettors in Britain.
"We'll absolutely certainly take a couple of million pounds on it ourselves," William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said Tuesday. "So far, people are sensibly reluctant to part with their cash until two or three days beforehand ... because once you place your bet you can't cancel it."
Both William Hill and Ladbrokes have Woods listed as the 4-1 favorite to win, even though he has not competed since driving into a tree outside his home in late November. The 34-year-old Woods has won the Masters title four times and has 14 majors overall. This year's tournament starts on April 8.
Phil Mickelson is the second favorite behind Woods at 9-1, and Ernie Els is third at 10-1, according to William Hill. But besides the usual bets about making the cut or finishing outside the top 10, markets are open on whether he will hit the fairway on his opening drive, miss the fairway, or even hit a tree.
"We've got a whole host (of markets), the funnies around to the serious," Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg said. "Obviously, (we've) priced him up to win the major, to miss the cut, to have a fight with a fan on the first tee, to kiss an anonymous blonde - which doesn't include (John) Daly, we point out."
Despite any off-the-course problems, both Adams and Weinberg said that bettors will stand behind Woods with their money.
"He could have 10 years off the sport and there'd be punters backing him," Weinberg said. "Even a 50%-75% Tiger Woods should have more than enough to see off the field."
William Hill is already offering 26 markets on Woods, and Hill said they expect to open 10 more over the weekend.
"Things like: Will he have an argument? Will he throw a club? Will he break a club in anger? Will there be a streaker on the final green? Will Elin (Nordegren) be seen in the crowd?" Adams said.
But while Adams is expecting more money to pour in as the Masters gets closer, he's hoping some of it goes against Woods winning his fifth green jacket.
"We don't want to attract too much money on him," Adams said, "because the first rule of golf bookmaking is never take on Tiger."