Tiger back as bookies' No 1
London - Tiger Woods is back to winning, and back to being the British bookies' favourite to win the Masters.
The 14-time major champion won his first PGA Tour tournament since 2009 on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. It was his first chance to revel in a tour victory since his personal life went into turmoil following a sex scandal that ended his marriage and precipitated a steady decline in his golf ranking and his stature as the man to beat on the golf course.
But with his five-stroke victory on Sunday and the Masters starting on April 5, all that has changed.
"His whole game looks right now. He's putting well. He's chipping well. He's driving well," said Rupert Adams, a spokesperson for British bookmaker William Hill.
"The armour looks to be back in place again, and actually possibly the aura.
"Once again he's got the swagger back in his step."
William Hill has Woods listed as the 4/1 favourite to win his fifth Masters title, with Rory McIlroy close behind at 5/1. Other bookies have similar odds, with Ladbrokes quoting the same numbers as William Hill. Paddy Power and Coral both have Woods as the 7/2 favourite with McIlroy next at 9/2.
At 4/1 odds, a R1 bet returns R5. At 7/2, R1 returns R4.50.
"The four-time champion, fresh from his first PGA Tour win in 30-months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, has every chance," Ladbrokes said about Woods on its website.
This year's Masters will be the first major in which Woods is listed as the favourite since the same tournament in 2010, shortly after his public and private downfall.
"We put him out at a top price at 5/2 then," Adams said. "We took 3 000 bets in the space of three hours. That was the last time he was favourite. Since then he's collapsed.
"They (bettors) started to back him to miss the cut after that."
But with Woods improving, the bookies are changing their tactics, and another good showing at Augusta National could see Woods stay at the top of the betting lists for the foreseeable future.
"The Masters and Tiger are synonymous after that extraordinary (performance) when he destroyed the field (in 1997)," Adams said.
"If he gives a good show, even a top-10 finish, I think you'll see once again Tiger is the first person on the betting sheet, without a doubt."