Tiger back to being bookies’ favorite for Masters

Tiger Woods is back to winning, and back to being the British

bookies’ favorite 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 game and his

stature as the man to beat on the course.

But with his five-stroke victory Sunday and the Masters starting

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 spokesman

for British bookmaker William Hill. ”The armor 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 favorite 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

favorite with McIlroy next at 9-2.

At 4-1 odds, a $1 bet returns $5. At 7-2, $1 returns $4.50.

”The four-time champion, fresh from his first PGA Tour win in

30-months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, has every chance,”

Ladbrokes said on its website.

This year’s Masters will be the first major in which Woods is

listed as the favorite since the same tournament in 2010, shortly

after his public 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 favorite. 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 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.”