The Masters Odds (As of March 15):
Tiger Woods (9.00)
At this time of year, the spotlight shines on March Madness.
For very good reason.
The NCAA Tournament can be euphoric for some, heartbreaking for others. And those with no team in the competition are often thrilled by the anything-can-happen drama of the day, especially when Cinderella Story teams pull off an early upset and trash oh-so-many brackets out there.
The battle for this year's national basketball title really got underway Thursday morning. A few hours before tipoff between Oklahoma and Rhode Island, however, there was another athlete looking to carry the momentum of a potentially epic comeback, even if the ultimate moment is still perhaps a few weeks away.
Tiger Woods is a polarizing figure in the sports world. Of that, there is certainly no doubt.
It was only a year ago, however, when you could only wonder if the former world No. 1 golfer would ever return to even a fraction of the player he once was. He transcended the game of golf at his peak. Wearing that customary red shirt on Sundays, Tiger became an imposing figure in a non-contact sport simply for the fact he could crush the ball off the tee and had a knack for spectacular shots at moments of truth in just about every major or significant tournament around.
Golf Betting Breakdown:
But injuries took their toll, including back problems in February of 2017 that forced him to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic.
Less than a year after he announced another back surgery - and expressed a desire to return to professional golf once fully healed - Tiger is not only back playing on the PGA Tour. He is beginning to resemble a player that could become a force entering the first major of the year - the Masters at Augusta National.
The first round of the Masters begins April 5.
Tiger's odds to win the Masters and the famed Green Jacket have shifted dramatically over the last 11 months.
On April 11 of last year, Tiger's odds on PlayNow.com sat at 80.00 to win the Masters. Less than eight months later, after he returned to competition at the Hero World Challenge (an unofficial event), the odds moved drastically to 20.00 to win the Masters.
Tiger didn't win the Hero World Challenge. In fact, he finished 10 shots back of Rickie Fowler.
But his first litmus test certainly seemed like a success - at the very least, it was something to build on as he prepared for 2018. And that's what he's done as the calendar flipped over.
Once a long shot to win the Masters, it no longer seems far-fetched to see Tiger as a serious contender at Augusta, even at the age of 42, with so many younger and talented golfers that will be in the field.
His game has been improving. He's gaining increased attention for his stellar club head speed off the tee. And the results have been building, too. He missed the cut at the Genesis Open, but then turned around and placed 12th at the Honda Classic the following week, and then finished tied for second last weekend at the Valspar Championship, putting himself in contention with rounds of 68 and 67 on Friday and Saturday.
Tiger then followed that up with an impressive opening round (four-under par, 68) at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He began the week as the favourite to win, and had a share of the lead early on Thursday, moving his odds to win mid-round to 6.25 on PlayNow.com, and eventually to 4.80 after he drained a birdie putt more than 70 feet in length to move to four-under par toward the end of his day.
And bettors have taken notice of this current ascension.
About 25.5 per cent of the money for the outright winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was on Tiger to win - which tops the list of players available in the market. As of Thursday, nearly 17 per cent of the money was also on Tiger to win the Masters. He was the co-favourite alongside Dustin Johnson, with odds of 9.00 to win.
Is Tiger primed to write a comeback story for the ages? We'll soon find out.
One thing is for sure: If Tiger is in contention at the Masters next month, the spotlight of the entire sports world will be fixated on Augusta, regardless of what else is happening.