Tiger Woods delivered the sports story of the year at the 2019 Masters, according to the Associated Press. But the odds of him wowing the golf and sports world again at Augusta National next month are lengthening.
Woods announced just hours before the entry deadline that he is foregoing The Players Championship this week because of an ongoing nagging back injury. It’s the third consecutive tournament that he would normally play that he’s skipping.
It was not an easy decision, but I will not be attending @THEPLAYERSChamp,” Woods tweeted. “I have to listen to my body and properly rest when needed.”
The 15-time major champ – which includes five green jackets – added, “My back is simply just not ready for play next week. I’m sad to miss one of the best events of the season, OUR Championship.”
Weekly perennial favorite Rory McIlroy has the shortest odds for The Players Championship at +650. Jon Rahm (+1300), Justin Thomas (+1400), Bryson DeChambeau (+2200), and Webb Simpson (+2500) round out the top five.
Bad Back, Bettors Back Away
When he’s been playing, Tiger’s game has been solid. In the 2020 wraparound season, he won the ZOZO Championship in October, finished fourth at the Hero World Challenge in December, and T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
But after back pain began flaring up at his own Genesis Invitational last month, his game suffered. Following an opening round of 69, Woods shot 73-76-77 to finish dead last among those who made the cut.
“I talked to him in LA, and he wasn’t feeling all that great there,” longtime friend Steve Stricker said of the Genesis at Riviera Country Club. Stricker played the first two rounds with Woods.
“But I thought a couple weeks off … would get him back into a position where he could play. So yeah, it’s a bit of a shock.”
Woods’ absence from the WGC-Mexico Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, and now Players Championship has also shocked golf bettors. Masters action has slowed on Woods, prompting the Westgate SuperBook to extend his line from 12/1 to 20/1.
Injuries Provide Value
McIlroy is the 2020 Masters favorite, his odds currently just 8/1. With a green jacket, the 30-year-old Northern Irishman would cap off the career grand slam.
If he was injury-free, former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka’s odds would be on par with McIlroy’s. But Koepka, winner of four major championships since 2017, hasn’t been himself since returning from a knee injury.
The 29-year-old finished T43 at The Genesis, missed the cut at The Honda Classic, and placed T47 at the Arnold Palmer. As a result, the once seemingly unbeatable Koepka is at 16/1 to win his first Masters.
After shooting rounds of 81-71 on the weekend at Bay Hill, Koepka told reporters that his game is “still sh*t.”
But he added, “I found something with my putting, so the touch is back. I feel very confident with that. But still close on the swing. Sometimes it’s there and then sometimes it’s not.”