By Jeremy Chapman published
A year that began with fears that Tiger Woods might lose his right leg after a car crash of his own making in February and ended with him partnering 12-year-old son Charlie in the “hit-and-giggle” Father and Sons tournament in Orlando was as up-and-down on the golf course as it was off it.
Punters and bookmakers had to learn to bet without the man who had made betting such spectacular fun and brought the game so far in the past quarter of a century although the layers couldn’t resist putting up ludicrous Tiger quotes for next year’s Majors. Is that 33/1 for Woods to win the Masters or to play in it? At the moment he can’t hit the ball 240 yards, progress is inevitably painfully slow and Augusta is less than four months away.
And 50/1 for the Open? Yes, I can see him coming over for the 150th Championship at the Home of Golf where he won in 2000 and 2005 but that was on the History Channel not Sky Sports. The last time he played St Andrews, in 2015, he missed the cut.
Just a reminder: Woods has won only one Major since 2008. But what his presence does is stimulate enormous betting interest for which bookmakers should be eternally grateful.
Competition for the pound in your pocket will be ratcheted up with novelty bets and enhanced place terms. So open as many accounts as you can and get the pick of the prices. Making a profit will be tricky if you don’t.
Who wants to pay £1.20 for a can of soup at Waitrose if you can get one just as tasty somewhere else for 49p? Yet getting paid eight places at golf when some offer only five has its drawbacks. For one, the prices are almost certain to be shorter, for another, you are getting only one-fifth the odds a place instead of a quarter. On a 40/1 shot that’s 8/1 a place instead of 10/1, a big consideration.
So you then have to decide whether, in your heart, you seriously believe your golfer of choice is actually going to win rather than giving a good account of himself. If it’s the latter, taking the shorter price might well be the way to go.
One great time-saver and money-maker is the comparison site Oddschecker where you can at a glance see who is offering the best price and if there is more than one firm doing so, which has the best place terms. Gone are the, in some ways, good old pre-internet days when bookmakers were less well informed or had no specialist golf odds-compiler and the odd rick (short for ricket) was made.
These days genuine “raffle tickets” (Cockney rhyming slang) are as hard to find as 100/1 winners but I was thrilled to find what I thought was a rick for my first Golf Monthly online column when I started in post-Masters week - Bet365’s 225/1 for veteran Stewart Cink in a tournament he had won twice before, the Heritage at Harbour Town, South Carolina.
Cink had won there in 2000 and 2004, half a lifetime ago, yet if he had not finished 12th at Augusta the previous week and ended an 11-year drought since the 2009 Open at Turnberry by winning the Safeway late in 2020, I would have found it much harder to justify an investment.
It was a no-brainer: 225/1 was simply the wrong price, 80/1 would have been nearer the mark. It had to be taken and Cink was down to 150/1 by the time my first GM column appeared. In the event and with a son as caddie, the tall Alabaman cruised home by four. It was a dream start the like of which no tipster has a right to expect.
Of course, the only way from there was down. It was an impossible act to follow, the biggest-priced winner by far In nearly a half-century of golf tipping for daily newspapers, golf magazines and on radio and TV.
I had to go back to 2002 and 100/1 chance Matt Gogel at Pebble Beach for my previous three-figure-odds success. They don’t grow on trees so imagine my unbridled joy in backing TWO 225/1 winners in the same year! Sadly it was only a tiny bet following the advice of someone I respect who made a compelling case for Thriston Lawrence in last month’s Joburg Open. The steer came just too late for consideration in the GM column.
To be honest, Lawrence was not on my radar and I had barely heard of him but credit to the Racing Post’s Steve Palmer for digging him out and making my bank manager happy. Palmer is always worth reading.
After Cink, plenty of good-priced winners like Sam Burns and Garrick Higgo kept rolling in but sometimes a short-priced one is just as satisfying. Such a case was making a strong case for our Solheim Cup ladies in Toledo, Ohio, the outsiders of two at 9/4 to bring the trophy back with them as they had done on their 2013 raid in Colorado.
Picking rookie Leona Maguire at 7/1 to be top scorer was another triumph and the gutsy Irish lass did it with bells on by taking 4.5 points out of five to be the difference between victory and defeat for Europe.
It was considerably less pleasing to call the Ryder Cup right. A big defeat was forecast but 19-9, the widest margin since the biennial showdown was first contested over 28 points in 1979? We cried along with Rory at the end of this embarrassing humiliation.
And it is hard to believe Europe is going to get much closer when the match goes to Italy in two years’ time. For those with a spare £7000 lying around in a bank and getting only buttons in interest, the idea of a £4K profit, even though they’ll have to wait 22 months to collect, should have enormous appeal. The 4/7 USA looks a steal since where do the young reinforcements come from to replace the fading old guard?
Robert MacIntyre and Sam Horsfield couldn’t manage one win between them in 2021, admittedly the Danish Hojgaard twins did win in consecutive weeks but have to do a lot more if they are to scare the Americans and … who else is there?
Let’s face it, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and McIlroy himself all failed to deliver on the big occasions, while Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are well into their forties and unlikely to get better.
Only Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland look bombproof whereas the USA have such strength in depth they could afford to go into battle at Whistling Straits without the reigning match play champion Billy Horschel, who nonchalantly came over to Wentworth in Ryder Cup month to manhandle Europe’s finest in the BMW PGA. Horschel was another good-priced winner for Golf Monthly followers along with Min Woo Lee in the Scottish Open but as the year wore on, winners became harder to find.
Sometimes a loser is better than a winner. A case in point was Francesco Laporta, an 80/1 selection when beaten just a stroke in the Dubai Championship last month. Cruel though it was at the time, the 20/1 place money still made it a tasty bet. Sometimes a tipster has to do a double take when an unfamiliar newcomer comes from nowhere to surprise everybody - Daniel Gavins, Robert Streb, Jeff Winther and Jonathan Caldwell, to name but four. Where did they come from?
Later, Collin Morikawa who had won our Open at the first attempt in July not only added the Race To Dubai title to his fast-growing CV, the first American to do so. The young Californian ran off with our Tour Championship for good measure. Yet just as we were about to hail the Smiling Assassin as world No. 1, he proved human after all. It can only have been the pressure of needing a W to take over the top spot that made him impotent when blowing a five-shot lead in the Hero World Challenge. Never mind, that honour is surely only delayed although Rahm will have plenty to say about that in 2022.
What a year it was for the Golden Oldies! Phil Mickelson at 50 becoming the oldest Major winner when turning back the clock at the PGA Championship, Richard Bland at 48 finally breaking his duck at the 478th attempt in the British Masters, and evergreen Bernhard Langer scooping up his 42nd Champions Tour title at a record 64 in October.
For the ladies too it was a stellar year with Jin Young Ko regaining the No.1 spot from Nelly Korda in a fierce duel. The 18-year-old Thai prodigy Atthaya Thitikul walked off with most of the glittering prizes on the European scene and has just qualified for the LPGA’s main tour. She makes golf look so easy that a first victory in the States is not a question of If but When.
This is my final 2021 column - we are a healthy 260 points up so far - so do have a lovely Christmas while I try to dig out the first winner of 2022 at the Tournament of Champions teeing off at Kapalua on January 6.
Look out for Jeremy's first betting preview of 2022 ahead of the Tournament of Champions, starting 6th January
Celebrating my 50th year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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