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Prop breakdown as Tiger Woods nears Masters return

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

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Even without hitting a competitive shot, Tiger Woods has taken the Masters by storm. Again.

The 46-year-old with five green jackets hanging in his closet wasn’t supposed to be here this week, outside of perhaps the annual champions’ dinner held Tuesday night at Augusta National Golf Club. He’s only 14 months removed from a serious car accident that mangled his right leg, and as recently as December he shared that there were discussions at the time about possible amputation.

But now the will-he-won’t-he saga has gripped the year’s first major, as Woods has dropped hints that he’s going to tee it up in actual competition for the first time since the November 2020 Masters (No, a 36-hole hit-and-giggle with son Charlie late last year, golf cart and all, doesn’t count.).

First there was the fight tracking bonanza last week, as Woods flew with his son and Justin Thomas for a practice round. Then he was added to the pre-tournament interview schedule (11 a.m ET if you’d like to set an alert), and then he showed up for a nine-hole practice session Sunday afternoon just hours after listing himself as a “game-time decision.”

Circa Sports got out in front of the Woods curiosity bonanza, creating a market last week asking simply if he’ll hit a single shot in the tournament. After opening prices at -115/-115, the Yes ballooned to -1000 (with the No at +680). Bettors subsequently offered a course correction, and those prices stood at a more modest -300 Yes/+240 No split before Woods’ tweet. But it all goes to show just how much interest and intrigue there is surrounding Woods, just three years removed from winning his fifth Masters, as he looks to make yet another comeback.

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With the game’s most popular player still on-site and expected to practice again Monday afternoon, markets continue to pop up examining how Woods will play - since now the question of if he’ll play is on the cusp of being answered. PointsBet Sportsbook list Woods at +8000 to break the internet by winning the tournament, and they have put together some Tiger-related prop markets heading into Masters week. At this point, the sentiment seems to be that Woods will play - but he might not play well.

Will Tiger Woods make the cut? Yes +100

This number opened at +110 and has come down modestly, showing some optimism among the public that Woods can make it to the weekend. Keep in mind the Masters field is only 91 players, but they also use an unconventional cut line: only the top 50 + ties after 36 holes will keep playing. Woods has missed the tournament in recent years because of injury, but usually when he tees it up it’s because he feels in good shape: his lone missed cut in 23 prior Masters appearances came back in 1996, when he shot rounds of 75-75 as an amateur one year before winning his first green jacket in record fashion.

Tiger Woods Round 1 score: O/U 75.5

The general sentiment this week is that Woods’ biggest challenge isn’t his game, it’s his injured right leg and how well his body can handle the wildly undulating walk at Augusta National. The fact that he showed up to Sunday’s practice session wearing a new (to him) FootJoy shoe shows how much thought is going into how he will handle the walk. With his last competitive strokes nearly 18 months ago, this number offers some margin for potential rust. Woods usually doesn’t start quickly at Augusta National, but he doesn’t stumble out of the gates, either: the last (and only) time he failed to break 75 in the opening round was back in 2003, when he started with a 76 and bounced back to finish T-15.

Tiger Woods finishing position: O/U 60.5

Considering the Masters’ unique cut-line rule outlined above, there’s a good chance 60 or fewer players even make the cut. So this feels somewhat similar to the question of whether he’ll play the weekend.

But of the three props, I feel the Thursday O/U most accurately reflects expectations: I could see him carving out a score in the low 70s as he looks to get his feet under him, both literally and figuratively. But each of the last two times this tournament was held in April (2019 and 2021), the cut line fell at +3. That means that if Woods comes close to (or goes over) the 75.5 benchmark, he’ll likely have to break par Friday to have a chance at making the cut.

That feels ambitious, and the mix of numbers on display shows that there is great faith among the betting community that Woods will tee it up this week. The pessimism comes in when folks look to predict how he’ll do from there.

The fact that we’re even talking about Woods playing in this event, ever again let alone this year, is remarkable. He continues to defy expectations. And while he cherishes this tournament like no other, the course and topography will present some unique challenges that will make it a more difficult spot to launch his comeback than, say, the flat terrain of St. Andrews at The Open this summer.

The physical wear on his body will likely get more pronounced as the week goes on, and there is a case to be made for fading Woods in head-to-head matchups over the weekend if he makes the cut. But the historical precedent shows that, if Woods feels he can compete, it’s because he likes his chances. He’s not going to show up for a ceremonial shot, or to shoot a pair of 80s and go home. If he’s as close to a comeback as it seems, then there’s reason to believe he’ll be able to salvage a score around a venue he knows better than any other. The Under 75.5 on his opening-round score, particularly if he draws an afternoon tee time that would give his body more time to warm up, seems particularly appealing.

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