Tiger Woods is back just in time for the 2014 British Open, which has thrown the odds department for a loop.
As if the current crop of the sport's best were not confusing enough, especially after Martin Kaymer's absolute dissection of the field at the U.S. Open—he was 40-1 odds to win it, per Odds Shark—Woods' return from injury makes for a doomsday scenario for bettors.
What Woods' name does do, though, is breathe life back into a hopeless sport that was floundering in his absence. Regardless of how he performs, ratings skyrocket, which is nothing but a good thing in order to get more eyeballs on the sport and its next generation of stars.
As Golf.com notes, Woods' absence left a recent major is disarray:
But we're here for odds, and Woods is right in the thick of things, at least in the minds of oddsmakers. Let's find out why, plus look at a few other top names.
Top 2014 British Open Odds
Note: Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider, which contains odds for the entire field.
Jordan Spieth 30-1
It has been quite the year for 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who enters the 2014 British Open a few days out from his birthday and with the ammunition and experience to take down the field.
Last year at Muirfield was Spieth's first taste of the event and his debut round of 69 raised more than a few eyebrows around the globe. A hot start, to be sure, but Spieth eventually succumbed to the course and wound up tied for 44th place.
Since, Spieth has been on a tear and cracked the top 10, with only Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy having accomplished the feat faster. He played in the final group at the Masters this year and also shared the 54-hole at The Players Championship.
Even Spieth admits how far he has come in just one year, as captured by The Associated Press, via Fox News:
"It feels like time flies," Spieth said. "But if you look back, even Kapalua feels like a long time ago. It feels like I've been on tour for four years now."
Spieth has odds that pay well and recent history and momentum, while a small sample size, seem to be in his favor. There are surely much worse gambles bettors could take in the neighborhood of these odds.
Adam Scott 12-1
It seems there is no stopping the No. 1 player in the world, hence his top odds going into the tournament this Thursday.
Scott has reduced his schedule this year to focus on the big ones after a major-winning 2013 campaign, something that has obviously worked with his ninth-place finish at the U.S. Open being his sixth top-10 performance of the season.
Want recent history? Scott has that as well, finishing in second and tied for third in the past two years, respectively. Even better, the course this year is also to his liking, as Todd Lewis of Golf Channel notes:
Scott cannot be expected to match someone like Woods in his prime, who simply ran roughshod over the field for years at a time, but a smooth upward trajectory of his current form is not all that out of the question.
He seems due for a career-defining win, and it may very well come this weekend.
Tiger Woods 15-1
This version of Woods, despite having not won the tournament since 2006 and no majors to his name in the past six years (his last win came at the 2008 U.S. Open), remains a top favorite in the eyes of oddsmakers.
But there is reason to believe Woods is worth the investment, albeit it's a slimmer of a hope at best.
Last time Woods was at Hoylake in 2006 happens to be his last tournament triumph. The return to familiar stomping grounds has him cautiously optimistic, as captured by USA Today's Steve DiMeglio:
"It felt good," Woods said Saturday about being back. "I remember most of the holes, which was nice. … There really weren't (any emotions). I just wanted to get out here and get a feel for the golf course. Yesterday we were in Geneva for a Rolex outing. Today I just wanted to get out here and get my feet wet."
"Cautiously optimistic" is the operative approach for bettors. Woods missed the Saturday cut in his first tournament back from surgery at the Quicken Loans Invitational, and before the injury had registered a tie for 80th in the Farmers Insurance Open, an early exit at the Honda Classic and a tie for 25th in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
There are also some disparaging words from former coach Hank Haney concerning the No. 7 player in the world to take into account, per an interview with The Scotsman, via Farrell Evans of ESPN.com:
That he isn't going to play competitively in the two weeks running up to the Open speaks to the fact that he doesn't care as much as he used to. Still, you can't win if you don't enter. Maybe he will catch lightning in a bottle. But I really think he is using the Open to get ready for the PGA at Valhalla next month. That's a much more realistic target for him.
Most of the above sounds bleak, but is anyone willing to be against Woods? If he's healthy, the line makes sense and really, it's not a horrific payout for those willing to take the risk.