Tiger Woods returns to the Masters – is he worth betting on?

Tiger Woods returned to the Masters on Thursday and the golfing world held its collective breath. Would this be an inspiring tale of survival and recovery or would it be an embarrassing spectacle, like a fading pageant queen refusing to give up the sash and tiara?

He was once the darling of the golf world, breaking barriers and inspiring young athletes to pursue their dreams. He spent the 1990s and early 2000s breaking records and setting new ones, while earning a reputation as one of the greatest golfers ever. His sponsorship earnings reflected his fame.

But in 2009, his personal troubles began to eclipse his success on the course. Since then, his career has faltered. Most assumed that his 2021 accident would provide him with an excuse to retire, without us having to witness a further decline in his abilities.

Yet here he is, playing at the Masters and working his hardest for personal and professional redemption. If you’re interested in betting on golf, you’re probably wondering if he’s a safe bet. He is still Tiger Woods, after all.

Betting on golf may not yet be as popular as betting on the NFL or MLB, but with the way the PGA tour is structured – golf is actually an ideal betting sport. The real question of the day, though, remains whether Tiger Woods is worth betting on. We’ll give a brief history of his career and then look closely at his current performance to try to answer that question.

Early years

By the time he turned pro at the age of 20, Tiger Woods had already been on golf fans’ radars for a few years. He was immediately signed to deals with Nike and Titleist, and in that first year was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

A brief look at Tiger Woods’ record is enough to justify his place in the World Golf Hall of Fame and his reputation as one of the all-time greats. He has won the Masters Tournament five times, the PGA Championship four times, and has won both the US Open and The Open Championship on three occasions. 

Even these numbers don’t tell the full story. Woods has also won 82 PGA Tour events and 41 European Tour events, as well as numerous events in Japan and Australasia. He was so dominant for a while that courses tried ways to “Tiger-proof” the course by adding more yardage. It didn’t seem to slow him down.

Shaken by scandal 

In 2009, it came to light that Tiger Woods’ spotless reputation on the course was not reflected in his behavior off the course. He was accused of having affairs with numerous women, and his marriage fell apart.

The scandal played out in both the tabloids and the newspapers. Many of Woods’ sponsors were no longer comfortable being associated with him and ended their relationships. It was a painfully public event that caused him to withdraw from golfing for the remainder of the year.

Accident and recovery

In February of 2021, Tiger Woods was in a serious roll-over accident. There were no other cars involved. Due to Woods’ history with reckless driving and substance abuse, police initially suspected he had been driving under the influence but it transpired that he was simply being reckless and driving at twice the speed limit.

Woods suffered severe injuries to his leg, including compound fractures of both his right tibia and fibula. His ankle was also shattered. Doctors were unsure at the time if he would ever be able to walk again, and the possibility of him playing golf again seemed nonexistent.

His competitive spirit, coupled with experience at rehabbing injuries and the highest quality medical care and support has meant that in just over a year, Woods has been able to make a stunning recovery. His mild limp is the only visible reminder to fans of what he has been through.

The Masters

Tiger Woods’ first three rounds at Augusta National have been described as “a rollercoaster”. He played well enough to make the cut on Friday but has already fallen far enough behind the current leaders that he is unlikely to be able to catch up and be a contender.

The unseasonably cold weather may have chilled golfer and spectators alike, but it couldn’t cool the affection the crowd obviously felt for the limping former champion. His birdies on the 12th and 13th holes were celebrated with cheers by the audience, which seemed to cheer Woods up.

The lowest point of the weekend was the fifth hole. Woods ended up putting four times before getting a double bogey. This is only the second four putt of his entire career. He shrugged somewhat apologetically as he retrieved his ball, as if he wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, either.

Part of the problem may have been the cold. Woods has a number of plates, rods and screws in his back and leg as a result of the crash, and the cold makes it harder for him to move comfortably. Perhaps once we see him play in warmer weather it will be easier to judge if he’s really ready to return to playing.

This all brings us back to our initial question. In upcoming legs of the PGA Tour, will Tiger Woods be worth betting on? Unfortunately, the answer is that it is too early to tell. 

There were too many factors at play in Augusta. There was the weather and the wind. The strain of his first competitive match. There were the fans, who, while supportive, put a lot of pressure on Woods. And there was the weight of his own expectations for himself. 

Our best guess is that the first few events will either give Woods the renewed confidence to play like the champion he is or they will give him the cruel proof he needed that it is time to wave goodbye once more before passing the crown to the next star.

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