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Timid Tiger eclipsed by roaring Tom!
While bookmakers celebrated Tiger's return to competitive golf with a slew of offers destined only to line their pockets this Christmas, the serious money here is on Tom Lewis making the 2012 Ryder Cup side

A golfer who hadn’t made a cut since the Masters was sent off a heavily-backed favourite for the run-of-the-mill Frys.com Open in California and never sighted with a chance, eventually being beaten by ten shots by two men who had never won a tournament between them in 478 attempts.

Yes, it could only be Tiger Woods, couldn’t it, gambled on from 8-1 to 5-1 for yet another comeback and once again letting his army of gullible supporters down badly.

Backing him had been pure guesswork based on reports that he had shot a 62 at his new Florida club. So what? Greg Norman and Jesper Parnevik, neither of them serious golfers these days, had apparently shot 64s the same day, so punters got exactly what they deserved – a share of 30th place – because nothing that the former world No. 1 had done, apart from one brief nine-hole flourish on the final day of the Masters, suggested he was a winner waiting to happen.

Even on that Sunday afternoon at Augusta, this Tiger-turnedpussycat played the final nine holes like a golfer getting into contention for the first time in a major rather than one who had been there, done it and got the T-shirt 14 times. So, physical problems aside, we are not even sure he still has the nerve to win a golf tournament of any consequence.

Yet there he was, at the Frys, 20 points shorter than the second favourite, Kevin Na, who had won in Las Vegas the weekend before, and 25 points shorter than Paul Casey, ranked 31 places above him in the world after beating a decent field, including K.J. Choi and K-T Kim, two world top-25 golfers, in Korea a few days earlier.

Tiger Woods was widely fancied to win the Frys.com tournament but why on earth would anyone logically back a man who is so definitely past his best?
(Photo: Getty Images)

The public’s blind faith in the once-great Woods is touching but in ten outings this year his form figures read: 44th at Torrey Pines (a course he had previously owned), 20th in Dubai, out in round one of the Accenture Match Play, 10th at Doral, 24th at Bay Hill, 4th at Augusta, withdrew during round one of the Players Championship, 37th at Firestone, missed the cut at the USPGA Championship and 30th at the Frys – not even a big fry among small fries.

With just two opportunities left to right the ship, the Australian Open and his own charity tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, 2011 looks in serious danger of being a total write-off but that hasn’t stopped the bookmakers making hay. Tiger has always been an industry in his own right and for the Frys, Victor Chandler not only had an outright price for him, initally 8-1, but also offered 4-1 that TW missed the cut, 25-1 he led wire-to-wire, 10-1 that he withdrew, 14-1 that he was first-round leader and even 100-1 that he sacked his new caddie, Joe LaCava, by the end of the week! The bookies, of course, kept the lot.

It had been the acquisition of a new caddie following the sacking of egomaniac Steve Williams – combined with the news of that 62 in practice and smoke signals that coach Sean Foley’s messages were finally getting through to Tiger’s confused braincells – which had prompted the Frys punt, but there was little in his performance to change his odds of 12-1 for next year’s Masters, for which he is second favourite behind the 9-1 favourite, Rory McIlroy.

William Hill will lay you 5-2 that Tiger gets to win the five majors he needs to crack Jack Nicklaus’s record and will allow the bet to run until TW’s 50th birthday, so you could have a long wait!

More immediately and with so many players, young and old, switching to the belly putter (and Tiger so elephantine with the traditional one), Ladbrokes are offering 8-1 that he uses the clumsier model at any stage in 2012, which sounds pretty good value. As for the 10-1 on offer that he finishes next year as world No.1? Well, I’ll leave that one to you.

Time to turn our attention away from a player definitely past his best to one just realising the enormity of his potential: Tom Lewis. The 20-year-old’s third-time-out victory at 100-1 in the Portugal Masters at Oceanico Victoria prompted an 8-1 quote from Coral to make next year’s Ryder Cup squad and 16-1 that he becomes world No. 1 before his 25th birthday.

That’s more tempting than Bet 365’s 25-1 that the Welwyn Garden City prodigy wins a major in 2012, while the even-money with both those firms that the lad wins on the 2012 European Tour will surely find shedloads of takers. He’s also 33-1 with Coral to win next year’s Race To Dubai.

Finally, huge congratulations to the ladies of Europe, heavy 5-2 underdogs to regain the Solheim Cup. Let’s hope their sensational backs-to-the-wall achievement is recognised with Team of the Year gong at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Alison Nicholas & Co deserve it.

November 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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