SPORTS BETTING: Bookies looking nervously at Tiger

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The Independent Online
Bookmakers love nothing more than to offer odds about what they believe to be an impossibility and find plenty of punters willing to snap them up. For this reason alone it would be wonderful to see Tiger Woods win the US Open and thereby move halfway towards the Grand Slam. Woods has been backed to win all four of the major tournaments at all rates from 500-1 - before his runaway victory in the Masters - down to as short as 14-1 this morning. While it is still almost unthinkable that he might succeed, another step along the road would make plenty of bookies very nervous.

Woods was tipped in this column at 14-1 to win the Masters, but it may be many years before the Tiger is again available at such a price. Ladbrokes and Coral, at 5-1, are the most generous of the big high-street layers, while the Tote offer just 3-1 against him, but even these poor rates of return are unlikely to deter backers from playing up their Augusta winnings.

It is hard to get away from Woods as one for the short-list at 5-1, but in such a competitive field, and with such a hot favourite, there must also be some value further down the list. Europeans, even those like Nick Faldo who base themselves in the States, have a dreadful record in this event, and both he and Colin Montgomerie, a perennial failure in the majors, are easily ignored.

Last year's winner, Steve Jones, started the week at three-figure odds, while several other winners have been almost impossible to predict, so bets are best kept to a minimum. But two players who appeal at healthy odds are Loren Roberts and Paul Stankowski. Roberts (50-1, Hills) put together three consistent rounds to be well placed going into the final round of the Kemper Open last night, while Stankowski (33-1, Coral/Hills), whose promise has been overlooked in the hubbub surrounding Woods, may be ready to emerge from Tiger's shadow.

Pete Sampras may have failed yet again to complete the set of Grand Slam events in the French Open, but he is a firm favourite with Ladbrokes for Wimbledon. Boris Becker, is 6-1 second favourite, with Tim Henman 33- 1.

US OPEN (Congressional Country Club, starts Thursday): 5-1 Woods (Coral, Ladbroke's), 14-1 Norman (Tote), 16-1 Price (Hill's, T, L), 20-1 Faldo (T), Montgomerie (H, T, L), Lehman (T, C), 25-1 Mickelson (H, L), 33-1 Els (L), Elkington (L), Olazabal (H, T), Woosnam (T, C), Faxon (C, H, T), O'Meara (C), 40-1 bar.

WIMBLEDON (Ladbrokes): Men's singles: 5-4 Sampras, 6-1 Becker, 7-1 Krajicek, 8-1 Ivanisevic, 16-1 Philippoussis, 20-1 Kafelnikov, Rafter, 33-1 Henman, Chang, Enqvist, Martin, Stich, 40-1 bar. Women's singles: 6-4 Hingis, Graf, 6-1 Seles, 16-1 Novotna, 20-1 Majoli, 25-1 Davenport, Sanchez-Vicario, Pierce, 33-1 bar.

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