SPORTS BETTING: Woods' price may be at first-year peak

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The Independent Online
If any further evidence were needed of the impact Tiger Woods has made during his brief spell on the professional tour, it must his presence at the head of most bookies' lists for the US Masters, which starts at Augusta National on Thursday. Both Stanley Leisure and Coral have the 21-year-old out on his own, ahead even of Nick Faldo, the defending champion, and other previous Major winners such as Tom Lehman, Greg Norman and Steve Elkington.

Since Woods has exceeded expectations at every stage of his nascent career it would be no surprise to see him triumph on Sunday. Indeed, it might be argued that he may never again be available at odds as large as the 14-1 put up by Hills for any of the Majors, and at that price, Woods must figure in any choice of three players against the field.

One well-fancied player who does not, though, is Colin Montgomerie, whose failure to deliver in the most important tournaments has cost punters a small fortune in recent years. Faldo is difficult to ignore, but his form is a little disappointing, and backers may prefer to take a chance on Elkington, who is in the form of his life, at 20-1, and, more speculatively, Loren Roberts, at 40-1.

An outstanding week also sees Liverpool and Manchester United playing European semi-finals, while the semi's of the FA Cup will grab the attention on Sunday. David May should return in United's defence for their match against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday and in what should be a very tight game over the two legs, United should scrape a draw at odds of around 11-5.

US MASTERS (latest odds, subject to fluctuation): 14-1 Woods (H), Faldo (H); 16-1 Mickleson (C, S), Couples (H, S), Lehman (C,H), Norman (H); 20-1 Montgomerie (C,H,S), Els (H), Elkington (C, H, S); 25-1 O'Meara (C, S); 33-1 Hoch (C, S), Love III (S), Jones (C, S), Olazabal (H); 40-1 Langer (H), Janzen (C, H, S), Roberts (C, H, S), Singh (H, S); 50-1 Stadler (H,S); 66-1 bar.

FA CUP (Ladbrokes): 6-4 Middlesbrough, Chelsea; 5-2 Wimbledon; 20-1 Chesterfield.

CHAMPIONS' CUP (Ladbrokes): 6-4 Juventus; 5-2 Manchester Utd; 4-1 Borussia Dortmund; 9-2 Ajax.

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