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Does Vegas Think Jordan Spieth Can Capture Golf's Grand Slam?

July 16, 2015

As spectacular as American Pharoah's Triple Crown victory in horse racing was this year, far more extraordinary would be a successful completion of golf's modern Grand Slam.

Texan Jordan Spieth, 21,  the winner of this year's Masters and U.S. Open, has that opportunity when he tees off in The Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews Links July 16-19.

Golf's Grand Slam would amount to winning the four modern major tournaments, the Masters, the U.S. Open, The Open (aka the British Open) and the PGA Championship.

So, how tough is it?

Well, the modern Grand Slam has never been done.

In 1930, the immortal Bobby Jones completed what was then the equivalent of a Grand Slam, winning the U.S. Open, The (British) Open, the U.S. Amateur and The (British) Amateur.

Tiger Woods, when he was a force of nature in golf, accomplished what is called the "Tiger Slam" during 2000-01, winning the four majors consecutively but spanned two calendar years. Woods won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship in 2000 and then the Masters in 2001. Woods won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2002, but he finished six strokes off the pace during the 2002 British Open. 

Arnold Palmer won the first two legs in 1960, and Jack Nicklaus did it in 1972, but both lost the British Open by a stroke.

Now, it's Spieth's turn to take a shot at one of sport's most elusive achievements, and the Vegas odds simply don't seem to do justice to the enormity of the Grand Slam challenge.

The odds at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook on a Spieth Grand Slam are 25-1. Those odds are in line with what online books are also listing. After Spieth won the Masters, you could have gotten him at 150-1 for the Grand Slam.

The prospect of Spieth winning the modern Slam hasn't exactly terrified the sports books, either -- their exposure is minimal. 

"I think we have 12 tickets written on it, and it's pretty small stuff," Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook operator Jay Kornegay said. "We'll probably lose more money on the Seattle Mariners tonight."

So far, Spieth has not generated the wagering excitement that Woods did when he was riding roughshod over the PGA tour, and although the man in red has struggled mightily lately, he still has his followers.

"There's still some Tiger love out there," Kornegay said, referring to bettors who keep wagering on Woods. "It's kind of like the guy at the roulette wheel betting on red, and the black comes up seven times in a row. When the red finally comes up, he says, ‘See, I told you so.'"

For The Open, Spieth is the favorite at 9-2 at the Westgate SuperBook, as of July 6. Kornegay said the most betting tickets have been written on South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, who won The Open when it was held at St. Andrews in 2010.

Former Raven Trent Dilfer A Celebrity Golf Favorite

Former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer, who helped lead the Baltimore Ravens to their Super Bowl XXXV victory, is one of the short-odds favorites in a nationally-televised celebrity golf tournament being held in July, the American Century Championship at Lake South Tahoe, Nev. The 54-hole event will be televised live on NBC Sports Network July 17 and NBC July 18-19.

Dilfer, who has been a scratch golfer, is listed at 12-1, just ahead of another Super Bowl-winning quarterback, John Elway, who is 15-1.

A regular in the prestigious celebrity event, Dilfer has had chances to win the tournament throughout the years.

"There are times when I've played well, and other guys just played better," Dilfer said. "Then, there have been times when I played well early, and then I didn't finish. The funny thing is that I believe that putting is the best part of my game, and yet I have not had a great putting tournament, so I'm waiting for that to happen."

At the top of the odds listed at Harrah's and Harvey's Race & Sports Book is another former Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Mark Rypien, at 5-1. Rypien has won the event twice. 

Also in the celebrity golf field is former Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar (100-1), and the longest of long shots is the always entertaining Charles Barkley at 5,000-1.

Daily Fantasy Sports Capitalizing On Golf

While there may not be a bonanza awaiting those who wager on Spieth in Las Vegas to win golf's Grand Slam, there is a huge jackpot up for grabs for daily fantasy sports players in the DraftKings' Millionaire Maker fantasy golf tournament for The Open.

For those who are unfamiliar, in daily fantasy sports, participants select players on a fictitious team and accumulate points based on their performance. There are daily fantasy sports websites (DraftKings is one) where you wager real money to compete against other folks to win cash prizes. It all happens on the Internet, and, yes, it's legal.

For The Open, DraftKings is offering a contest that will award $3 million in total prizes, and the winner will get a minimum of $1 million. The website is accepting a maximum of 171,750 entries at $20 each.

The website offered million dollar contests for both the Masters and U.S. Open. When a policeman from a small town in upstate Pennsylvania won $1 million on DraftKings playing in the Masters Millionaire Maker, it was more money than any golfer made in the actual Masters other than Spieth.

Brett Marino, a policeman in Phillipsburg, Pa., entered a satellite tournament for $5, won a $27 entry into the Millionaire Maker tournament, and then he won the big tournament for the million dollars. 

If the popularity of daily fantasy golf continues to grow, it has been speculated that by 2016, the daily fantasy tournament winners will make more money than the real winners of golf's major tournaments. Of course, remember that the field for the DraftKings Millionaire Maker is more than 170,000 strong, so that's a little bit of competition.

Issue 211: July 2015