Golf and gambling. Gambling and golf. The two go together as readily as Calcutta and India, or Nassau and the Bahamas.
But betting on a major golf tournament, whether it be in Las Vegas' Stardust Hotel or with one of the local entrepreneurs on the National course, is no bargain. Jack Nicklaus is 5-2, both places, to win the 42nd Masters. He should be 7-2, minimum.
All the prices are criminally short. Tom Watson is 4-1, Hubie Green and Tom Weiskopf 5-1, Hale Irwin 6-1. Then there's my man. Ben Crenshaw, at 8-1. He should be 10-1. What's bettor to do? I look it.
Crenshaw is going to win a Masters one of these springs. His game is made for Augusta, particularly his putting stroke. There are greens here the updulate almost as madly as my mattress at the Alamo-Plaza Motel.
Hit your wood or long iron to the wrong side side of National's No. 4 green a par-three, and it can be 80 feet to the cup. And you better bounce your approach shot into the fifth green, onto the upper level - where the pin is always placed - or it's Three-Putt Territory. A large hump that runs across the front of the 14th green again puts a great premium on putting skills.
Crenshaw can handle the putting problems. And he drives long enough. Whether he can keep his drives in the wide-open spaces of the National fairways is something else. He spent so much time in the woods during the first round of the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, S.C., two weeks ago he chopped up a pair of sevens, a double bogey and a triple bogey.
The fairways here are much more inviting, however, and the penalty for going slightly off target is much less severe. Crenshaw and Watson were tied for the lead after the third round last year, at 209, only to see Watson win with a closing 67 while Crenshaw had the same numbers, in reverse.
One reason for backing Crenshaw is the resilience. He is an excellent scrambler who doesn't quit. After the opening 77 at Hilton Head, he came back to pay 2 1/2 brilliant rounds before fading slightly over the final holes.
The quality of that performance at Harbour Town was not reflected in the 72-hole totals.
A bettor who caught Green's closing act at Sawgress three weeks ago should have been alerted to his Heritage victory. He put together 71-71 when nearly everyone else was shooting into the stratosphere. Green has played well this season and has a big chance for his first Masters, but his price is unconscionable.
Two longshots capable of providing an upset are the Grahams, Lou and Dave, each at 15-1. I'd love to book Arnold Palmer's 20-1 myself.
The "saver," naturally, is Nicklaus. He has looked so good in the practice rounds, and on the tour in Florida, that 5-2 on him is a better break in the odds that the numbers on most of the others.
"Crenshaw's time will come," Nicklaus said the other day. "Ben will win this tournament, and he'll probably win it more than once."
But that doesn't sound like Nicklaus intends for Crenshaw to win it this year, does it?
"I'm confident I can," Crenshaw said. "Last year's final round tore a pretty big hole in me. The thing is, I've learned from that experience. If I get in the same position, I'll handle it better."
Make it Crenshaw for the profit, the Grahams lightly, and enough on Nicklaus to cover the over-head. If anyone else wins, I went that-a-way.