Reuters - Tue, 16 Mar 20:24:00 2010
He has not hit a ball in competition since November, but Tiger Woods has been made a red-hot favourite to win next month's US Masters, the venue for his golf comeback after a media storm engulfed his private life.
British bookmakers William Hill installed the world number one as 4-1 favourite to win a fifth Green Jacket at Augusta.
Fellow American Phil Mickelson stood as 6-1 second favourite.
"Rule number one in golf betting is 'Never underestimate Tiger Woods'," William Hill's Rupert Adams said.
"When Tiger hurt his knee we greatly underestimated his ability to come back from a long layoff and we lost a lot of money," Adams said of Woods.
Woods won the 2008 US Open having torn ligaments in his left knee 11 months earlier and having suffered a double stress fracture in his left shinbone two weeks before the tournament.
"We are not underestimating him this time around," Adams said.
Woods announced on Tuesday that he would be ending his self-imposed exile from golf at Augusta.
A freak car accident near his Florida home in November prompted revelations about his private life which forced him into a programme of therapy.
Woods, winner of 14 major titles, has not played competitively since the Australian Masters in November.
William Hill said Woods was a 6-4 chance to win one of golf's four major titles this season, 4-1 to land two and 25-1 to complete the calendar grand slam of the US Masters, US Open, The Open and US PGA.
"You never bet against him," former US Open champion Jim Furyk told the Golf Channel.
"In the last 22 months, he's played, what, 15 events? He seems to be able to take a bunch of time off and pop right up there and be the same old guy.
"Not many players, no-one that I know of, are actually capable of that. But he does it well."