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Original Issue

Odds and Ends Laura Davies's bet prompted us to ask, what are the chances of...

When the news broke two weeks ago that Laura Davies had wagered
100 [pounds] at 66-to-1 odds that LPGA rookie Se Ri Pak would
win the season-opening HealthSouth Inaugural, we were outraged.
Why hadn't we thought of making that bet? Pak finished tied for
13th, and Davies almost looked like a genius. So, in the
interest of public service and earning some spare coin, we got
in touch with the lads at Ladbrokes, Davies's betting house of
choice in England, and asked them to peer into their crystal
ball and lay odds on a number of 1998's burning questions. These
included Tiger Woods's chances of repeating at Augusta, and who
was more likely to win his first major, Phil Mickelson or Colin
Montgomerie? The answers were more enlightening than you might

Last year Ladbrokes did 1.65 billion [pounds] in business, of
which it says about 1% was golf-related. This doesn't sound like
much until you pull out a calculator and figure out that that's
nearly $28 million. Not only is Ladbrokes big, but the company
is also accommodating. Davies, who's more partial to betting on
soccer and greyhound racing, had phoned Ladbrokes asking for a
special quote on Pak. The request was tame compared with some of
the off-the-wall propositions that come in, says Andy Clifton,
Ladbrokes's director of public relations. "There are only three
things we don't bet," he says. "The first is the national
lottery, because we're not allowed to, although we do a brisk
business on the Irish lottery. We don't bet on anything that has
to do with the royal family. We wouldn't want to upset them,
especially lately. And we won't bet on anything that's negative
or in poor taste." Unfortunately this last bit eliminated many
of our questions.

According to Ladbrokes, Woods's chances of winning a second
straight Masters are 5 to 1, and the likelihood of his taking
the Grand Slam is a pie-in-the-sky 250 to 1. Monty and Mickelson
are both 3 to 1 to get off the schneid in the majors. Woods is
10 to 1 to shoot a 59 this season, while it's 5 to 1 that any
PGA Tour player will. Gil Morgan is 2 to 1 to break the Senior
tour's record of nine wins in a season, while Gary McCord is 20
to 1 to win any tournament. The odds are 8 to 1 that Nancy Lopez
will win that elusive U.S. Open title, and 6 to 1 that Pak, a
20-year-old South Korean, will win an LPGA event in '98 (though
it's 16 to 1 she'll win one before Davies does). Just about the
only thing in golf that Ladbrokes isn't taking bets on is the
outcome of Casey Martin's court case. "We don't want anyone
rooting against him," says Clifton.

A 32-year-old native of Surrey, Clifton is responsible for
setting many of the golf odds in his dual role as one of
Ladbrokes's deputy odds compilers. He is a surprisingly
hard-core fan of all the U.S. golf tours, which, he
acknowledges, has more to do with timing than anything else.
"Because of the time change, your tournaments come on here at 8
or 9 p.m., which makes American golf a lovely way to spend an
evening," he says. Clifton has a sense of humor that comes from
a lifetime of watching Benny Hill. He says that Jim Furyk is 1
to 2 to make an instructional video, "but it's 50 to 1 to become
a best-seller." Asked who is more likely to make the cut at
Pebble Beach, Jack Lemmon or Earl Woods, he says, "My god, man,
even the British know Jack Lemmon hasn't a prayer."

Clifton doesn't let his prejudices show on Ladbrokes's big
board. National hero Nick Faldo is only 16 to 1 to win his
fourth British Open, the identical odds of Greg Norman's winning
his third claret jug. Faldo is also 16 to 1 to be named captain
of the next European Ryder Cup team, far behind favorites Mark
James (5 to 4) and Sam Torrance (5 to 2). In this year's two big
international scrums the European women are 4-to-1 underdogs at
the Solheim Cup and the Internationals are 7 to 4 to take the
Presidents Cup.

The longest odds Ladbrokes will quote are for Ian Baker-Finch to
unretire and win the Masters (2,000 to 1), which makes Jack
Nicklaus look like a cinch at 125 to 1. Indicative of which way
the wind is blowing, Nicklaus is 12 to 1 to retire at year's end.

Ladbrokes lists supernova-in-waiting Lee Westwood at 20 to 1 to
win the British Open, while Norman is a 14-to-1 shot to finally
find absolution at Augusta. Perhaps to curry favor with the golf
gods, Ladbrokes has Arnold Palmer at 33 to 1 to win a Senior
tour event.

Finally, we asked what the chances are of Davies's coming out
ahead on all her bets this year. One friendly oddsmaker across
the pond faxed back an answer that can only be viewed as wishful
thinking: "Give her my number," he scribbled, "and I'll open a
credit account for her!"