The PGA Tour continues the Florida swing with a trip to Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This is a big event with a lot of big names, serving as the final stocked field until the Masters in three weeks. The headliner is of course Tiger Woods who is making his third straight appearance at Bay Hill. Last year, he picked up his first win on the PGA Tour since September 2009 and it was his seventh career victory at Bay Hill.
Bay Hill's last significant upgrade came 21 years ago, when four holes were changed, but four years ago, it was a full overhaul. Despite being raised from a Par 70 to a Par 72, the added yardage increased the cumulative scoring average. Bay Hill was third highest in difficulty of all Par 72 non-majors three years ago and second highest in difficulty in 2011. Last year, it was third in difficulty once again, so experience here is one of the biggest factors in success.
Bay Hill played as a Par 70 of over 7,100 yards for three straight years from 2007 to 2009. It was the most difficult track of any non-major course in 2009, playing at +2.19 strokes to par. Three years ago, it played at +0.89 strokes over par and two years ago it played +1.20 strokes over par. Last year, it was +1.17 strokes over par. In five of the last eight years, Bay Hill has played to at least one shot over par and it has been ranked 11th or higher in difficulty nine times since 2000.
Tiger Woods (+275) comes in as the favorite and for good reason. He has won this event seven times, is the all-time money leader and he looks to be regaining his form. Last year when he won, he was coming in with three Top 20s in four starts but this year he has already won twice which makes him even more dangerous this time around.
Justin Rose (+1,500) is one of nine players that have finished in the Top 25 here in the last two years and one of six to fall into the Top 15 each time. He followed up a T3 in 2011 with a T15 last year and he continues his torrid run, as his T8 in his last start at the Cadillac made it 12 straight Top-25 finishes. He has three wins in the U.S. on the PGA Tour and is ready for his next since winning at Doral last year.
Graeme McDowell (+2,500) was the one player thought to be able to catch Woods at Doral two weeks ago but a Sunday 72 left him with a T3, five shots back. The same happened here last year, as McDowell went into the final round one shot back but again faded Sunday. He is playing excellent this year as he also has a T9 at the Honda and a quarterfinal loss at the Accenture.
Ian Poulter (+3,000) has played a limited schedule but he has been successful as he opened the season with a T9 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, followed that up with a loss in the semis at the Accenture Match play and then a bad weekend led to a T28 at the Cadillac. He finished solo third at Bay Hill a year ago which came after T12 in 2011. Living is Florida is also a bonus on the Bermuda greens.
Jim Furyk (+4,000) is one of only two players (Brian Davis the other) that have finished in the Top 25 here in each of the last three years. He has two T11 finishes and a T9 in 2011. He is coming off his best finish of the year at Tampa Bay last week, where he was T7. He has not finished worse than T35 so he has been playing well. Experience is key here and he has lots of it.
There are many long shots in the field that can make a case for including Charles Howell III (+5,000). He has cooled off since opening the season with three straight Top 10s but has missed only one cut and has been inside the Top 30 in each of his last three starts, including a T12 at the Cadillac. He has a T21 and a T20 at Bay Hill in two of the last three years and he was not playing nearly as good then as he is now.Recommended tournament win six pack at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (all for one unit)
Tiger Woods (+275)
Justin Rose (+1,500)
Graeme McDowell (+2,500)
Ian Poulter (+3,000)
Jim Furyk (+4,000)
Charles Howell III (+5,000)
2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date after 10 events: +8.16 Units
Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge - 5 Units
Farmer Insurance Open +3.5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open +19 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship +25.66 units
The Honda Classic -5 Units
WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units
Tampa Bay Championship -5 Units