Arnold Palmer Invitational
By Lewis Pacelli
This week The PGA Tour embarks upon one of the most historic tournaments in world golf. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is a favourite among fans and pros, with the course providing an incredibly tough test ahead of The Masters, just a few weeks away.
And we must mention that we will be blessed by the return of Brandt Snedeker, who has fully recovered from injury and it is going to be more than interesting seeing how one of our favourites for that Masters crown can play this week.
Please check out our Masters 2013 preview
Bay Hill Golf Course is widely considered one of the toughest non-major tracks and just like last week at Copperhead, it will demand a variety of attributes from the players if they want to challenge. Playing at 7,419 yards, it will favour long hitters, who can attack the four par 5’s, however if you are not accurate off the tee as well, you can kiss goodbye to any potential high finish. The thick Bermuda rough will cause havoc with the players if they miss the fairway and therefore birdies, let alone pars, will be difficult to find. As if that isn’t enough, the greens are a real challenge to hit and finding them requires exquisite and accurate iron play, whilst the putting once you get there will be similar to last week – complicated. Taking all this into account, we feel the key stats are proximity to the hole, GIR, driving distance and accuracy and even scrambling for when the going gets tough.
If you want to see how tight and long the course really is, check out the official Bay Hill page, where you can take a tour of each hole.
What will also be very key is the small factor of world number 2 Tiger Woods. He has started 4 tournaments this year and won 2, he has won this tournament 7 times, he is currently a combined total of 108 under par over 15 attempts here and perhaps even more importantly, he has a new lady on the scene. US skier Lindsay Vonn was rumoured to be ‘close’ to Tiger, but it is now official after revealing their relationship via Facebook. Basically Tiger has got his mojo back.
These 3 factors added together are a lethal combination to an already phenomenal force, who is simply playing outstanding golf at the moment. Oh and one more thing, if he wins this week, he will be back to the number 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time in 29 months…
Graeme McDowell (25/1 Ladbrokes and w/o Woods 18/1 Bet365)
Before previewing our selections, we would like to say Tiger looks unstoppable at the moment and there is a market without him, if you wish to ignore the man completely, however there is obviously more value and better place (StanJames and PaddyPower are paying 6 places) payouts if you bet on the normal market.
So, the man they call GMAC has been slowly making his presence known on tour, with some very solid performances of late. After missing the cut at his season opener, he has gone on to record 3 top 10’s in a row. T5 at the Matchplay, T9 at The Honda Classic and T3 at The WGC Cadillac. His consistency has been key to his success of late and that is evident in the fact his worst finish at a major last year was T12 at The Masters. This also proves the old theory that the Northern Irishman is known for his ability to battle and grind out scores on difficult tracks. He has the game to really compete this week and he will be confident knowing his form on the course. T2 last year and in 2005, he must surely be wanting to go one better in 2013.
As for his stats, they make for no real surprises, as McDowell excels across the board. 2nd for driving accuracy and 21st for total driving, show he will have no worries about avoiding the rough, whilst he is 2nd for scrambling and 2nd for scrambling from the rough. He is currently 32nd for proximity to the hole, meaning he has the ability to attack what will be difficult pins and although his putting has been inconsistent this season, there are signs it is on the up. There is no doubting that McDowell is gearing up for a big Masters performance and we can really see him challenging come Sunday evening.
Bubba Watson (30/1 StanJames and w/o Woods 28/1 StanJames)
The defending Masters champion will be going into the tournament this week looking to build some momentum before attempting to regain his crown in just under a months time. And Bubba is the sort of player who can attack this course if his game is on song, whilst we will be the first to admit, he can just as easily slump to a very poor score. We can take confidence from the fact he did not shoot over par in his four rounds here last year, finishing in T4. He also finished 24th the year before that, showing that he has potential to challenge and the fact he is simply current Masters champion should be enough to prove he has the game to attack difficult courses.
4th in driving distance and 3rd in GIR is a lethal combination and if he can hit straight off the tee, there is absolutely no doubt he will finish in the top 10.
Whilst his form this year has been inconsistent, he is showing signs of form peaking at the right time. Barring his missed cut at The Northern Trust, he has failed to finish outside the top 20 and if it wasn’t for a final day 75 at The WGC Cadillac, he would have been easily inside the top 10.
Bubba will want to impress this week and prove not just to all of us, but to himself that he has the form and confidence to win back to back titles at Augusta.
Jim Furyk (40/1 Ladbrokes and w/o Woods 33/1 Bet365)
It may seem odd to go for a man who promised much last week before dropping agonizingly out of the places after several missed birdie opportunities. However this man is Jim ‘5-hour energy’ Furyk. He was impressive throughout the 4 days, plugging away at a very difficult course and we see no reason why he cannot do it again this week on what will be a similar track. Some of his approach play was outstanding, moving the ball really well from the fairway and finding plenty of birdie chances. Yes he missed a few of them on the Sunday but the fact he is getting there in the first place is testament to what a quality and accurate iron player he is. This is backed up by the fact he was 1st for proximity to the hole in the tournament but if he wants to challenge here, he has to putt better. And here is the confusion, he currently lies in 47th for strokes gained putting and he has always been renowned as a consistent putter, so what was happening on Sunday is unknown to us. However, he did hole a monster 30 footer on the 17th which would have given him confidence. He is 3rd for driving accuracy and 23rd for GIR between 175-200 yards, which will be the main distance on the par 4s.
Whilst his form here is very respectable, finishing 11th last year, 9th in 2011 and 11th again in 2010.
All in all we feel he could challenge the top of the leaderboard again this week and if he can hole his putts, winning is a real possibility. He certainly has the attributes and talent.
Boo Weekley (100/1 SkyBet and w/o Woods 80/1 SkyBet)
Twitter went absolutely crazy on Sunday after Boo decided to hit an –8 from pretty much nowhere. His game could not have been more perfect on the day and to say he was striking the ball cleanly is an understatement. He has been away from the top end of the game for a long time, but he really is coming into some form at the minute. It may seem like we are jumping on the Boo bandwagon, especially after he won us some money last week, but as a ball striker, there are few who can match him at this moment in time. T25 at The Honda Classic, followed by a T8 in Puerto Rico and then his 2nd place last week are all the signs of how impressive he has been. While his all-round game is a potential perfect match for this course when he is in this kind of form. 49th in driving distance proves he has the ability to hit the ball long, whilst he is 40th for driving accuracy, 7th in GIR and 1st in GIR from 200+ yards, which will give him an advantage on the Par 5s. From tee to green he is pretty much the ideal player and if he can putt as well as he did at Tampa Bay then there is no reason why he cannot do the same here. As long as he has been fishing this week and had his pizza.
Graham DeLaet (100/1 PaddyPower and w/o Woods 90/1 Bet365)
Graham De Laet is one of those outside chances that you just never know about, especially in a season when those ‘random’ outsiders have been at the top of many leaderboards. His form is progressively impressive after finishing a respectable T17 last week T18 in Puerto Rico and T9 at The Honda Classic. We are aware he has never played here but he has a game that could cause an upset. 18th in driving distance, 6th total driving, 10th in GIR, 24th par 4 performance, 12th par 5 performance, 2nd GIR from 200+ yards and 11th in proximity to the hole. You cannot tell us that those stats are highly appealing for someone who is at 3-figure odds!
JJ Henry (400/1 Bet365 and w/o Woods 275/1 Bet365)
Just a quick word on JJ Henry. At 400/1, he is certainly worth any spare change you have, simply because of that price. His form isn’t great this season, but he has played here before and although he may not have excelled, he has only missed 1 cut in 5 attempts and had a best finish of 12th in 2011. But it is his tee to green that intrigued us – 15th in both driving accuracy and GIR. If he decides he wants to turn it on here than you never know.
This weeks double comes in the form of Gaganjeet Bhullar and Graeme McDowell at odds of 1058/1.
Also if you really do have some spare change and are a big betting person, maybe look at chucking those two in a triple with Richard Sterne at The Investec Cup at odds of 6771/1…you never know.