PGA Tour Odds and Predictions: Arnold Palmer Invitational
by Alan Matthews - 3/23/2011
This week’s PGA Tour stop, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, usually draws an excellent field because most players want to pay homage to Palmer and play in his tournament, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s at Orlando’s Bay Hill – about half of the PGA Tour pros live in or near the area – and also that it’s the second-to-last chance for players who haven’t qualified for that year’s Masters to do so. The Top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings following this tournament will gain entry into the Masters if they haven’t already by another method. The final berth will be reserved for the winner of next week’s Shell Houston Open.
Certainly the big story this week is that Tiger Woods is playing. Woods would like to end his career-long winless streak before the Masters as this will be his final tournament before Augusta in two weeks. At worst, Tiger needs to get his swing right this week. And if there’s any tournament that he should be able to do that, it’s at Bay Hill. Tiger has won this tournament six times, including four in a row at one point. He has won it the past two times he has entered, skipping it last year. Tiger has made three epic winning birdie putts of 15 feet (2009), 24 feet ('08) and 15 feet ('01) on the 18th hole at the course.
"I feel like Tiger has a golf game that can come to the surface any time. I think that's certainly a possibility here,” Palmer said to reporters. "He likes the golf course, he likes what we've done, so I would just not count him out at all. I think he's capable of winning any time."
The good news for Woods is that perhaps things are coming together. He is coming off a T10, his only top 10 this year, thanks to a final-round 66 at the WGC-Cadillac at Doral two weeks ago. Still, it’s a bit stunning that he is such a big favorite this week, according to PGA Tour golf odds: 8/1 on Bodog.
Overall, 10 of the world’s Top 25 are in this field, with Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Edoardo Molinari joining No. 5 Tiger.
Els (40/1) is the defending champion (and won this tournament in 1988). It took a Monday finish for Els to shoot a final-round 71 to finish 11 under last year and win by two shots over Molinari and Kevin Na. Els has been good but not great this season, not missing a cut in five PGA Tour events but not finishing better than 15th, either.
Mickelson (20/1), the 1997 winner of this tournament, has his own winless streak going, not having done so since last year’s Masters. But since a runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in his PGA Tour debut this year, Lefty hasn’t been much of a factor and was near the bottom of the field at Doral two weeks ago. And his best finish at this tournament over the last three appearances is a T21.
Johnson (16/1) is the co-second favorite with McDowell. And Johnson enters off a second-place finish at Doral. His four bogeys were the fewest in the field. One of the more difficult non-major courses, Bay Hill made the jump from a par 70 to a 72 a year ago. With the added distance, length and accuracy off the tee is critical. And Johnson is as long as anyone. He has played this tournament twice and wasn’t a factor either time.
A great long-shot bet, according to my Arnold Palmer Invitational predictions, would seem to be Martin Laird at 33/1. He enters off back-to-back Top-10 finishes, including a T5 last week. Laird is currently sixth on the Tour in driving distance (303.0) and 14th in total driving. Laird hasn’t finished outside the Top 25 in a stroke play tournament in the last two months.
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