PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/20/2013
Only a few weeks left in March for me to land my first tournament winner of 2013 -- perhaps it happens this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. I did forecast Tiger Woods winning there a year ago, although that's not exactly rocket science considering Tiger's track record at the tournament.
Last week at the Tampa Bay Championship, relative unknown Kevin Streelman won his first-ever PGA Tour event in his 153rd career start. Can't say I considered Streelman for a second. I liked Jim Furyk to finally win again at 25/1, and he finished T7, five shots behind Streelman. On the head-to-head, I hit on Sergio Garcia at -115 over Adam Scott, Luke Donald at -125 over Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar at -120 over Jason Dufner. I also nailed Top-10 finishes for Sergio, Donald (both +150) and Furyk (+300). So all in all, a very good week.
The Tour remains in central Florida this week for the trip to Bay Hill in Orlando, and as always it's a strong field largely simply out of respect for Palmer. This is also the final time many of the top players will compete before the Masters. Players have just two more tournaments to qualify for the Masters if they haven't yet already (Geoff Ogilvy and Charles Howell III, for example, are on the Top 50 bubble). Thirteen of the world's Top 20 are scheduled to play, including Tiger and Phil Mickelson. Reigning FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker, who is the early favorite for Player of the Year with Tiger, also will tee it up for the first time since he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 10. He has three other Top-3 finishes but has been sidelined with a rib injury.
Last year, Tiger won for the seventh time at Bay Hill for his first victory since his life fell apart late in 2009. Woods shot a final-round 2-under 70 and never was much challenged on a windy Sunday, finishing at 13 under and beating out runner-up Graeme McDowell by five shots. Woods has won all six times at Bay Hill when entering the final round with at least a share of the lead. Tiger dominated the par 5s last year, shooting a tournament-best 12 under. He also tied for first in greens in regulation.
Two things would happen if Tiger were to win this week. First, he would tie Sam Snead's PGA Tour record for most wins in a single event, with Snead winning eight times at the Greater Greensboro Open (his last at age 52). Second, Tiger's third victory of 2013 would put him back atop the world rankings, supplanting Rory McIlroy, who isn't in the field. Woods already has announced he's dating skier Lindsey Vonn earlier this week, so it could be quite the trifecta come Sunday.
Par-72 Bay Hill (it was a par-70 before work was done before the 2010 event) is very long at 7,419 yards and could play longer this week with showers likely on the weekend. Players averaged a score of 73.176 in 2012, third-highest among 20 par 72s used in non-majors, according to the PGA Tour.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Arnold Palmer Invitational Favorites
Naturally, Tiger is the big Bovada favorite at 11/4. To be fair, he's either all or nothing here. In addition to those seven wins, Tiger has six finishes of T20 or worse (last in 2011). Tiger has repeated as the champion four times if you include each of his four straight wins from 2000-03 in addition to his wins in 2008-09.
Mickelson is next at 16/1. Lefty has been very hit-or-miss this year with three finishes of T37 or worse in addition to a victory and a T3 at Doral. He has four Top-10 finishes in 11 tries at Bay Hill, led by a victory way back in 1997 when the course was very different. Mickelson hasn't finished in the Top 20 in his past five visits.
Snedker is 18/1. I worry about his rib injury, but a similar problem caused him to miss last year's U.S. Open, and he returned with a T3 at the British Open and then of course was excellent in the PGA Tour playoffs. He has no Top-10 finishes in six trips to Bay Hill.
Justin Rose and Garcia round out the Top-5 favorites at 20/1. Rose has finished in the Top-10 in his past two events, the Honda and the WGC-Cadillac. He has finished in the Top 15 at Bay Hill each of the past two years. Sergio hasn't finished worse than T13 in three PGA Tour stroke-play events this year. He has six Top-10 finishes in 11 trips to Bay Hill.
PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational Predictions
Expect an American to win this week as only four international players have won in 34 years at Bay Hill. Ernie Els (75/1) is responsible for two of them and is in the field.
On the yes-only Top-10 props, take “yes” on Tiger (-400), Sergio (+150) and Rose (+150). I don't like Mickelson or Snedeker there. There's also a prop on who will be No. 1 after this tournament: McIlroy (-500) or Tiger (+300). On the head-to-head, take Woods (-250) over Mickelson (+185), Bubba Watson (-115) over Keegan Bradley (-115) and Lee Westwood (-120) over Simpson (-110).
As much as I hate going chalk, I do think Tiger is going to win -- his life (personal and professional) seems back in perfect sync right now. You can also bet on the non-Tiger Woods market. I'd go with Sergio at 16/1 there -- he's playing well enough this year to where I think he finally gets that first major (probably the British) in 2013.
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