PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/19/2014
Well, I'm glad I didn't write this story previewing this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational on Tuesday afternoon like I usually do. More on that in a minute.
I continued my 0-for-2014 last week at the Valspar -- although to be fair it's been an unusual start to the year in terms of winners -- as Australian John Senden won for the first time in eight years. He was in a three-way tie entering No. 16 on Sunday but chipped in for birdie on that extremely tough hole, and that propelled him to a one-shot win over Kevin Na.
Frankly, it didn't look like Senden had any chance entering Saturday as he was 1-over after 36 holes and T35, eight shots back of leader Robert Garrigus. But Senden played the final 36 holes at 8-under thanks to draining six putts from at least 10 feet. Needless to say I didn't pick Senden. In fact, I didn't even have him as the top Aussie -- I chose Marc Leishman (T65).
Luke Donald was my choice to win at 20/1, and he finished T4, three shots behind Senden. It was Donald's fourth consecutive Top-6 finish on the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort, so I'll probably pick him again next year. I did get Donald at +200 for a Top-10 finish. Also hit on Retief Goosen at 13/2 to be the top South African finisher. Overall, though, another disappointing tournament. Where are the big names this year?
This week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill will be the final Masters tune-up for a lot of guys and usually has a very good field for that reason and to pay homage to Palmer. Tiger always plays it and usually well: He has won the tournament a record eight times, including last year. Thus, it was truly shocking that Tiger -- who did open as the tournament favorite at Bovada despite struggling this year -- pulled out Tuesday evening because his back still wasn't 100 percent. He had to pull out of the Honda Classic a few weeks ago with back trouble and then struggled the next week at Doral. He was never going to play last week. Whether Tiger can now tee it up in the Masters is a legitimate question. In each of his four Masters victories Woods won at least once prior to getting to Augusta National.
So Woods won't become the first player to win nine times at the same course. The tournament also lost Aussie Jason Day, another likely top Masters contender. He withdrew with a thumb injury, the second straight tournament he has WD'd since winning the WGC-Match Play. This was to be the first tournament of 2004 the Nos. 1-4 were going to tee it up, with Tiger at No. 1 and Day at No. 4.
Phil Mickelson also is sitting out this week as he will take his Masters warm-up next week. Americans, mostly Tiger, have dominated this event. Since the tournament started coming to Bay Hill 35 years ago, it has been won by a non-American just five times. Only once by a European (Martin Laird in 2011).
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Arnold Palmer Invitational Favorites
Bubba Watson, who has a home in the Orlando area, is the 11/1 favorite at Bovada. Watson seems to have finally found the form that won him the Masters. In his last three stroke-play events he hasn't been worse than runner-up and won the Northern Trust Open. He was T14 here last year, his third straight T25 at the tournament.
Scott and Justin Rose are 12/1. I'm not a big fan of Scott this week only because he has played this tournament once since 2006, missing the cut in '09. Rose started the season a bit slowly off injury but had a solid T8 last week. He was in contention entering Sunday but shot a 74. Rose has three Top-10 finishes here and was runner-up last year.
Graeme McDowell (16/1) and Zach Johnson (20/1) round out the Top 5. McDowell didn't play very well here last year with a T45 and has been off since his T9 at the WGC-Cadillac. He has been runner-up here twice. Johnson has played here 10 times with three Top-10 finishes. He was T34 in 2013.
PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational Predictions
On the Top-10 finishes, I do like Johnson (+200), Rose (+115), Watson (+115), Henrik Stenson (+250) and Rickie Fowler (+350), who was in the final group last year with Tiger and finished T3. Head-to-head go with Rose (-120) over Scott (-110), Watson (-115) over Scott (-115), Keegan Bradley (-120) over Harris English (-110) and Stenson (-120) over Hunter Mahan (-110).
I lean Aaron Baddeley as the top Australian at a nice price of 12/1 as he has had some good finishes at Bay Hill. Go with Rose at 5/6 to be the top English player and Stenson at -175 as the top Swede. For some reason this tournament is often decided by two strokes, so that's the winning margin choice at +350.
I am tempted to go with Stenson at 22/1 to win as he also has a home in the area, and while the defending FedEx Cup winner hasn't played all that well this year, he has improved his performance in each of the last four years at Bay Hill, finishing 52nd, 47th, 15th and eighth. I worry about that European jinx, however. American Patrick Reed (25/1) is the hottest player on Tour, perhaps, but missed the cut here last year in his only visit.
I'm going with Johnson; I would have picked Tiger were he playing.
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