I don't follow college golf, so I've never heard of Georgia senior Lee McCoy. But apparently the guy has major game. McCoy was arguably the biggest story at last week's Valspar Championship in the Tampa Bay area. He finished the week at 4-under 280, which was good for sole fourth place and would have meant a nice check of around $292,000. Except of course that would have ended McCoy's amateur career. So he got nothing. McCoy, who will turn pro after his senior season, beat the entire field with his 66 in the third round and played with world No. 1 Jordan Spieth on Sunday and beat him by four shots, 69 to 73.
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The winner of the tournament was South African Charl Schwartzel. He had two late birdies to close with a 4-under 67 Sunday and get into a playoff with Bill Haas, and Schwartzel beat Haas on the first extra hole. Schwartzel was five shots behind going into the final round. Believe it or not, it was his first win on American soil since the 2011 Masters. Thus now every Masters winner since 2011 has won on Tour in 2016. The past four Tour events have been won by a player who won one of the past five Masters (Schwartzel, two for Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and Spieth).
Schwartzel had played at Innisbrook just once before, in 2012, a few weeks before defending his Masters title. He missed the cut. This time, the final-round 67 was 5.2 strokes better than the field. Schwartzel and McCoy were the only two players from the final nine groups to break par on Sunday. Haas had a two-shot lead with three holes to play, but he bogeyed No. 16 and Schwartzel had two long birdies. Spieth, the defending champion, had an odd week: opening 76, then 68-67 to get back into contention, only to fade with that final-round 73 and finish T18. He just hasn't played well since his win in Hawaii to start 2016.
I didn't get much right last week. None of my Top 10s -- Spieth, Henrik Stenson (although he was T11) and Donald -- hit. I was torn between Kevin Na and Harris English to win. Na was T22 and English missed the cut. I hit on some head-to-head props, but let's just move on.
This week the Tour moves about 80 miles East for the always-popular Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, capping the Florida Swing. Palmer is still revered by just about everyone on Tour so it's usually a good field -- Tiger Woods always played here and mostly won (eight times), but he's still out injured. I'm starting to doubt Woods plays the Masters in a few weeks now. Palmer, by the way, announced this week he wouldn't hit a ceremonial tee shot at the Masters for the first time since 2007. Let's hope his health is still good. He won't be as visible this week, either.
One big-name player you won't see at Bay Hill is Bubba Watson. He pulled out late last week after feeling a little tightness in his lower left back, feeling he needed another week of rest. In a class move, though, Watson drove to Bay Hill on Tuesday to tell Palmer in person.
I bet if I gave you 10 chances, assuming you aren't a golf fanatic, you couldn't tell me who the two-time defending champion of this event is. Shoot, I had forgotten. That would be Matt Every. Last year, he made an 18-foot birdie putt for a 6-under 66 and a one-shot victory over Stenson. Needing a birdie to force a playoff, Stenson was left on a 20-foot putt at the 18th. In 2014, Every rallied from a four-shot deficit thanks in part to Adam Scott's final-round collapse. Every is back to defend but is a +9000 long shot at Bovada. He has struggled big time this season with one Top 25, three missed cuts and two WDs in nine events. Every is looking to become the first player since Steve Stricker (2011 John Deere Classic) to capture the same title in three straight years.
Golf Odds: Arnold Palmer Invitational Favorites
I am stunned that Rory McIlroy is the +550 favorite over scorching-hot Scott (+800). True, McIlroy has had a couple of chances to win this year but he faded in the final round. He has played this event just once and finished 11th last year.
Scott took last week off after winning back-to-back events in south Florida. He is trying to become the first player on Tour to win three consecutive starts since McIlroy two years ago (British Open, WGC-Bridgestone, PGA Championship). No player has ever won three legs of the Florida Swing. Scott finished third here in 2014 after being in control entering Sunday. He was 35th last year.
The favorites are rounded out by Stenson (+1200), Jason Day and Justin Rose (both +1400). Stenson just missed that Top 10 last week and probably should have won here last year. It was his third straight Top-10 finish at Bay Hill. I'm not a fan of Day this week as he's not playing great this year and doesn't have a very good track record here. His best result was 17th last year. Rose was a runner-up here in 2013 but missed the cut in 2014. He didn't t play last year.
PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational Expert Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like Stenson (-105), Rose (+110) and Keegan Bradley at a sweet price of +600. He's really scuffling in 2016 with three straight missed cuts but was second here in 2014 and third the year before.
For the top American, take another flier on Bradley at +2500. Ryan Moore is the +1100 favorite there. I suppose you have to take Scott at -125 as the top Aussie. Go Stenson at -135 as top continental European and Rose at +105 as top Englishman. Head-to-head, I like Matt Kuchar (-125) over English (-105), Scott (even) over McIlroy (-130), Moore (-115) over Na (-115), Rose (-150) over Hideki Matsuyama (+115), Paul Casey (-115) over Brandt Snedeker (-115), and Stenson (-120) over Day (-110).
Americans have largely dominated this event over the years, but I don't see that happening this time. My winner is Stenson.
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