Quick, name me the best Canadian golfer in PGA Tour history. Yeah, all I could think of was former Masters champion Mike Weir. He has really struggled in recent years, though. Canada currently has just six full-time PGA Tour players, but the country finally added another victory last week at the Valspar Championship in the Tampa Bay area.
Adam Hadwin, who earlier this year became the first Canadian with a 59 on the PGA Tour, tried to give the tournament away. He led Patrick Cantlay by two shots heading to the 16th hole, where Hadwin promptly drove in the water and took double-bogey to draw Cantlay even. However, Hadwin was able to win by a shot simply by parring his final two holes. Cantlay, the former No.1 amateur in the world, hit his approach on 18 into a bunker and couldn't get up-and-down.
The victory gets Hadwin into the Masters for the first time in his career as well as next week's World Golf Championships-Match Play. One problem: He's getting married on March 24. So the Match Play is out, but Hadwin has postponed his honeymoon to prepare for Augusta. Hadwin became just the second player ever to win on the PGA Tour, the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada and the Web.com Tour. Hadwin is the third Canadian to qualify for the Masters, joining RSM Classic winner Mackenzie Hughes and Weir. Hadwin is playing this week but a +6000 long shot.
I liked a prop of Henrik Stenson, Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas at +300 vs. the field (-350) last week. Stenson paid off at -125 for a Top 10, but Moore was T18 and Thomas missed the cut. Also thought Gary Woodland would contend, but he was T58. Hit on a few head-to-head props, but let's move on.
This should be quite a week at Bay Hill Golf & Lodge in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational as it's the first staging of the King's event since he died last September at age 87. Palmer lived in Orlando and owned the course; there are two hospitals bearing the Palmer name in the city and this tournament benefits those. A 13-foot statue was unveiled this week of Palmer at Bay Hill.
This used to be one of the most popular Tour stops because of Palmer as players wanted to honor the most beloved golfer in history. Unfortunately, the PGA Tour moved the Match Play to the week after the Arnold Palmer last year. You will rarely see the best players in the world play four weeks in a row. That could have been the case for guys like Dustin Johnson or Jordan Spieth or Sergio Garcia or Phil Mickelson had they played this tournament. That's because they will play the Match Play, then the Houston Open (because some players prefer to play the week before a major) and then at Augusta. So they are all skipping.
It's still a pretty good field, but I think's it's embarrassing these golfers can't go play four rounds to honor Palmer. It's not like they are playing a contact sport and risk injury. Tiger Woods loves this tournament and won it a record eight times. He's still out with his back troubles.
The defending champion is Jason Day, who shot a 17-under 271 to beat American Kevin Chappell by a shot. Day had to get up-and-down on 18 Sunday to avoid a playoff. Palmer was there to greet Day after his win. Host duties will be shared this week by Annika Sorenstam, Graeme McDowell, Peter Jacobsen and Curtis Strange.
Golf Odds: Arnold Palmer Invitational Favorites
Rory McIlroy, the highest-ranked player in the field, is the +700 Bovada favorite . He had missed about two months with a rib injury before finishing T7 in Mexico and then skipping last week's tournament. His best finish here was 15th in 2015.
Stenson is +900 . Other than that stomach issue in Mexico that caused a W/D, the Swede has been a Top-10 machine for months. He has four straight Top-8 finishes at Bay Hill but hasn't won it yet.
Day, Hideki Matsuyama (both +1400) and Rickie Fowler (+1600) round out the favorites. A few guys have repeated at Bay Hill, last Matt Every in 2014-15. Day has been battling an illness so I'm not real high on him. Matsuyama was sixth here last year and Fowler was 29th when he last played Bay Hill in 2015.
BTW, you can also bet on John Daly at +150000 as he's taking one-week break from the Champions Tour.
Golf Odds: Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks
For a Top 10, I like McIlroy (-175), Stenson (-125), Justin Rose (+135) and Zach Johnson (+400). Rose has three T10s here since 2011. Johnson has five career Top 10s at Bay Hill, including in his last two trips.
Go Rose (+150) as top Englishman, Stenson (+330) as top European and Matsuyama (-200) as top Asian. Roll the dice on Johnson at +1600 as top American. Head-to-head, lean Kevin Kisner (-115) over Hadwin (-115), Charl Schwartzel (-125) over Francesco Molinari (-105), Brandt Snedeker (-115) over Paul Casey (-115), Rose (-110) over Fowler (-120), Matsuyama (-105) over Day (-125), and Stenson (-105) over McIlroy (-125).
I'm going to keep riding this Stenson train, but Bovada does offer a prop of Stenson, McIlroy and Fowler at +285 vs. the field (-425), so that's the choice.
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