PGA Tour: Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

We preview the 2018 edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational which is set to take place at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge between 15 and 18 March. 

So with Tiger back on the prowl- in the most wholesome possible sense- the US PGA Tour seems to have an added injection of interest that is leading up to fever pitch ahead of the Masters. This week Tiger aims to win his ninth title at Bay Hill, with his price suddenly plummeting following that runner-up finish in the Valspar. 

Started in 1966 and known originally as the Florida Citrus Open, Arnold Palmer took over the staging of the event in 1976 and subsequently moved it to Bay Hill. This will be the 40th renewal at Bay Hill, one of the more iconic courses on the PGA Tour.

Arnold Palmer Invitational | 15 March - 18 March | Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Florida

Designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee in 1960, Bay Hill used to be an extremely narrow tree-lined course, with Palmer renovating the course several times over the course of his lifetime. In 2014, course superintendent Chris Flynn undertook a substantial renovation that aimed to simplify the course for the members, with bunkers made easier and fairways widened considerably on various holes. There was also a major tree felling exercise, which saw Matt Every score a -19 winning total in 2015. The TifEagle Bermudagrass greens will suit those players versed in these Floridian conditions, while par 5 scoring seems to be a fairly strong variable this week. 

Tiger Woods is slightly short in my opinion, even with the positive trajectory of his performances. One expected the mythically lethal Woods to be more predatory on Sunday. Rory McIlroy really needs to get something going this season while Jason Day has had an encouraging return to competition this year. Elsewhere Ricky Fowler and Justin Rose bring course credentials while Mark Leishman looks to defend his title. 

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Past Winners
2017: Mark Leishman (-11)
2016: Jason Day (-17)
2015: Matt Every (-19) 
2014: Matt Every (-13)
2013: Tiger Woods (-13)

To Win Outright:
Tiger Woods 5/1 | Jason Day 12/1 | Justin Rose 14/1 | Rory McIlroy 18/1 | Ricky Fowler 20/1

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Value Bets

Justin Rose- To Win 14/1, To Place 3/1
Looking to continue the English invasion started by Paul Casey last week, Rose’s T5 in the Valspar Championship was extremely encouraging going into an event he loves. He struggled in the WGC Mexico, as issues with club selection and humidity hampered his progress. But he returns to a course that he enjoys immensely, with a runner-up finish in 2013 and 3rd place in 2011. He also has a eighth in 2006 and a T9 and T13 in 2016 and 2017 respectively, as he searches for the form necessary for yet another push at Augusta.

Tommy Fleetwood- To Win 20/1, To Place 44/10
Another Englishman with Georgia on his mind, Fleetwood did extremely well last season in his first appearance, ultimately finishing 10th after shooting an opening round 78. He followed a brilliant defence of his Abu Dhabi title with a solid sixth in the Dubai Desert Classic. He also had a solo fourth at the Honda Classic before a decent T14 finish in the WGC Mexico. His brilliant iron-play should suit the taxing- if somewhat relaxed- layout of Bay Hill this week. 

Francisco Molinari- To Win 70/1, To Place 15/1
The affable Italian has hardly had the sort of form that would make him an automatic pick this week. He hasn’t had a top 10 since November’s Hero World Challenge and has had middling top 50’s in both the Phoenix Open and Farmers Insurance Open. He managed a T25 at a star-studded WGC Mexico, which would have giving him great confidence at an event that he has thrived in. He has course figures of 34-5-17-9-7 here, and he has shown similarly impressive form at the Player’s Championship- also in Florida. 

The Man to Beat- Jason Day- To Win 12/1, To Place 26/10
The ever popular Aussie has some way to go to reach the heights of 2016, when he looked fairly secure in being the best player in the world. But varying states of injury, sickness and familial strife have contributed to a dip in form for Day, who memorably won this event in 2016. He managed to finish 23rd last season following massive issues with dehydration. He has won both the WGC Matchplay and Farmers Insurance Open twice, showing his aptitude in winning an event on multiple occasions. That win in the Farmers came in his first appearance this year. His second appearance was a solo second at the AT&T Pebble Beach. So his form seems to suggest he should contend this week. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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