Arnold Palmer Invitational – Bay Hill, Florida
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is the last stop on the Florida swing and Tiger Woods dominated this event in his prime, winning it eight times in total. Tiger’s still out of action due to injury, but a strong field has assembled itself for this week’s event, with five members of the world’s top ten competing. Rory McIlroy plays in Arnie’s event for a second consecutive year and heads the betting, but is closely followed by the inform, Adam Scott who will be attempting to win a third consecutive event. Talking of three straight victories, Matt Every has won the previous two renewals of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and should he do the unthinkable and win again this week, he’d be the first player since 2011 to win the same title in three straight years.
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Bay Hill has played host to Arnie’s event since 1979 and it underwent a major renovation in 2010, therefore course form before 2010 isn’t as meaningful. The course is a par 72 that measures 7,381 yards and scoring was relatively easy last year as Matt Every shot 19 under par to beat Henrik Stenson by one. Bay Hill will once again be the easiest course on the Florida swing, but it is prone to windy conditions and as a result, should the wind get up, scoring will be more difficult this year. Talking of scoring, Every played the par 5’s in nine under par in 2015 and par 5 scoring will be crucial once again this year as the four par 5’s offer good birdie opportunities.
Both long and short hitters have fared well around this track, although, if anything I’d favour the bigger hitters this week because so many approach shots will be played from over 200 yards. Having said that, Matt Every certainly isn’t a long driver of the ball, but the Florida native is a good putter and the ability to putt well on the grainy Bermuda greens is essential at Bay Hill. Furthermore the conditions are usually firm and fast, and the greens feature run off areas, therefore there’s a premium on scrambling. Finally, Florida form is key coming into this event and I’d be surprised if the eventual winner hasn’t shown some signs of form at either PGA National, Doral or Copperhead recently.
Harris English – Two time PGA Tour winner, Harris English is an excellent price this week, despite missing the cut in the Valspar Championship. He’s played very well in the Arnold Palmer Invitational over the last couple of years and I suspect he’ll go well again around a golf course that suits his game. English finished 29th in this event last year, but was notably 2nd after two rounds. In 2014, Harris also went well around Bay Hill, eventually finishing in 14th position. Furthermore, Harris has a great record on Bermuda greens and he’s putted well on them in recent weeks. At Doral, just two weeks ago, English finished 10th in the WGC Cadillac Championship amongst the best golfers in the world, which indicates his games in good shape, despite marginally missing the cut last week.
Smylie Kaufman – Web.com Tour graduate, Smylie Kaufman has made a flying start to life on the PGA Tour. He won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open towards the end of 2015, which happened to be his second PGA Tour event as a full time member. Since then he’s produced a number of impressive performances, but none more impressive than his 8th place finish in the WGC Cadillac Championship two weeks ago amongst the world’s best golfers. This does not only indicate that his games in good shape, but it also suggests that he has the ability to perform well in Florida on Bermuda greens.
Hudson Swafford – Hudson Swafford’s statistics indicate that he’s going to be a very good player and he’s made a good start to the 2015/16 season. He finished 9th in the Sony Open in Hawaii and 13th in the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year, and Swafford comes into this event off the back of making consecutive cuts on the Florida swing. In the Valspar Championship, he never threatened the top of the leaderboard, but he played well from tee to green and a quadruple bogey during his third round let him down. Admittedly, I think it’ll be difficult for Swafford to win this event, but he’s more than capable of recording a top 10 finish which is generously priced at 14/1. In this event last year, Swafford finished in 11th position despite being 101st after round one, therefore Bay Hill is certainly a golf course he can go well around.
Prices correct at time of writing.