The PGA Tour circuit this week heads down to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the last event on the Florida swing. Tiger Woods limped out of action at the WGC Cadillac Championship a fortnight ago but returns to headline a top class field all trying to fine tune their games in the build up to the first major of the season - the US Masters. Woods' record here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is nothing short of exceptional with the former world number one claiming no less than six titles at Bay Hill. Woods has just carded a 63 in the Tavistock Cup and he will surely be the man to beat this week.
Battling for favouritism at the top of the market with Woods are his old nemesis and resurgent Phil Mickelson, in form Justin Rose, off the back of a victory at the WGC Cadillac, Sergio Garcia and Hunter Mahan. Webb Simpson is lurking in amongst them and it will take some superb golf if anyone from the pack is to finish ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational market leaders.
The Bay Hill Course
The Bay Hill course underwent extensive renovations in 2010, redesigned by Arnold Palmer himself. Plenty of length was added and the course now plays just under 7,400 yards to a par of 72. As Palmer always favours, fairways are extremely generous and bombers will have an advantage with the driver. Bunkers were repositioned throughout and conditions are generally fast and firm and test the player's short games to the limit, so expect the cream to rise to the top. If rough is up as it has been in recent years, it will be very penal and players will struggle if they do manage to miss the fairways. Scrambling stats and experience will be of utmost importance this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The course has ranked inside the top ten most difficult on the PGA Tour the last two years running.
Three From The Pack
Bubba Watson comes into the event off a final round disappointment at Doral but batteries are recharged after a week off. Watson currently leads the tour in the GIR% stat, a very important attribute to have for Bay Hill. He has course form with a top ten in 2008 and was right in contention here last year before a final round capitulation. Watson can be backed with Unibet at 30.0 for the win or 7.0 for a top five finish.
Ernie Els, winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2010 is a player who the course very much suits. His ability around the greens may not be what it used to but a T21st and a top five finish in his last two events says he's finding his form again just at the right time. Indeed, only a missed four foot putt on 18 last week cost him a spot in a playoff. Els ranks 21st in scoring average on the PGA Tour in 2012 and put in a near flawless performance when he won at Bay Hill in 2012. Ernie Els can be backed with Unibet at 40.0 for the win or 9.0 for a top five finish.
Jim Furyk posted a top ten at Bay Hill last year and a T11 in 2010. He may not be the longest off the tee but he obviously knows his way around this track. Signs of his 2010 Fedex Cup winning form coming back with a T11 at the Northern Trust Open and he only lost out last week at the Transitions in the four man playoff. Jim currently sits fifth in scoring average, 16th in scrambling and sixth in bogey avoidance in the 2012 stats. Furyk can be backed with Unibet at 30.0 for the win or 7.0 for a top five finish.