There’s only one place to start this week as the PGA Tour makes its annual visit to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Phil Casey writes.
Tiger Woods would warrant a mention in any preview of the event as an eight-time winner, but the 42-year-old’s performance in last week’s Valspar Championship means he arrives in Orlando as the 5/1 favourite.
Woods finished runner-up to Paul Casey at Innisbrook, where his presence in contention resulted in massive crowds and produced a few moments of vintage brilliance from the 14-time major winner.
Most notable perhaps was the birdie from 40 feet on the 17th in the final round to keep his chances of forcing a play-off alive, which drew a wry smile and a shrug from Woods as if to say “I’ve still got it.”
However, it must be noted that of the top 15 finishers, only two players shot higher final rounds than Woods, whose 70 consisted of a two-putt birdie on the par-five opening hole, a bogey on the fourth and that brilliant long putt on 17.
Writing Woods off has already been shown to be a dangerous game and it would be amazing to see him claim an 80th PGA Tour title after four back operations – the last being a spinal fusion – but 5/1 is getting too close to the sort of price he was in his prime and is not for us.
At the top of the market the preference instead is for 2016 winner Jason Day, whose form figures in 2018 read a brief but impressive 1-T2.
Outside that victory, Day’s record at Bay Hill is nothing spectacular and he has finished outside the top 15 in his other six starts, but he followed up his play-off win in the Farmers Insurance Open with a tie for second at Pebble Beach and should still be fresh on his return to action.
The former world number one can be backed at 11/1.
Also among the favourites is our next selection Tommy Fleetwood, who has enjoyed a busier but equally successful start to the season as Day.
Fleetwood began his year by defending his title in Abu Dhabi and was sixth in Dubai, while a tie for 37th in the Genesis Open was followed by fourth place in the Honda Classic and a tie for 14th in the WGC-Mexico.
Out of contention in Mexico City after opening rounds of 72 and 71, Fleetwood refused to take the easy option of a guaranteed payout in a limited-field event with no cut and shot 67 and 66 on the weekend.
And coupled with his brilliant ball-striking and a tie for 10th on his Bay Hill debut last year – despite an opening 78 – that makes the European number one a sound each-way bet at 18/1.
It is also tempting to give Henrik Stenson another chance at 28/1 despite a disappointing missed cut last week, when playing the first two rounds with Woods would not have been easy, especially after he implied the Valspar was the testing ground after a month off.
But our third choice goes to American Kevin Kisner, who shared the 54-lead 12 months ago before a closing 73 meant he finished just a shot behind winner Marc Leishman.
Kisner admits his goal is to “just try to get through” the West Coast swing before getting back on Bermuda greens “to start making some money” and hopefully he can do the same for us at 66/1 in the each-way market.
And finally it could pay to take advantage of a generous 200/1 each-way available for Sean O’Hair, who was 12th last week and finished runner-up at Bay Hill back in 2009 – to a certain Mr Woods.
Arnold Palmer Invitational betting tips
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