2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill Club, Orlando, FL, Mar 13-16, Golf Channel/NBC
by Matt of Predictem.com
One of golf’s legendary figures lends his name to this week’s PGA Tour stop as the Arnold Palmer Invitational is contested from the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida. Many of the biggest names in golf are back in action after gaining some rest over the past weeks, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Vijay Singh is back as well to defend his ’07 Palmer crown. Follow all the early round action on The Golf Channel and the weekend rounds on NBC, coverage airs in the 3-6 pm ET slot.
A $5.8 million total purse is up for grabs at Bay Hill with the winner taking home a $1.04 million share. The par-70 layout measures 7,239 yards, and while the par-5’s play relatively short by PGA standards at 558 and 580 yards, the par-3’s have plenty of teeth, with the shortest of the four measuring 197 yards and two playing nearly 220 yards. This will give a little edge to the more accurate players and test the “bombers” to up the shot making numbers to contend.
Tiger is back this week and looking to stay perfect after winning his only 2 starts this year, the Buick and Accenture Match Play. He will be the odds-on favorite every time he tees it up and the golf sportsbooks have him at 11/10 for the win this week. Woods is a 4-time champion here, taking the titles from 2000-03. He was a t22 in ’07 after a roller coaster week that included an opening 64, as well as a closing 76. If you need some numbers to see why Tiger is the favorite; he currently resides as the number 1 ranked golfer in scoring average, putting average, greens in regulation and birdies per 18 holes, among others. The only black eye on the stat sheet comes in driving accuracy, where Woods ranks 194th. When he finds the fairways off the tee, he is virtually unbeatable.
Phil Mickelson is in the field as well, and is the next golfer on the board at 10 to 1. Lefty has a win at the Northern Trust to go along with a playoff second at the FBR as his best ’08 finishes and leads the Tour in All-Around Rank. Much of Mickelson’s success can be linked to his 4th ranked scoring average (69.12) that includes 4.3 birdies a round, also ranking 4th. Staying off the bogey train will have Phil near the top on Sunday.
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Defending champ Vijay Singh will net 20 to 1 for a repeat of last year’s finish, that saw Singh shoot a pair of 67’s en route to the victory. Vijay has never missed the weekend here in 15 chances and has finished under par in all attempts as well. Along with the ’07 win, Singh has 5 other top ten finishes at the Palmer.
Another golfer at 20 to 1 is Luke Donald. Donald is streaking lately, posting 2 top-5’s in his last 3 events, including a solo second at the Honda Classic. Luke ranks 2nd on the Tour in Scoring Average at 67.64 on the strength of his 1.71 putts per GIR, which ranks 3rd.
Another hot player in ’08 is Stuart Appleby, a longer shot at 33 to 1 for the outright win. Appleby has teed it up in 5 PGA events so far, and has 5 top ten finishes. A t10 at last week’s PODS Championship, his best finish is a t4 at the FBR. The PGA’s 7th ranked All-Around player, Appleby ranks 3rd in Scoring Average at 68.99.
Fan favorite, Jim Furyk, is also on the board at 33 to 1. Furyk will look to improve on an uneven ’08 season that had 2 early top-15 finishes, but not much since. Driving Accuracy has been there for Furyk (74.5%,9th) but his putting, scoring and all around numbers are all outside the top 80.
A longshot to look at this week is Ryuji Imada at 50 to 1. Imada has 3 top-5’s in his last 4 events including a t2 at the PODS. Imada is 8th on Tour in scoring at 69.3 and can get it done with the flatstick, averaging 1.71 putts per GIR, ranking 5th.
Two matchups this week to consider are Stuart Appleby vs. Sergio Garcia and Kenny Perry vs. Ben Crane.
We detailed some of Appleby’s credentials above, additionally, Stuart ranks 10th on the Putting Average list at 1.73 and is an above average distance player, averaging nearly 290 yards off the tee, ranking 30th. Garcia has the distance to play any course on Tour, but his 115th rank in GIR% and 150th rank in putting essentially nullify the premier length. Sergio’s best finish this year was a t17 at the Accenture, which was a second round exit, otherwise, your left with a t43 and t46. Make Garcia prove it to you before betting him, take Appleby here.
The Perry/Crane tilt matches two solid pros with average PGA numbers when looked at as a whole. Perry averages 4.08 birdies a round, ranking 8th in that stat, but struggles off the tee, hitting only 61.7% of fairways (117th) and is down the list in greens in regulation (85th). Perry has scuffled lately as well, going a combined 9-over par in his last 3 events and hasn’t posted better than t17 since late January. Ben Crane’s stats won’t jump off the page at you, but he is in the top-75 in almost all categories which gets him to 13th in the All-Around category, a good indicator of a balanced game. Crane also gives himself chances with tight play from the tee box, ranking 16th in total driving, which combines distance and accuracy numbers. Look for Crane to be more productive this week overall, and take this match.
All players in these and the other matches are listed at -120 on the board at Bodog.
For the win:
Very Short: Tiger Woods 11/10
Middle: Vijay Singh 20 to 1 – can he make it back to back Palmers?
Longshot: Ryuji Imada 50 to 1