2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview and Picks

Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview and Picks
Thursday March 26th – Sunday March 29th, 2009
Bay Hill Club and Lodge – Orlando, Florida
Golf Channel/NBC

One of the most famous names from the PGA Tour hosts this week’s stop as Arnold Palmer holds his annual invitational from Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. The Palmer Invitational is highly regarded among the pros on Tour, not only for the man lending his name to the event, but for Bay Hill itself, a favorite course for many players.

Tiger Woods sank a tremendous birdie on the 72nd hole last year to win by a stroke and is back to defend his title. A few big names are missing this week, but the field is strong with Singh, Harrington and Kim all in attendance along with a few wildcard players like Fred Couples and Ryo Ishikawa, a 15-year old who recently became the youngest winner from the Japan Tour.

Bay Hill Club presents a tough test for the players this week and will serve as a good barometer for those looking to guage the state of their game heading into the Masters in April. For the week, Bay Hill will play at par-70 and measure 7,239 yards. The course requires a strong tee to green game with fairways and greens essential to scoring. Bombers have traditionally been able to gain an advantage here with long tee shots creating optimum angles for approach. Bay Hill was the 18th hardest course on Tour last year with Tiger winning at 10-under.

Each week, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and breakdown some of the players expected to contend. We’ll make a pick to win from a short, middle and long odds perspective and pick some head to head match winners as well. Here are some players to watch at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger Woods
– 9 to 4 for the outright win

Not only is Tiger defending from last year, he isa five time winner of this event, taking four consecutive Palmer trophies from 2000 to 2003. Woods has been rounding into shape in his early return, hitting some solid shots, but missing some birdie opportunities. Tiger used a 68/68 weekend finish to grab a T9 at the WGC-CA two weeks ago and looked very close to winning form. Woods’ mix of length and iron play fit Bay Hill perfectly and his average of four birdies per round is great considering he is still not quite in top form.

Jim Furyk –
25 to 1

Furyk stormed to the lead last week at the Transitions after one round, but struggled to a T52 after rounds of 78/72/74 to finish. Jim was coming off consecutive top-10’s in WGC events before the struggles. Furyk is 25th infairways hit in ’09 but will have to improve his 125th rank in greens in regulation to contend this week. Furyk is among the most experienced players out there today and his 5th rank in putts per round will pay off when the approach game straightens out.

Retief Goosen – 25 to 1
Goosen broke a lengthy victory drought after winning the Transitions last week. The win was a bit out of nowhere as Goose has put of finishes of 66th, 33rd and 69th leading into the event. Goosen showed a lot of moxy and veteran nerves as his fairways and greens hit ranks are both outside the top-125 in ’09 play. The putter is there, ranking 19th in total putting, but there is not much else going right on the stat sheet right now. Maybe the win will keep the lightbulb on forthe rest of the season.

Anthony Kim – 28 to 1
Kim is in a bit of a slump to start the season, but looking to iron out the wrinkles leading up to the year’s first Major. Anthony is making his Palmer debut coming off a 58th at last week’s event, but has a runner up at this year’s Mercedes to show he’s still got it. Kim has a game that suits Bay Hill, ranking 33rd in driving distance and 55th in greens hit while averaging the 9th most birdies per round. Anthony will have to keep the driver straight to be a factor, but that is the case with a lot of long hitters and the youngster is plenty strong to dig it out of the spinach.

Kenny Perry – 28 to 1
Perry is a bit under the radar this year, despite winning the FBR and leading the Tour with four top-10 finishes. The ’05 winner at Bay Hill is 27th in total driving and 12th in overall ballstriking to put together an impressive stat sheet. Kenny is 16th in greens hit and a solid putter cranks out the 10th best scoring average. Perry is free-wheeling after grinding it out in search of a Ryder Cup berth last year and is our middle odds pick this week.

Our Picks to Win:

Short Odds: Tiger Woods (9 to 4) – We typically stay away from Woods as the value is never there, but he is trending so well that a return to the winner’s circle looks right around the corner.

Middle of the Road: Kenny Perry (28 to 1) – Perry has just been cashing a ton of checks the last two years and looks like he is in a groove heading into a favored course.

Longshot: Chad Cambell (80 to 1) – The ’04 winner was T21 last year and has missed only one cut this year. The game is well-suited for Bay Hill, ranking top-35 in driving distance and GIR% to go along with an underrated putter.

Head to Head Matches (our pick)

all matches are for entire event. Check out the golf sportsbooks daily for single round matches, updated daily.

Jim Furyk (-115) v. Anthony Kim (-115) (Kim)
Neither player is going great right now but the finish by Furyk last week is more than a little scary. Kim has the overpowering game, and that gets the nod at Bay Hill.

Vijay Singh (-115) v. Padraig Harrington (-115) (Harrington)
This is another match between struggling players with Harrington yet to put together four good rounds and Vijay possibly battling effects from a surgically repaired knee. Neither players is swinging up to potential, but Singh is really fighting the putter as well, ranking 196th in putts per round.