The Arnold Palmer Invitational
Dates: March 25th 28th, 2010
Where: Bay Hill Club Orlando, Fl
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
Evergreen of Predictem.com
We all know by now that Tiger Woods will make his debut in two weeks at the Masters but this week is the last in the Florida Swing and the event is one of the most prestigious on the Tour calendar. Arnold Palmer hosts the invitational that needs no more than to bear his name to be considered one the most important tournaments outside of the four Majors. Bay Hill serves as the host course and the Palmer design is among the favorites of the pros despite its very difficult layout. Tiger Woods has won this event six times since 2000 including last year so there will be no title defense, but a tremendously strong field is here in preparations for Augusta including ten tournament winners from this season.
The host course plays a bit bigger of a role this week than in most as Bay Hill has been changed back to a par-72 layout instead of the par-70 it has played for the last three years. The 7,400 yard track underwent some cosmetic changes in the offseason, including the addition of mounding and re-shaping the greenside areas and the strategic movement of some of the 103 bunkers to place them in areas that were previously used by players to bailout. The par-70 version played as the fourth hardest course last year and while the change to par-72 will add more scoring opportunities, the course will still play very long and require accurate irons to even find greens, much less set up birdies. Like any good championship course, Bay Hill features a lot of difficulty near the end with 14 through 18 ranked as five of the toughest ten holes on the course including the 16th which plays as the toughest and measures nearly 480 yards as a par-4. Every player will have trouble at some point with hitting greens, so look for the short games aces to benefit the most and be in there on Sunday.
Each week, we take a look at the offshore bookies and highlight a few players that we think have the best chance to win it all. We pick a short, middle and long odds player to win and breakdown a few head to head matches as well.
Here are our picks for the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Short Favorite: Phil Mickelson (10 to 1 odds to win)
Lefty hasnt made the pick list with us too many times in the past, but the return to par-72 at Bay Hill plays right into his game strengths. Mickelson can handle the length with his 5th rank in driving distance and he ranks 25th in scrambling with that legendary imagination in the short game. Phil is hitting enough greens to be a factor and while he hasnt made a lot of noise so far, he does have three straight top-24 finishes including a T8. Mickelson is among the best on Tour on the par-5s which will help this week and comes in at a respectable 21st in both scoring and birdie average although he has the game to blow those numbers away.
Middle of the Road: Hunter Mahan (28 to 1 odds to win)
Mahan put together a stellar weekend with back to back 65s to win the Phoenix a few events back and his game is right for a run here as well. Hunter is 11th in total driving and ranks 21st in fairways to come in as the 13th best ballstriker of 2010. Mahan is also above average into the greens, currently ranking 36th and his par-3 birdie or better stat is the best on Tour. The win in Arizona was his only top-25 of the season, but a good week on the greens could produce the first multiple winner on the PGA this year.
Longshot: Bubba Watson (40 to 1 odds to win)
A true bomber is always good to have on the long courses and Bubba is exactly that. Watson is currently 2nd on Tour at 299 yards and change per drive but also ranks 16th in greens hit for a rarely seen combo of power and accuracy. The mix has him at 10th in overall ballstriking and a solid flatstick produces the 10th best scoring average in 2010 play. Bubba uses that length to dominate the par-5s, ranking 6th in birdie or better percentage and is an aggregate 46-under so far this year. Watson was 3rd at the Transitions last week so maybe the hot play will continue.
Head to Head Matches (our pick) *all matches are for entire event. Check with your favorite online sportsbook for single round matches and prop bets.
Ernie Els (-115) v. Jim Furyk (-115) (Els)
These two have been partying like its 1999 in winning the last two events so its appropriate to match them, I guess. Els has the advantage this week because although Furyk hits more fairways, the Big Easy has been hitting more greens. Furyk also makes more putts on average but Ernie has the better scoring average so it seems that Els is making fewer mistakes overall and thats what you want heading into a difficult course.
Nick Watney (-115) v. Robert Allenby (-115) (Allenby)
This is a great matchup between two of the more underrated players on Tour. Both players are in the top-30 in greens hit and should do well this week overall, but Allenby has a bit of an edge in scrambling which will show at Bay Hill. Like Furyk in the other match, Watney makes more mistakes and even though he makes more birdies per round, he trails in scoring average, ranking 55th to Allenbys 5th.