Bay Hill betting guide
Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 26/03/13 7:45am
It's hard to imagine that when Tiger Woods turned up at Bay Hill in 2012 he hadn't posted a win anywhere in the world since 2009.
When he left on Sunday evening, Woods has ended the drought via a convincing five-shot triumph and it kick-started a three-win season which he's added to with two more victories in 2013.
That, amazingly, was Tiger's seventh win at Bay Hill and if he can add an eighth this week he would return to world number one.
A look at the odds and he's a big favourite to do so. In fact, it's like we've gone back five years with Tiger dominating the betting to such an extent that no-one else is even close to a single-figure price.
As usual, Sky Sports will have live coverage of all four days, with the first broadcast beginning at 7pm (SS3 HD) on Thursday.
Bay Hill is a 7,381-yard par 72. The 1961 Dick Wilson design was proclaimed the "best course in Florida" when Arnold Palmer first tried it and he liked it so much he bought it. The course has undergone various tweaks down the years but the current layout will be just as it's been for the last three years when the winning scores were -13, -8 and -11. The tournament records here all came in the 80s with the late Payne Stewart posting 264 in 1987 while the 18-hole record of 62 was set by Andy Bean in 1981 and matched by Greg Norman in 1984.
The forecast suggest the tournament starts in the mid 70s but then rises to a possible 86 degrees on Sunday. T-storms are definitely being seen as a risk over the last three rounds, with a 60% chance of rain on Sunday. The winds are also set to pick on the weekend, rising to 15-17mph.
Last year - Tiger Woods
Tiger was only one shot in front of Graeme McDowell when he put on his Sunday red shirt last year. But, despite two full winless years on the PGA Tour, Woods rolled back the years and ran away to record a five-shot victory. Tiger's job was made easier when McDowell double bogeyed the opening hole and, despite a brief rally, the Northern Irishman never got closer than two shots again before falling away on the back nine.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Tiger Woods (11/4): Tiger's amazing tally of seven wins here speaks for itself. But what does the 14-time major winner say about Bay Hill, himself? "For some reason, it just fits my eye. Ever since the U.S. Junior - granted, they have changed this place - but I don't know why, it just fits. I feel comfortable coming around here, hitting shots, shaping it." As he showed with his victories at Torrey Pines (eighth victory there) and Doral (fourth) he specialises in winning at the same courses so, quite simply, he's the one they all have to beat this week.
Justin Rose (16/1): The Englishman continues to perform at an extremely high level week win, week out. To be exact, make that seven top eights in his last nine strokeplay events dating back to last year's Tour Championship. Rose has finished fourth and eighth in his two Florida Swing starts this month while Bay Hill is another Sunshine State course he can thrive on. Third here two years ago, 15th last year (fifth at halfway) and eighth in 2006, Rose could be the one who gives Woods most to think about.
Phil Mickelson (16/1): The left-hander also boasts some excellent Bay Hill form, with a win, a second, a third and a fifth. The doubt is that all those results came between 1997 and 2002 while, since the latest revamp in 2010, he's not cracked the top 20. On the plus side, Mickelson certainly impressed when third at the WGC-Cadillac on his last start while he was sensational when capturing the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. His 2013 stats of 20th in Greens In Regulation and 25th in Strokes Gained - Putting is also a pretty powerful combination.
Brandt Snedeker (20/1): Snedeker was resembling a young Johnny Miller in the early part of the season - both in looks and play. Everything seemed effortless to the blond-haired Ryder Cup star as he racked up a win, two seconds and a third. Then came a surprise. He'd actually been suffering a rib injury during it all. Snedeker has taken a month off and says he's fighting fit again so the big question is whether he can pick up where he left off. His record at Bay Hill isn't all that good but this year he tops the stats for Greens In Regulation, Birdie Average, All-Around Ranking and is top of the Money List.
Graeme McDowell (20/1): After a lengthy winter break and a rusty missed cut at Riviera, G-Mac has really hit his straps. The 2010 US Open champion made the last eight of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, finished ninth in the Honda Classic and was third in the WGC-Cadillac Championship where he hit more fairways than anyone. He also happens to be a two-time runner-up at Bay Hill (2005 and 2012) so he's likely to be a popular bet this week.
Sergio Garcia (20/1): You have to go back to the 2012 USPGA to find the last time the Spaniard failed to finish in the top 25 of an event. That's testament to his superb ball-striking and improved putting and that run of 12 strokeplay events includes two wins and seven other top 10s. One of those came at Tampa Bay last week where he was ranked 1st for the week on the All-Around Ranking. At Bay Hill he's also shown a high level of consistency with six top 10s in his last 10 visits.
Bubba Watson (28/1): The Masters champ hasn't really got it going yet this season despite a fourth and two other top 20s suggesting he's not far away. At the WGC-Cadillac Championship last time out he was the joint first round leader and fifth at halfway before finishing 18th (he even tweeted "it was fun out there today" after a closing 75 so he seems in a good place). His course form is encouraging too. Bubba was fourth at Bay Hill last year and eighth in 2008 while in 2011 he was third with a round to go before a final-round blowout left him in tied 24th.
Lee Westwood (28/1): Having slipped out of the top 10 in the world for the first time since 2009, there are perhaps signs of subtle decline with Westwood. However, having uprooted the family to move to Florida we should perhaps cut him a bit of slack and, to be honest, his results are hardly that bad with just one finish outside the top 25 in five strokeplay starts. He used to be a regular at Bay Hill but has played it just once in the last six years (17th in 2008). His best is a fifth in 2006 but that's his only top 10.
Best of the rest
Webb Simpson (35/1): The US Open champion has a special connection with this event and the host himself. Simpson was on a Palmer Scholarship scheme during his years at Wake Forest and twice received invites from Arnie to play in this tournament as an amateur. It means this is the PGA Tour event he's played more than any other. He made the cut as an amateur in 2008, finished 11th the following year and was sixth at halfway last year before falling back. He's been a little bit under the radar this year but a sixth at Riviera, a run to the last eight of the Match Play and top 20s in his last two starts is enough for us to expect a big run soon.
Dark horsesSean O'Hair (125/1) O'Hair will wonder how he doesn't already have this tournament on his CV. In 2009 he was five shots clear with a round to play but couldn't respond when the clattering hooves of Tiger Woods came galloping past him. The year before O'Hair had finished runner-up so he really does have a liking for this layout (also T21 in 2010 and T29 in 2011). O'Hair has posted some great results in Florida down the years and two top 20s in his last four starts suggests he can shine here again.
Brian Harman (150/1) The left-hander, who threatened to shoot a 59 at last year's Honda Classic, has finished 18th (Puerto Rico) and 14th (Tampa Bay) in his last two starts while he finished 15th here last year after recovering superbly from a first-round 77. Harman played on two Walker Cup teams so clearly has something about him and, just maybe, this is the week where he really makes a big impact.
I'm very close to backing Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia this week but the value lies with two players they opposed in the last Ryder Cup.
So it's Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson who get the nod.
Let's not forget, unlike the Euro duo, both this pair are major winners and Americans are totally ruling the roost on the PGA Tour this year.
Watson and Simpson have been a little quiet so far but both are too good to remain out of the limelight for long and they have enough positive history at Bay Hill to suggest it's here where they step up.
You have to give Tiger huge respect here so it's worth giving up a few points and backing both in the 'without Woods' market. To be paid out on a 25/1 or 28/1 winner if they finish runner-up to Woods would seem smart business.
At much bigger odds, two more Americans who could get into the mix are Sean O'Hair and Brian Harman.
They've shown up on leaderboards in recent events and have Bay Hill form. O'Hair's is fantastic so it's a particular surprise to see him at 125s.
We could play them without Woods but a placed finish is more likely so back them in the main market for a potential bigger each-way return.
Also play this pair to be first round leader.
Harman has a history of starting fast. In his last 19 events, his end of round positions after the opening day show three second places (including last week), a third and a fourth. That suggests he's really good each-way value in the R1 leader market at 125s.
O'Hair has been fourth after day one in three of his last six starts at Bay Hill, including last year. He was also sixth after day one in the recent Honda Classic.
2pts e.w. Bubba Watson 'without Woods' at 25/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Webb Simpson 'without Woods at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
0.5pts e.w. Brian Harman at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
0.5pts e.w. Brian Harman to be first round leader at 125/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
0.5pts e.w. Sean O'Hair at 125/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
0.5pts e.w. Sean O'Hair to be first round leader at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)