Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Arnold Palmer Invitational 2017 - Bay Hill

This years Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill is set to be a poignant occasion, as it will be the first one since the passing of "The King" last September. A strong field has assembled this week, despite some journos questioning the absences of some of the Worlds top players, including the new number one, Dustin Johnson. The API unfortunately is scheduled the week before WGC and just three weeks before The Masters. It comes hot off the back of the WGC in Mexico too so I believe it's unfair to criticize those that are not attending this year. I'm sure there isn't a golfer out there, professional, amateur or fan who doesn't hold the greatest respect for Arnold Palmer and hopefully those at the Windermere course in Florida this week can mark the career of the man who was largely responsible for the professional game make-up that we have today. It will be an emotional week for his grandson, Sam Saunders who will play alongside Rory McIlroy and Brandt Snedeker. Rory heads the betting here ahead of course specialist, Henrik Stenson.


The Course


Bay Hill has undergone some changes recently meaning that the greens are becoming more Augusta-esque with run off areas designed to penalize those missing their targets. This was complemented by removing rough areas around the hazards and bunkers, often bail out areas. The rough is reported to be quite severe too but scoring should remain quite low. The scoring should be done on the par-5s this week. A cold putter will leave you trailing.


Shortlist & Selections


Tough week to reduce the field down to an average 10-man shortlist so I posted my 22 list on Monday with some players I was keen to check on, highlighted. Seán O'Hair was in my thoughts for this week but we withdrew last week at Copperhead with a neck injury. He plays though so perhaps it's not too bad. Was 2nd to Tiger Woods back in 2009, twelve months after finishing 3rd behind Tiger in 2008. He should have won in 2009 having taken a 5 shot lead into Sunday and was pipped by a birdie at the last from Woods. Recent form is solid if ignoring last week as he's posted 4 TOP15s in his last 7. He's worth a play here despite injury concerns given his previous course form and obvious recent form - the early departure last week gives him more time to be ready this week.

Zach Johnson may not be a name you'd associate with "par-5 scoring requirement" but it's very difficult to ignore his course form here and if a short game around the games is required, the double Major Champion has the game to contend yet again. 5th last year on the back of a TOP10 in 2015, Zach was also 3rd back in 2009 here. He's been quiet of late despite 6th at The Sony Open and T12th at The Phoenix Open, so a man of his character could rise to the occasion that represents itself this week in celebration of the great Arnold Palmer. 67.00 outright is value for me but the T10 & T20 markets reflect his obvious chances and represent no value. He will have to be an outright (or e/w) bet or back-to-lay bet.

I like to get players who are coming in with solid recent form and there's a few doing so this week. Namely, Wesley Bryan who can't seem to miss the frame at the moment. He's finished 4-4-7 in last 3 events to really find his game. How he fares at Bay Hill remains to be seen but his price is about right this week @ 60.00 The Europeans though are arriving with excellent form in the shapes of Tyrell Hatton,Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Matty Fitzpatrick and of course Henrik Stenson & Rory McIlroy. The Olympic Champion is a win bet for me here as he too seems at ease at this course with 4 TOP10s in his 8 visits. Rose was my Masters ante-post bet last month @ 33/1 and I'm anxious to see him warm up here with three weeks to go. He plays alongside his buddy, Henrik Stenson the first two days which is a huge positive for me. They should rub off each other, and put themselves in the mix for the weekend ahead.

 Another European and an old favourite of mine is simmering of late, indeed for some time now. He last played here in 2008 when missing the cut but he's a much more accomplished player these days. Martin Kaymer is a double Major Champion on US soil, has won The Players and excels in the big events.He'll play alongside Jason Day, the defending champion and Bubba Watson. The German will be encouraged by his TOP5 at PGA National on greens similar to Bay Hill. Looking at his results the past twelve months we can be encouraged by his performances on the tougher courses such as Valderrama, the K Club, le Golf National,Wentworth, Baltusrol, to mention a few. Kaymer is due another big one and is the type of player that can click any given week- preferably one when he's 85.00 !!

Lastly, I'm playing the TOP20 market with Chad Campbell @ 7.50 The 4-time PGA winner has shown positive signs of return to form of late having posted a TOP15 last week on the back of T6th at The Career Builder in January. Its been a struggle the past 5 years for the Texan, but he did produce a TOP20 here twelve months ago. He ranks 14th on tour presently for par-5 scoring, will be encouraged by his performance at La Quinta and can put in another solid week at a course he knows well having won here way back in 2004.


Staking Plan


2.00 pts WIN J.Rose @ 21.00
0.50 pts E/W Z.Johnson @ 61.00 (6 places)
0.25 pts WIN S. O'Hair @ 151.00
0.75 pts WIN M. Kaymer @ 85.00

1.50 pts TOP10 M.Kaymer @ 6.00
1.50 pts TOP20 S. O'Hair @ 5.50
3.00 pts TOP20 C.Campbell @ 7.50