So with Week 12 in the books, we have now had 5 first time winners in 2013, Kevin Streelman being the latest this past weekend at the Tampa Bay Championship, his 153rd attempt at a victory. He joins a host of surprise winners this year with Russell Henley winning on his first ever start at the Sony Open and John Merrick winning on his 169th start on the PGA Tour. This year has been one of the hardest to predict on the PGA Tour with Rookies and other surprise packages starting their season really strongly, but with only three weeks until The Masters things should start to revert back to normality, starting here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tips wise last week, it was again a disappointment. Webb Simpson and Nick Watney never really got going, and although he showed flashes Erik Compton was never really in contention either, but one tip that was, was 100/1 George Coetzee. Coetzee was tied for the lead at -6 at the end of round 3 and was in the penultimate group with Jim Furyk on Sunday. Unfortunately Coetzee couldn’t hold together and finished +3 for the day and in a tie for 17th, a huge disappointment after such a good 3rd round. He will however have plenty of time to redeem himself as he has now obtained invites for all the events on the PGA Tour heading into Augusta.
So on to this week, and it’s that time of year again where we visit Bay Hill in Florida. The Arnold Palmer Invitational (previously known as the Bay Hill Invitational) is a a special event on the PGA calender pre-Masters and other than being associated with the great Arnold Palmer himself, there is one other name that you cannot ignore and that is none other than Tiger Woods. Tiger won this event for the 7th time last year, he also won four times in a row between 2000-2003. Winning the same tournament four times consecutively has only been done on four occasions, Tiger also did this at the Buick invitational (2005-2008) so the record is not something to be taken lightly. Woods has already won twice this year winning his 7th Farmers Insurance and his 7th WGC- Cadillac so with that trend in mind and returning to Bay Hill where has already won 7 times there is no questions as to why he is as short as 11/2 to win here again. If all that wasn’t enough to convince you, with Mcilroy choosing to sit out this week Tiger has the chance, for the first time since October 2010 to regain his World No.1 status, something that he clearly wants to achieve. Apart from Tiger Woods, there has also been one other multiple winner still on tour and that is South African Ernie Els. Els won this event in 2010 and also finished T4 in 2012. His 4th here last year alongside his performance at the Zurich Open which he eventually lost to Jason Dufner in a play-off all came before his latest Major win at The Open late last year. Although he hasn’t quite found his form this year Els will certainly look forward to this week as he looks to prepare for The Masters. He didn’t get an invite to Augusta last year and he will look to set the record straight in three weeks time, and what better way to find his form than at a course where has enjoyed past success.
The Course: Bay Hill plays 7,381 yards and is a par 72, very similar in length and also a par 72 is Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance) played earlier in the year, where Tiger won and the likes of Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney and Rickie Fowler all impressed. Scoring here at Bay Hill varies from year to year, with the last three winning scores being -13, -5 and -11 so conditions will play a massive part.
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods. Enough has been said about him already, and not more needs to be covered. He won last year with a score of -13, 5 clear of his nearest challenger Graeme McDowell. G Mac challenged Woods at the WGC Cadillac this year and will look to go head-head once again with Woods like he did here in 2012. Woods is the obvious favourite again this year, and he will be the man to beat yet again this week.
With Tiger being the name on everyone’s lips this year, plenty of other players will be coming in at big odds, many who are in great form of their own, and could pose excellent value to go well this week and try to derail Woods in his quest to yet again be World No.1 and pick up his 8th Bay Hill title. Others favourites in the field are 1997 champ and this years Phoenix Open champ Phil Mickelson who is available at 18/1, along with Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker, top prices of 20/1 & 22/1/ respectively both at Coral. So here are my tips of players who are either what I believe to be over priced in the each way market, or players that could threaten Woods for the title.
Brandt Snedeker 22/1 (BetVictor & Coral) 2pts win: The eagerly anticipated return of Brandt Snedeker has finally arrived. I make it sound like forever and although it has only been 5 weeks, it has seemed a lot longer since his win in February at Pebble Beach. In my opinion there is not a better player in the world at this moment in time, Woods will steal that title back from him here with a win here this week, but until then I’ll continue to stick my neck and say he is the best. In five events, his results since week 1 read like this: 3rd, T23, T2, 2nd and 1st. The two times he came 2nd he was beat only by the outstanding play of Tiger and Mickelson, and yes they are both in the field this week, but he will be looking to gain the edge on both of them here and prove why he is one of the big favourites for The Masters. He is 1st in Greens in Regulation, 1st in Scoring Average and 1st in Scrambling, pretty impressive huh? It will be interesting to see how he plays coming straight of his rib injury, the same one he suffered last summer making him miss the U.S Open. But considering it was playing up when he won at Pebble Beach and after his lay off last year he managed to come 3rd at The Open and win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup I can’t say it worries me too much.
Graeme McDowell 25/1 (StanJames, Ladbrokes & Coral) 2pts e/w: It’s harder to find a reason not to bet G-Mac this week than it is to find a reason why. He has recently taken up residence in Florida, his last three results this season on Tour are T3, T9 and T5 and that is all matched by his performance here last year where he came 2nd only to Tiger Woods’ brilliance. He is 2nd in Driving Accuracy, 2nd in Scrambling and also 5th in Total Scoring so far in 2013 and there is nothing to suggest that he is going to slow up here this week. He is settled in his new home in Orlando now and he has commented on how this has helped his game, he is in great form once again and he will certainly be one to watch this week.
Ernie Els 80/1 (BoyleSports) 1pt e/w: Two time winner here at Bay Hill, Ernie Els certainly has impressive form at this course and although his wins came in 2010 and 1998 he showed he can still cut it here finishing T4 last year. He finished badly in his final round last season when he shot +3 ending up on a score of -5. Had he of shot par he would of been in a tie for 2nd with G-Mac and any better than that would of been Tiger’s main challenger. I know it’s easy to say “he could of” but Els has proven that he performs well, just like Woods at events he has had previous success in. He proved that last year winning The Open for the 2nd time at a different course, and likewise winning the U.S Open twice, again at two different courses, so not only does he play well at said events but he can also adapt. He is also a multiple winner at the Sony Open (previously the Hawaiin Open) & Buick Classic (now known as the The Barlcays) both back-back victories, and although these were a long time ago and he certainly isn’t in that kind of form, all of these things considered along with his attractive price, Els offers great each way value, even if you don’t believe he can win this week.
Ben Kohles 200/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: No Kohles has not won this season, unlike fellow rookie Russell Henley but he has made three progressive finishes in his last three events, T41 (Honda Classic) T39 (Puerto Rico) and last but certainly not least T7 this past week at the Tampa Bay Championship. He has been in and around the top of the leaderboard on all three occasions at some point of the event, he was within two of the lead after the 1st round of the Honda Classic and four off in the 1st round in Puerto Rico before most importantly being five off of the eventual winner last week at the Tampa Championship and just three off of 2nd. This is no small part down to his Driving Accuracy and his Putting where he lies 8th and 9th respectively in each category. His price is far too big to ignore as there are always surprise packages in this event, namely in recent years Bud Cauley (T4 2012) and Marc Leishman ( T3 2011). Don’t rule him out this week when you are looking for value.
PGA Tour points staked this week: 1o
Total Points staked this week: (TBC)
Profit/Loss for 2013: 0
That is all from me this week, and it is back to where we started in terms of profit this season and just like every other week I will be looking to improve on that, and with The Masters just three weeks away it will be nice be in profit before then. Look out for my tips for the Malaysian Open (this week’s European Tour event) and as ever make sure to follow me on Twitter @TomJacobs8