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This has always been one of the great stops on the PGA Tour as players and fans come out to honor the legendary Arnold Palmer.
Prize money is ramped up to $20 million this year while the last man standing in an event that has elevated status pockets a cool $3.6 million.
Tiger Woods, who won’t be playing this week, racked up a staggering eight wins in 14 appearances at ‘Arnie’s place’ and lesser lights such as Loren Roberts and Matt Every have also won the tournament in back-to-back years.
US duo Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau won the last two editions but prior to that it was a very different story.
Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman won in 2016 and 2017 and then came a trio of European winners: Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari and Tyrrell Hatton.
The last seven Arnold Palmers have been won by Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup golfers.
In other words, it’s a classy tournament won by classy players.
Bay Hill yielded three winning scores between 17-under and 19-under from 2015 to 2018.
But it’s been toughened up since. Hatton needed just 4-under to triumph in 2020 while Scheffler took just one more swing in 2022.
The par 72 in Orlando measures 7,466 yards from the tips and features TifEagle Bermuda on the greens. The rough is reported to be at least 3½ inches.
Adding to the challenge this week is a testing forecast which shows 20mph gusts on Thursday and Saturday and possibly 30mph at their worst for Friday’s second round.
Bogeys are inevitable and Scheffler had 13 and a double on the way to victory last year. He hit back with 16 birdies and two eagles.
After three wins on the West Coast Swing, there’s only one candidate to be the market leader: Jon Rahm.
And yet the Spaniard, who powered to victories in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, The American Express and the Genesis Invitational, has a modest record in Florida with a best of sixth in eight appearances in the Sunshine State.
Here at Bay Hill, Rahm was tied 17th on his only start 12 months ago.
Rory McIlroy has far more history at Arnie’s event and lifted the silverware thanks to a closing 64 in 2018.
The Northern Irishman boasts three other top sixes and has finished outside the top 15 just once.
Scottie Scheffler used a tied 15th on debut in 2020 to win here on just his second appearance last year.
Max Homa is a stud on the West Coast Swing but his record at Bay Hill is good but not great: 24-10-17 in three appearances.
One takeaway from the Netflix ‘Full Swing’ documentary series is just how comfortable Scottie Scheffler is with life.
The Texan featured in an episode of contrasts alongside Brooks Koepka, the latter battling demons and wondering how he could get back to the levels that brought him four Major titles.
Scheffler has that magic right now and showed it again when making a successful defense of his Waste Management Phoenix Open title two starts ago.
With everything going so well on and off the course, there’s no reason why Scheffler can’t repeat the feat this week and win his second straight Arnold Palmer.
He ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green in Phoenix, 1st for SG: Off The Tee when 12th at Riviera last time and hasn’t finished outside the top dozen in his last six tournaments.
When golfers find a winning groove they need to be followed.
Take Scheffler +1000 with bet365 for the win.
Rickie Fowler looks to have a new lease of life since reuniting with former coach Butch Harmon.
The 34-year-old showed it with second place at the Zozo and sixth in the Fortinet prior to the Christmas break and he’s backed that up with a trio of impressive performances on the West Coast Swing: 11th at Torrey Pines, 10th in Phoenix and 20th at Riviera.
Fowler’s underlying numbers look robust and he’s ranked 9th, 3rd and 9th in SG: Approach at his last three events.
I’ll take him in a 72-hole match to gun down Aaron Wise.
Wise missed cuts at The American Express and the Phoenix Open before taking 29th at the Honda Classic so his form isn’t as sharp.
At Bay Hill, Fowler was third in 2013 and has made his last seven cuts, logging three more top 20s.
Wise’s course form of 41-40-MC-17 is much less impressive so take Fowler to win their 72-holer at -130 with DraftKings Sportsbook.
With course form a big steer this week, I’m drawn to Tommy Fleetwood to put in another solid performance at Bay Hill.
The Englishman has pegged it up six times at Bay Hill and in five of those he finished between third and 26th.
Fleetwood showed impressive form at the back end of 2022 and returned to the winner’s circle with a victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
After a sluggish start to 2023, he banked a solid 20th place at Riviera last time and I expect him to kick on here.
Back Fleetwood to log his fifth top 20 from eight Bay Hills starts at +240 with bet365.
BetMGM has paired young guns Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland this week and it looks like a good opportunity to favor the American.
Throughout their careers, Scheffler leads the head-to-head count 22-18, but when you take the conditions into account the advantage rises.
On grainy putting surfaces, for example? Scheffler leads 16-5.
And what about at the course?
Well, they’ve only played it together on the one occasion, in 2020, when Scheffler earned the win.
But Hovland has played the course three times and never finished better than T40th. Scheffler finished T15th in that only previous start.
Favor Scheffler to trump Hovland again at -118 with BetMGM.
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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at SkySports.com and Golf365.com and has been writing betting previews for the PGA Tour and European Tour since 1997. He has also written for a range of betting companies, including William Hill and Betfair, as well as being a regular columnist for Rotoworld, The Guardian, Sporting Life and Planet Sport. His other area of speciality is football while he's also covered cricket and tennis.
Email: [email protected]More info on Dave Tindall
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