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Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 03/20/2012

The PGA Tour continues the Florida swing with a trip to Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This is a big event with a lot of big names and this will be the final stocked field until the Masters in two weeks. The headliner is of course Tiger Woods who is making his second straight appearance at Bay Hill. The field will consist of two of the top ten in the Official World Golf Rankings, eight of the top ten on the PGA money list and 15 past Major winners.

The players had to contend with a revamped layout two years while windy conditions was the story last year. Bay Hill's last significant upgrade came 20 years ago, when four holes were changed but three years ago, it was another full overhaul. Despite being raised from a par 70 to a par 72, the added yardage increased the cumulative scoring average as Bay Hill was third highest in difficulty of all par 72 non-majors two years ago and second highest in difficulty in 2011.

Bay Hill played as a par 70 of over 7,100 yards for three straight years from 2007-2009. It was the most difficult track of any non-major course in 2009, playing at +2.19 strokes to par. Two years ago, it played at +0.89 strokes over par and last year it played +1.20 strokes over par. In four of the last seven years, Bay Hill has played to at least one shot over par and it has been ranked 11th or higher in difficulty eight times since 2000. In 2011, only 29 of the 75 players finished below par.

Tiger Woods (+800) comes in as the favorite and for good reason. He has won this event six times and is the all-time money leader and he looks to be regaining the form when he was dominating the tour. The problem here has been that if he isn't in contention for the win, he has rarely made noise as he has just one top ten outside those victories. In three finishes this year, he has been in the top 20 every time.

Webb Simpson (+1,500) is coming off his third top ten on the season after his T10 finish at the Transitions. Although he did not win, it was a positive move forward which is exactly what happened last year. He got off to a slow start in 2011 as well but a solo second at the Transitions jumpstarted a very strong year that included two wins and two other runner-ups.

We used Bo Van Pelt (+2,500) last week and he had a successful run at the Transitions as he finished solo ninth. He was coming off a T8 at Doral and the top nine at Copperhead made it four straight top nines in medal play events. His best finish at Bay Hill was a T13 way back in 2004 and his best most recent finish was a T14 in 2010 but he has never missed the cut here so he will be around once again.

Sergio Garcia (+2,500) is coming off a consistent week at Copperhead where he finished T16 following two 68's and two 70's. He has cracked the top ten only once in three stroke play events but coming to Bay Hill could mean his first PGA Tour win since the Players Championship in 2008. He finished solo eighth here in 2011 which was his sixth top ten in 10 career starts.

It has been a quiet year for Nick Watney (+3,000) as he has just one top ten in seven starts and that was at the Accenture Match Play. After playing well at the Cadillac Championship two weeks ago, he did not play great at the Transitions last week but he has had success at Bay Hill. His last start was in 2010 and a Sunday 78 knocked him to T64 but he finished T4 in 2009.

We are getting great value with Ben Crane (+6,000) who took the week off following a T51 at the Cadillac Championship. He already has three top tens this year including a solo second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. His last regular season win came at the Farmers in 2010 but he could get back into the winner circle as he has not missed the cut in five starts at Bay Hill including three top 25's.

Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (all for One Unit)

Webb Simpson (+1,500)

Bo Van Pelt (+2,500)

Sergio Garcia (+2,500)

Nick Watney (+3,000)

Ben Crane (+6,000)

Record to date after 10 events: -0.9 Units

Sony Open -5 Units

Humana Challenge -6 Units

Farmers Insurance Open +22 Units

Waste Management Phoenix Open -5 Units

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units

Northern Trust Open -5 Units

Accenture Match Play +7.1 Units

Honda Classic -5 Units

WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units

Transitions Championship +6 Units

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