Rory McIlroy Favored At Arnold Palmer Invitational
The PGA Tour's Florida Swing wraps up this weekend with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, and despite playing this event for the first time in his career, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is the heavy 11/2 favorite at Bovada. A field of 132 will tackle Bay Hill Club & Lodge this week, where the winner will receive a three-year Tour exemption.
McIlroy, finally fulfilling a promise to play in Palmer's tournament, heads a roster that features each of the top five in the current world rankings. In all, Bay Hill will host 15 of the rankings’ top 30. World No. 2 Bubba Watson and No. 5 Jason Day are among 10 entrants with PGA Tour victories thus far in 2014-15. The TOUR remains in quest of its first two-time winner this season, a stretch that has reached 17 events. That’s the longest stretch since 1994, when Nick Price won his second in the season’s 21st stop.
Perhaps the big news is that Tiger Woods isn't playing an event he has won a record eight times. Tiger has now missed at least two tournaments he usually plays in, along with the Honda Classic. The only other tournaments prior to the Masters are the Valero Texas Open and the Shell Houston Open -- he last played the Valero event in 1996 and has never played the Houston tournament. If he doesn't play in one of the Texas events prior to Augusta, he'll go into the season's first major having played just 47 holes, his last coming on Feb. 5 at Torrey Pines.
In 36 editions since coming to Bay Hill, U.S. players have claimed all but five titles. Els has two wins among internationals (1998 and 2010); the others belong to Australia’s Rod Pampling (2006), Fiji’s Vijay Singh (2007) and Scotland’s Martin Laird (2011). Beginning with this year's tournament, the Tour is awarding the winners at Bay Hill and the Memorial Tournament with a three-year exemption of status. That's one year longer than the customary perk. Winners will also be exempt into the Players for three years.
Rest of Favorites
Henrik Stenson (9/1): The Swede has finished fourth in back-to-back weeks, first at Doral and again at Innisbrook. He has also cracked the top 15 each of the last three years at Bay Hill, highlighted by a T-5 finish last year.
Watson (11/1): He had an early exit from Bay Hill last year due to allergies, but he has been remarkably consistent this season: four top-10 finishes in five starts, including a WGC victory, and no finish worse than T-14.
Day (16/1): The Aussie already has a win under his belt this year, and his T-31 finish at Doral was his first result outside the top 20 all season. Day is making just his second start in Orlando since 2011.
Adam Scott (18/1): He ended four-year hiatus at Bay Hill with solo third last year. Led after each of the first three rounds. Scott comes off his first missed cut in 45 starts last week.
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