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Preview: PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational

Preview – PGA Tour — Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard – Bay Hill Club & Lodge – Orlando, Florida –

The PGA Tour’s Florida Swing reaches its final stop this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard without two-time defending champion and World No. 1 Tiger Woods.

Woods, an 8-time champion here, withdrew earlier this week. He has been battling back issues for a few weeks now. With Woods out of the picture, the range of players with a chance to win at Bay Hill Club & Lodge becomes wide open.

The limited-field event hosts 120 players including Masters champion Adam Scott and U.S. Open champ Justin Rose. Reigning FedEx Cup victor Henrik Stenson and former major champions Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley make up the headliners.

In its 36th year, the Arnold Palmer Invitational features a par-72 layout at more than 7,400 yards, including No. 17 and No. 18 as two of the most difficult holes on tour. The course’s par-3s should challenge the world’s best players, but the layout is known as a “second-shot” design placing a premier on greens in regulation (GIR).

The course tests talent, evidenced by only a small hand full of “longer shots” winning here in the last 15 years. Robert Gamez is the only player to win it during his first visit back in 1990.

2013 Outcome:

  • Woods (13-under) captured Bay Hill for the 8th time edging Rose by two shots. His third-round 66 paved the way. Rose opened with 65, but failed to break 70 the rest of the week. At 8-under was a four-way tie for third place including Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Mark Wilson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Jimmy Walker and Stenson logged Top 10s.

FANTASY: Take Rose, who contended here in 2011 with a T-3 and was a runner-up last year to Woods. Consider McDowell, who was a quarter-finalists in the match play. Finishing fourth in the Race To Dubai standings last season, he excels in these limited-field international events. The style of play should suit his game. He also has four Top 10s at Bay Hill.

BETTORS: With Woods out as the betting favorite, Rose (12-to-1 odds) will serve as the top dog according to Skybet.com. Along with his strong efforts at Bay Hill, he was T-8 last week on tour. Johnson (20-1) has four Top 11s here. Take a long-shot on Kevin Na at 40-1. A runner-up last week, he was T-4 at Arnold’s event last year. Jamie Donaldson (50-1) could factor this week and surprise the field.

Golf Channel has the television coverage all week, while NBC Sports brings home the leaders in the third and fourth rounds. Weather is expected to be perfect in the Orlando area with temperatures in the low 80s with light winds.

Other Golf News:

  • Woods has yet to record a Top 10 this season the PGA Tour with the Masters Tournament just weeks away.
  • Gary Woodland (50-1) leads the PGA Tour in Total Driving.
  • The Champions Tour visits Biloxi this week for the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. Michael Allen is the defending champion.
  • Rolex Ranking No. 1 Inbee Park headlines the LPGA field at the LPGA Founders Cup. She is a 6 ½-1 betting favorite just ahead of Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen at 8-1.