Can this Rose bloom in Bay Hill?
March 06, 2019 3:00 AM
by Bill Bowman
A star-studded field (17 of the top 30 in FedEx Cup standings are expected to tee it up) takes aim at knocking off defending champion Rory McIlroy at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational being played at The Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge in Bay Hill, Fla.
McIlroy (7-1 odds to repeat) finished last year’s event with a blistering final-round 64 including five birdies in his last six holes to post the victory. He beat Bryson DeChambeau (16-1 this year) by three strokes.
But while those two will certainly be two players to watch, we’re looking in a different direction as our top pick this week.
Check out Justin Rose at 10-1. Rose, who just lost his world No. 1 ranking to Dustin Johnson, has taken some time off recently so he should be refreshed and ready to go. Add in the fact that his last event was a victory at the Farmer’s Insurance Open and you’ve got the makings of a man with a tremendous amount of confidence.
Plus there’s likely to be a little determination to get back to that No. 1 spot as DJ isn’t in the field this week.
Watch as his drive to play well gets ratcheted up another notch. Rose was third here last year, including a five-under-par finishing round, with two previous solid finishes — T-13 two years ago and T-9 three years ago — so he knows his way around the course.
And with The Players coming up next week in the revamped PGA Tour schedule, there’s no better way to head into one of the PGA Tour’s most prestigious events (outside of a Major) than with a victory.
We had Tiger Woods penciled in as one to watch as he would have had a week off to work on his putting stroke in friendly confines — and on Bermuda greens — after disastrous exhibitions on the greens in the Genesis event at Riviera CC and the WGC event in Mexico where he three-putted with alarming regularity. But he withdrew on Monday with a neck strain.
Not to worry. There’s another player with success on this layout, although he doesn’t hold a candle to Tiger’s eight victories at this event, including four straight in 2000-2004 as well as back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.
But recently, Marc Leishman (25-1) has found this place to his liking. He rallied to win this event two years ago and finished a more-than-respectable T7 last year in defense of that title.
He’s playing solid golf right now (three top-five finishes in the 2018-2019 wraparound season as well as a victory in Malaysia last fall in the CIMB Classic). Granted, he struggled and finished T62 at the WGC event in Mexico last month, but the fact he’s finished in the top 20 three straight years at Arnie’s event (T7, Win, T17) should more than override his Mexico result.
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