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Tiger is once more the favourite


It would make no sense at all if a player ranked at 149th in the world were to be put up as the hot favourite to win this week's elite Arnold Palmer Invitational at the late, great golfer's Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge - unless, of course, that player is Tiger Woods.

Perhaps not everyone sees the longtime former World No 1 and 14-time major winner as their hot favourite, but clearly based on their expectation that the bets on him will come flooding in after his impressive second-place tie in the Valspar Championship last week and on the fact that he has won the Palmer Invitational an amazing eight times, the British bookmakers have given him pride of place at the very summit of this week's list of favourites.

They have him at 11/2 with Australia's former World No 1, Jason Day, a distant 12/1, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, another former World No 1, at 18/1 and those highly-ranked usual suspects, Rickie Fowler of the US and Tommy Fleetwood of England at 20/1.

Australia's defending champion Mark Leishman is quite a bit further down the list at 40/1.

Apart from missing "one or two putts that should have gone in" and maybe preventing England's Paul Casey from winning the Valspar Championship at 10-under, Woods last week played the most solid golf of a most forgettable decade when he's been winless during a spell when he has spent more time on the sidelines undergoing and recovering from a series of different surgical procedures than he has in competition golf.

To be quite frank, most men in his position would probably have quit years ago and spent the rest of their lives comfortably sitting on a pile of money and savouring a super-star reputation.

Woods hasn't done this. He has bravely soldiered on until finally, his last operation, a spinal fusion, seems to have done the trick, for, after years of frustration and failure, the balding 42-year-old is looking like a new man again.

And while he hasn't played Bay Hill since 2013 and will find that the Orlando course has evolved at a much faster rate than most top level-PGA Tour layouts - fairways turfed with Celebration bermudagrass and greens with TifEagle Bermuda being among the most recent changes - his great memories of his winning exploits here should nevertheless be an important advantage.

Mind you, with inform opposition in the field like Day, Rose and the gritty Patrick Reed, who tied Tiger for second at Copperhead last week, Woods will have to bring his new, rebuilt and revitalised A Game to Bay Hill if he hopes to whisk up another uplifting performance ahead of next months Masters.

One thing he can expect; Bay Hill in the 40th edition of the Palmer Invitational might be a tougher proposition than he remembers it to be.

Granted a moderate gusting wind last year made things a little more difficult, but course changes were perhaps more responsible for the average scoring rate being an over-par, 72.890 four-year-high and Leishman's 11-under 277 being the highest winning total in six years.

The weather this year, however, should help, rather than hinder things. Our forecasters are expecting plenty of sunshine, no more than a light breeze during all four rounds and no rain until a 'slight chance of it' late on Sunday afternoon.

(Tuesday a.m. March 13, 2018)

Tiger Woods 11/2
Jason Day 12/1
Justin Rose 14/1
Rory McIlroy 18/1
Rickie Fowler 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood 20/1
Hideki Matsuyama 25/1
Tyrrell Hatton 22/1
Henrik Stenson 28/1
Alex Noren 25/1
Patrick Reed 33/1
Bubba Watson 33/1
Marc Leishman 40/1
Adam Scott 33/1
Brian Harman 40/1
Louis Oosthuizen 55/1
Luke List 55/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 55/1
Brandt Snedeker 60/1
Zach Johnson 60/1.

NOTE: For all the leading odds, please go to

For betting odds visit BetWay

Neville Leck

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