Golf: Matsuyama can take centre stage at the Arnold Palmer

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US TOUR specialist Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) was one shot away from a 50/1 place last week to continue his winning start to 2017. Here, he looks at the Arnold Palmer Championship.

Arnold Palmer Championship | 16th-19th March 2017 | Sky Sports

Just over three weeks until Augusta – I thought I would throw that in as an opening line.

If you’re a golf fan, it can only make you smile. If you’re a casual reader, looking to make up Cheltenham losses, welcome. You’ve picked a pretty decent week to get involved in golf betting…

This one is emotional for the golfing world. Arnold Palmer is a legend of the game. Perhaps THE legend – Arnie is to modern golf what Pele and George Best were to modern football. His passing just a few months ago was mourned everywhere.

Palmer wasn’t just a great player but in everyone’s eyes, a thoroughly good man. There was genuine sorrow when the great man left us. This tournament and this golf course are a testament to him.

Course background

Bay Hill in Windermere, Florida is the setting for a classical par-72 beloved my most in the game and dominated by a certain Tiger Woods.

Eight times, Tiger won here, the last in 2013. It’s to the games regret, that we won’t see Woods here this time or at The Masters in April.

Much like Copperhead last week, Bay Hill is a non-typical Florida course – much more like those you would find in the Carolinas. Tree-lined and with hazards everywhere.

However, this is not the Bay Hill of old. Despite water being in play on eight holes and green complexes that demand a hot putter, the 2015 redesign has taken the bite out of this track.

Fairways have been widened to such an extent that the four-inch rough is nowhere near as penal as it should be. Par-four scoring should be difficult but it is not any longer.

Where this tournament could and should be won is on the par-fives. Three of them over 550 yards should bring the big hitters into play. In the past two years scores of -17 and -19 have seen Jason Day and 300/1 shot Matt Every triumph.

The field

There is a fairly decent field this week. Dustin Johnson is a big miss – he could have taken Bay Hill to its knees.

Rory McIlroy played well enough for three rounds in Mexico but his putter was cold for the final round and a half, plus this is just his second tournament back after a long layoff and 7/1 is mighty short. Rory is more than capable of running away with this but I can’t have him at that price right now.

Henrik Stenson is second in the market – once again, 9/1 is a terribly short price. He opened with a 64 at the Valspar, was 7/4 favourite and plodded along for three days to finish seven. Four top-10s here in the last four years is ideal form but for someone who wins so rarely, no thanks.

Hideki Matsuyama (29/2 Marathon)

World number 4 Hideki Matsuyama has appeared here plenty of times, probably more than anyone else. I put his chances higher than either Stenson or McIlroy and so am more than happy with 29/2 (Marathon).

Twenty-first on debut at Bay Hill in 2015 and a sixth last year is the kind of course form I usually look for and few players are as hot as Hideki right now.

He may have missed the cut a fortnight ago in Mexico but he’s only just defended in Phoenix and is ranked in the world’s top-five for par-five scoring average and third for birdies.

More than happy to have Hideki as the main man this week.

Rickie Fowler (18/1 BetVictor)

Rickie Fowler is the other man at the head of the field who tempts me this week. Third here in 2013, this place means a lot to Fowler.

His relationship with Palmer was extremely close. Fowler led a few Ryder Cup players at Arnie’s funeral where they presented the trophy itself. He will really want to win this and I love motivated players.

What also tempts me to back Fowler is a stellar record on Bermudagrass greens, current form including winning the Honda (on Bermudagrass) just three weeks ago and linkable from. Check out his record at places like Quail Hollow.

Anirban Lahiri (100/1 Bet365)

There are a lot of chances and players worth second looks further down the market. None jump out as particularly good value.

I would love to back Tommy Fleetwood at 66/1 but want to see him play a bit more on tour. World number 16, Tyrell Hatton is interesting but woefully short at 33/1. I am going to chuck a couple of big prices into the mix.

I like Anirban Lahiri. A lot. Lahiri has become a big deal on the European Tour and went off a very short-priced favourite for last week’s Hero Indian Open.

A strange tournament ensued at a brand new course that didn’t play at all as expect and almost the entire field, bar the runaway winner, hated. Lahiri somehow made 23 birdies in a final score of just -1.

The man is putting beautifully and I love the 100/1 price.

Morgan Hoffman (200/1 Bet365)

Morgan Hoffman is a standout price – as low as 125/1 with William Hill, I cannot resist the 200/1 available with Bet365.

Fourth here two years ago and runner up to Fowler last month at PGA National are stats that would make me like twice at a 50/1 shot.

Triple digits will do for me.

Best Bets

Arnold Palmer Championship – Hideki Matsuyama to win (29/2 Marathon)

Arnold Palmer Championship – Rickie Fowler each-way (18/1 BetVictor)

Arnold Palmer Championship – Anirban Lahiri each-way (100/1 Bet365)

Arnold Palmer Championship – Morgan Hoffman each-way (200/1 Bet365)

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I have been interested in betting since a stint managing a bookmakers 20 years ago. I now work in the travel industry but spend 90% of my day thinking (and talking)about sport. Rarely missing an Arsenal home game, I still find time for my 25 year obsession with the NFL and the Chicago Bears in particular. I'm still stuck in the 80's and can't find anything better to listen to than The Jam or The Smiths. I am a stats junkie where the NFL is concerned and there is no sport in the world where they matter more. My mission is to convert you all to a wonderful sport. Oh and win a few quid along the way.

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