Arnold Palmer Invitational: Fleetwood can flourish in Florida
After a profit at the Honda Classic thanks to 50/1 Lucas Glover, Dave Tindall has three each-way picks for the Arnold Palmer Invitational...
"Fleetwood gets on well with Bermuda greens so this is a time of year I expect him to thrive."
Main Bet: Back Tommy Fleetwood each-way @ 35/1
At a venue where Tiger Woods (WD this week after a neck problem) has defended his title five times and Loren Roberts and Matt Every have also gone back-to-back it's certainly tempting to put up last year's champ Rory McIlroy.
Rory is happy and it's showing in his game. He's not finished outside the top five in four starts this season and I expect him to extend that sequence here at Bay Hill where his record reads 11-27-4-1.
I'm tempted by the 7/1 and may play it as a single but for this column I'll turn to one of his Ryder Cup colleagues at five times the price.
Tommy Fleetwood's first lap of Bay Hill was one to forget, a six-over 78 that left him way outside the cut line. But he roared back with a 66 to make the weekend and then added 70-68 to score a very backdoor top 10. He returned last year and a similar story unfolded - three good rounds but a costly 76 on Friday and T26.
But this is clearly a course on which Fleetwood can flourish so I'm happy to give him a whirl at 35s.
Last year on the Florida Swing he opened with a top four in the Honda Classic and, after T26 here, returned in May to shoot 69-71-68-68 (see, he can put four rounds together) at Sawgrass to take T7 in the Players Championship.
Fleetwood gets on well with Bermuda greens so this is a time of year I expect him to thrive.
After opening up his 2019 with T42 (Abu Dhabi) and T16 (Dubai) on the Desert Swing, Fleetwood has been gradually warming up on the PGA Tour with T45 at Pebble, T28 at Riviera and T19 on his latest start at the WGC-Mexico.
He was fourth at halfway at Chapultepec and still in the top 10 with a round to go so overall I think the Ryder Cup hero is close.
Fleetwood gave this honest assessment of his game at Pebble: "It feels good, yeah, it's getting better. Sort of started up a little bit slow in January. Didn't play quite how I would have liked, but things are definitely going in a very good direction and feel like I'm hitting the ball well and it's just a case of getting going again, really.
"Getting playing again and getting into that rhythm of golf and tournament golf again, so but all in all feel pretty good."
One thing I like in his stats are strong Scrambling figures (6th, 14th and 12th in his three US starts). Rory was 1st in that category when winning here in 2018 while Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who finished third and fourth, were ranked seventh and sixth for Scrambling.
Three Euros made the top four at Bay Hill last year and two were in the top five in 2017 and I like Fleetwood to add to that record this time.
Next Best: Back Michael Thompson each-way @ 80/1
I put up Michael Thompson at 50s at the Honda Classic and am more than happy to give him another go at 80s this week. The American had a very real chance to grab a place and even a win after a third-round 66 but faded on Sunday to T16.
Still, that was another decent effort and represented his fifth straight top 20, three of those doubling as top 10s.
One of the theories for backing Thompson was that the return to his favoured Bermuda greens would boost his previously modest Strokes Gained: Putting figures which had stopped him making the very best of his Tee-To-Green stats.
The theory played out nicely, Thompson recording his best putting numbers in nearly two years as he gained over eight strokes with the flatstick, ranking third for the week.
"It's nice being on Bermuda greens again coming from the West Coast, so I think just that fact alone, me being a good putter, I get excited about that. It's showing this week, so I'm just going to keep it going," he said after his Saturday 66.
The problem was, he forgot to bring his previously hot long game!
Nevertheless, the revitalised 33-year-old finished eighth on the All-Around so there was plenty to like about his performance even though he came up short in terms of the place money.
Thompson is probably a little more under the radar this week due to this being his first start at Bay Hill since he played the Arnold Palmer for the only time in 2012.
He did little wrong in finishing T36 that week and, given his current play, the 80/1 looks nice.
Final Bet: Back Patrick Rodgers each-way @ 125/1
I'm not sure I've ever put up Patrick Rodgers as a tip even though he's been a popular long-shot with many given the vast potential that hasn't yet been realised.
The former Stanford standout is only 26 so has bags of time and I think this could be a big week for him.
Rodgers clearly enjoys Bay Hill (apart from 2017 when he shot 83-74). On debut the year before he fired three 70s and a 71 for tied 20th and last year the American shot 68-69 on the weekend to take tied seventh.
When Rory won 12 months ago he stressed the importance of playing the par 5s well. McIlroy was 9-under for the week but Rodgers and runner-up Bryson DeChambeau made hay better than anyone in the field, finishing 12-under for their 16 attempts at the par 5s.
Rodgers also brings a sharp short game with him to Orlando having finished fifth for Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green at last week's Honda Classic.
He was T30 there which doesn't sound amazing but that's his best finish in five starts at PGA National.
Previously T15 at Riviera (fourth at halfway) and a runner-up at November's RSM Classic when shooting ridiculous numbers (61-62) on the weekend, Rodgers is clearly doing some good things.
Is this the week when he finally gets a first PGA Tour win? Hopefully so. If not, there's still a big each-way return to play for at 125s.
Dave's 2018/19 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)
Back Tommy Fleetwood each-way @ 35/1
Back Michael Thompson each-way @ 80/1
Back Patrick Rodgers each-way @ 125/1
*Each-way terms, 1/5 odds 8 places