In 1986 Jack Nicklaus won the US Masters six years after his previous major championship win. Tiger Woods won the last of his 14 majors in 2008 but he is now the second favourite to win the US Masters for the fifth time. The former world number one is playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week and he is the favourite for the event. Woods combines course form and current form and is in great shape to get his career back on track by winning this title.
Woods looked on course to surpass Nicklaus’s tally of 18 majors but he has not won one since the age of 32. A professional golfer is at his peak in his thirties so its amazing that Woods has not won a major during the last eight years of his fourth decade. Injuries have blighted his career for about five years and his personal life has not helped his golf on the course. Woods can win the Arnold Palmer event for the ninth time and go to Augusta full of confidence.
This week’s tournament is synonomus with the Bay Hill course in Orlando, Florida. It is generally a tough track and its rare for a player to record four rounds below 70. Bay Hill has hosted this tournament under a number of titles since 1979. Woods won here four years in a row from 2000 to 2003 and he has by far the best course form in the field. He was joint second in the Valspar Championship last week, finishing just one shot behind the winner, Paul Casey. Woods can go one better at Bay Hill.
Water is a feature of 7 holes, although it doesn’t always come into play for the professionals. However, it is a factor on the 18th hole. The traditional Sunday pin position encourages an approach over water. None of the four par 3s are easy but the long holes will provide plenty of eagle and birdie opportunities. The greens are above average in size and have many slopes. The course is a good fit for Woods and this is the ideal location for another PGA Tour win.
Last November Woods was 80/1 to win the 2018 US Masters but his price has tumbled to 12/1. He is the second favourite behind Dustin Johnson but the market leader for Bay Hill this week. A Woods at his best would demolish this field and he looked close to it last weekend. He did nothing wrong down the stretch but Casey came from well off the pace with a 65 to win in the States for the first time since 2011. The English player is now 25/1 to win the Masters Tournament.
Rory McIlroy plays this week and he needs a strong tournament. He made a decent start to the year in European Tour events but has struggled in the States. His main focus is the US Masters, the only major he has not won. Only five players, including Woods, have completed the career Grand Slam by winning each of the four majors at least once. McIlroy is not suited to this week’s course so there could be more frustration as he searches for his best game. Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose are playing in Orlando this week.
The perfect scenario would be Woods and McIlroy fighting out the Masters in the final round. If he won McIlroy would deserve the Grand Slam but Woods would also be a worthy winner. There is a dress rehearsal this week and Woods can prevail to record yet another win at Bay Hill.