Tiger Woods' six Bay Hill victories makes him the odds-on favorite among fans and gamblers despite a drought. The long-shot of becoming a Masters champion after a win at this event is ripe to happen. Will it be Woods, or perhaps an up-and-coming golfer on the PGA Tour, that creates their opportunity at Bay Hill... and dons the Green Jacket?
Although I do not gamble on sports events (except for my $5 bet on the Kentucky Derby), I enjoy reading how analysts and betting parlors determine golf odds and event winners. Golf is a gambling game, from playing a two-dollar Nassau right down to selecting a Fantasy Golf Team and the internet is flooded with scenarios based upon performance and standings.
But, does fate (la forza del destina) sometimes play a hand in the outcome?
One statistic that caught my eye while sifting through the "information super-highway" was Justin Ray's analysis on ESPN.com. He noted that there have only been six instances since 1960 when a player won an event either one or two weeks prior to winning the Masters. It's happened just twice since 1990 and in five year increments: Tiger Woods in 2001 (The Players Championship) and Phil Mickelson in 2006 (won the BellSouth the prior week).
Could 2011 be the year that the winner at Bay Hill will also take the green jacket at Augusta?
Since this is an "Invitational", the field will be limited to one hundred and twenty golfers. There are thirty-four "under thirty" golfers and twenty-six "grizzled vets" over forty years old. A changing of the guard? Perhaps.
Here are a few possible picks to keep your eyes on at Bay Hill:
Mark Wilson is the leader in the FedExCup standings and two-time 2011 winner but has been "fading" since his early back-to-back wins.
Gary Woodland's breakout victory last week at the Transitions Championship was a learning experience for him but he could have the same fortunate bounce as Wilson.
Jhonattan Vegas is another relative newcomer with most of his events played in 2011. He has made seven cuts, his finishes are good and his scrambling stats are better than the average tour player giving him an advantage at Bay Hill.
Dustin Johnson is already a veteran on the PGA Tour and most recently placed second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Johnson has a better 'greens in regulation' percentage than the average Tour player. With four top-ten finishes this year, Hunter Mahan also has a better-than average 'greens in regulation' percentage.
Playing the 18th hole at Bay Hill, where errant shots will be met by rocks and water, the ability of both Johnson and Mahan to land on the green in the height of competition could could provide the fans with a climactic four-day event.
Tiger Woods' Sunday 66 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and golf instruction from Sean Foley are positive improvements towards an eventual win. On the flip side, Woods has not competed on this course since its renovation and, with current stats at 101st in putts per round (usually the deciding factor in a tournament), he's going to need to grind and hope to rejuvenate the fear factor he instills in other players.
As for my personal favorite, Phil Mickelson, he came in second place at the Farmers Insurance Open, is tied for 25th in scoring average and has made every cut so far this year. Anything can happen and usually does when Phil is in the field!
Possibilities or percentages? Fate or odds?
The 50th anniversary milestone of Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club and Lodge could very well transform a win in Orlando into a golden opportunity at Augusta.
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