10-Fer Fantasy Golf Picks: Bay Hill

by: C.A. Schmidt Staff Writer
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There aren't too many weeks on the schedule when one player will be such an overwhelming choice as this week when Tiger Woods tries to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for an eighth time. John Deere and Steve Stricker are similarly linked, and Tiger and Torrey Pines have always been a good pair. But this week at Bay Hill it would be a mistake to list Tiger as anywhere other than the No. 1 spot in the rankings.

With that shocking spoiler aside, Arnie's event always draws a top field and this year is no different. There are a lot of top players on form, and this course has always recognized the very best in the world. Beyond Tiger, we're talking Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh when they were at the top of their games. Recent lesser-known winners like Martin Laird, while absent the pedigree of those hall of famers, has a similar game: he bombs it and can drop iron shots out of the sky. Throw in the fact that it's difficult to make a lot of putts on Bay Hill's undulating bermuda greens and great ballstrikers emerge as the favorites. In fact, of champions over the last decade, Tiger is the only one who would be considered a great putter.

So, when choosing between players, favor the long hitter or good greens in regulation guy here. There's also some strategy here: almost everyone will take Tiger this week in practically any format. So while it might be a gamble. picking a darkhorse or other potential contender this week could pay dividends if El Tigre is distracted by recent events (more on that below) --  a chance to separate yourself from the pack.

Me, I've had this event flagged for Tiger from the beginning in our 12-week One and Done 1 game. In longer seasons, it's difficult not to take him here as well since lots of guys have either already used him or are saving him for the majors. I'll either take Tiger or Sergio (I used Poulter in the Match Play in every format).

Onto to the picks, where I work in a few sleepers among the favorites.

1. Tiger Woods. Seven-time winner of Arnie's event, including last year by five strokes. Has won twice in four starts in 2013. 'Nuff said. I'd also like to congratulate Tiger in complicating his life further by posting about his relationship with skier Lindsay Vonn on Facebook. It's all "downhill" from here... maybe it'll help him "powder" more drives... he really is a media "mogul" after all. (Ahem. Yep, crickets.)

2. Ian Poulter. Came in 3rd in 2013, T12 in 2011. Orlando resident who probably doesn't hang out and talk shop with Arnie too often; Arnie spends his Mondays writing personal notes to all the winners on various tours from the day before, while Poults posts photos of his latest Ferrari purchases on Twitter. I almost want to see him win to find out if Arnie will strangle him while putting the winner's jacket on him.

3. Sergio Garcia. Has been Steady Eddie the last eight months, and it would be surprising if finishes outside of the top 15. He should be in contention come Sunday.

4. Graeme McDowell. Was the one who had a chance last year against Tiger, but settled for second place. Another Orlando resident, GMac is red hot: T5, T9 and T3 his last three events. The reason is his putting, which ranks 108 spots higher in 2013 compared to 2012.

5. Lee Westwood. Hits it straight and far enough, just doesn't make his share of putts. A safe top 15 candidate who could easily sneak into the top 5. A ho-hum pick.

6. Cameron Tringale. Is heating up and as mention in the Stock Report, has improved in practically every statistical category compared to 2012. He kills the par-5's, hits tons of greens, and ranks around the top third in putting. He's also a great bunker player, a nice trait at Bay Hill. A first-round 79 derailed him here last year, but I just like where his game is headed -- feels like he's going to break through very soon.

7. Keegan Bradley. Bay Hill should suit his game perfectly. He hits it long and soars his irons, so he can find the tough pin placements on greens that can be firm at times. He's coming off consecutive top-7 finishes in Florida, and his game seems to really be rounding into form. He's up to 62nd in putting, and if that continues to trend well he'll be one to watch at Augusta in a few weeks. My only hesitation is that he shot 77-78 here in his only appearance in 2011 -- maybe the course doesn't fit his eye? Still, play him with confidence as well as he's striking and rolling it.

8. Pat Perez. Has made plenty of cuts at Bay Hill over the years, including three top-10's. As tipped, he's a great ballstriker. He's also coming off a Y7 at Tampa Bay in which he shout -5 on the weekend. Perez can be super streaky, and he knows this course as well as anyone in the field.

9. Justin Rose. He has to be on pretty much any list, with two high finishes here the last two years and playing as steady as anyone in the world. Just a boring pick, however.

10. Brandt Snedeker. He's been off for five weeks and still leads the FedEx Cup points race, which shows just how well he was playing before his rib injury flared up during his win at Pebble Beach. He doesn't have much in the way of good results at Bay Hill, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt this week, even if his game might be a little rusty.

Bonus Pick: Rickie Fowler. Came in T30 here in 2011, where a final-round 78 derailed him. He's strung together some decent finishes in 2013 and could be poised to contend.

Player to avoid: Brandt Snedeker. Yep, I'm contradicting myself. I think you can make a better One and Done or multi-player format pick this week than Brandt. Just too many question marks, plus he will play more leading up to The Masters now. Also, I'd stay away from Zach Johnson and Robert Garrigus -- neither are playing well right now.

Last week: Sinkholemania derailed the 10-Fer last week, but I'm sure I would have had Kevin Streelman atop my list, followed by Justin Leonard. Well, it's safe to say I would have had Luke Donald up there anyway.




Photo: USA Today Sports Images