The golfing world has been waiting for five years for what may finally come this week, as oddsmakers have Tiger Woods as the favorite to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The optimism is well-founded. The 42-year-old has won this event eight times in his career — the most victories he’s had at any tournament.
Woods is a 5/1 pick to win his 80th career event, according to Sportsbook.ag. Jason Day, who won in 2016, is next at 11/1. Justin Rose is 12/1 and Rickie Fowler is 15/1.
With sportsbooks making him such an overwhelming favorite about the only person who is not expecting it to happen is Woods. He wasn’t having any talk about being a shoo-in this week, especially since he hasn’t played at Bay Hill in five years.
“Just because I won here eight times doesn’t mean I’m going to win this week automatically,” he said. “I still got to do the work. I still got to go through the process of getting myself in position, but I understand this golf course, I’ve played it under so many different varying conditions.”
Testing Back with Back-to-Back
This is the second time this season Woods is playing in consecutive weeks. The first was in February when he entered the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, followed by the Honda Classic in Florida. He missed the cut at Genesis and finished 12th at Honda.
Fans were buzzing at that result, but last Sunday Woods had them in a frenzy when he flirted with winning the Valspar Championship. He entered the final round a stroke from the lead. He ended up tied for second, his best finish since a similar result on Aug. 25, 2013.
The former No. 1 golfer in the world last won Aug. 4, 2013 at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational. It was the last year he was fully healthy. He then began his odyssey with his back, having his first surgery in 2014 and then three more subsequent operations. The last one was April of last year and his comeback began in December.
Other than the missed cut at Riviera Country Club, Woods has bettered his result the following tournament. It is progress he expected to see. And last week’s finish leaves an outright victory as the next step in his recovery.
“Well, just keep getting better,” Woods said. “Just keep making incremental improvements and I think I’ve done that. Each and every week I’ve learned from what I’ve done and more importantly I’m learning my body. I’m learning how I can swing it and not swing it.”
Odds Still Attractive
While Sportsbook.ag has Woods at 5/1, other internet sites have slightly better odds at 11/2. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has him at 6/1 to win his 80th career tournament.
Westgate also has three proposition bets on his performance. The first: Will Tiger Woods make the cut? Yes is -450 and no is +350. The next bet asks if he will finish in the top 20. (Yes -200, No +170).
The final wager is whether or not he’ll finish in the top 10. The yes is +100 and the no is -120.
Considering Woods’ history at Bay Hill and his finish last week, the yes here seems the closest bet to a sure thing.