As the Florida sun was shining and my skin was frying, the golfers at Bay Hill were preparing for what would be the first Arnold Palmer Invitational without Tiger Woods. Woods, an eight-time winner at this event has been dealing with back spasms and has opted out of the tournament. Many speculate he is trying to heal and get prepared for the Masters, just three weeks away. With Woods out of the picture, lets look at a few new faces whomay come away with victory.
Zach Johnson looked sharp and relaxed in the final practice round Wednesday. With accurate shots off the tee box, he looked like a golfer who is ready to get his first win at Bay Hill. Currently 10th in the world golf rankings, he has participated in the Arnold Palmer Invite since 2004, placing as high as 3rd place in 2009. Although Johnson struggled last year, finishing T-34, look for him to make a late run.
It would be a mistake to forget Justin Rose and it would be crazy not to give him the best odds to win. After winning his first major in 2013, Rose continues to flourish as a top 10 golfer. Rose had success last year at Bay Hill finishing 2nd and with Woods out, nothing is in his path to victory.
Keegan Bradley, who can be found casually eating a sandwich during play, sits top 30 in the PGA rankings but would like to add this win to his resume. Using his power with the driver and averaging just under 300 yards a drive, he has had a few top 15 finishes this season. Bradley has the skill and confidence to pick up his first win since 2012.
Adam Scott was treated like rock royalty on Wednesday. He was hounded for his autograph wherever he went with women in their forties and fifties chasing him just to get him to sign a ticket (I’m also guilty of bothering Scott for an autograph). Is this to much love to be giving to someone who last played this tournament in 2009 and did not make the cut? Maybe, but Scott is on the verge of being the best golfer in the world and a win would put him number one in the rankings.
With all this in mind, my final call is Justin Rose will be the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational Champion. He has fared well on this course and has played well early this season.
By Cole Altman