Overview and betting markets
Things are heating up on the golfing calendar with just weeks remaining until the trip down Magnolia Lane for those lucky enough to get the official invitation to Augusta. The second WGC of the year also looms and a number of the European Tour stars are temporarily based on US soil.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is an ideal event for the preparation of those already in the Masters, while others will be looking to push their way into the season's first major. World ranking points are also on offer at Dehli GC in India this week where six guys ranked from 50th - 100th place will tee it up.
The Indian Open is now a co-sanctioned event and is growing stronger. Last year saw world no.52 Anirban Lahiri - 9.00 - winner of his first three titles on this track - edge out fellow Indian nudger and also a former course champ in SSP Chowrasia - 41.00 - on a test vastly different to pretty much any other set up on the European Tour season. Anirban heads the betting with Joost Luiten - 15.00 - in close proximity. Major champion Padraig Harrington - 31.00 - also makes an appearance back on the European Tour.
Back at Bay Hill, Matt Every - 67.00 - will be looking to make it three-in-a-row in his home event while Rory McIlroy - 6.50 - returns for the second year, hoping to shake "The King" Arnold Palmer's hand after the 72nd hole. Henrik Stenson - 15.00 - lives in close proximity to the venue and has been getting better year on year here, just missing out in 2015 and I have him down as my man to beat at Bay Hill.
Courses, features and trends
Bay Hill - par 72, 7419 yards
Arnie's place, which he describes as the best course in Florida, is a track Tiger Woods completely dominated in his pomp. This would lead you to believe there's some room for error off the tee, and par 5s could be key. It's true. Total driving comes into play but scrambling skills are also vital around Bay Hill, with some surfaces incorporating run offs.
Rough is usually juicy but was "stripped back" before the 2015 renewal to give players a bit more room into what are usually fast and firm landing areas. The standout memory for me here from last year is Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat - 126.0 - coming over and crushing the par 5s - he finished -12 for the week on the long holes which included 2 eagles in round 4. Water and risk reward is a theme around Arnie's garden.
Dehli GC - Par 72, 6983 yards
The Dehli GC course has been used for numerous events on the Indian and Asian Tours and those who have played the course a lot are at a significant advantage. Dehli GC is described as "a very strategic golf course" - one for the plotters - where accuracy and playing for position is the brief, and a lot of irons off the tee will be used.
All fairways are tight and bush or tree-lined, and incorporate some doglegs. A lot are equipped with fairway bunkers and the short grass is hard to find. Last year the greens looked scruffy, had little bounce and ran at only around 10' on the stimpmeter.
Top betting tips - Indian Open
It's a toss-up between Mark Warren - 81.00 or 17.00 - and David Lipsky - 41.00 or 9.00 - for my best bet this week at Dehli GC. Lipsky has been in fine form with a couple of top 20s where he's been in contention, and he owns progressive course form of 45-18. Warren debuts here but just looks too big a price on a course that should fit his premium ball striking skills down to the ground. The Scot also found some form getting himself into contention in Thailand last week but this might be more his type of test. The slow greens should also help Warren who is prone to missing a few shorties.
"I’ll be playing the course I’ve played nearly every day of my life since I learned to play golf" is a quote from Shiv Kapur - 101.0 or 19.00 - before last year's renewal. Shiv has been hit or miss this season just missing the cut last week, but opened up with a 66 in Perth previously and recorded a top 30. The Indian was T11 in Abu Dhabi and sits 5th in driving accuracy on tour.
Rashid Khan - 81.00 or 17.00 - is another that is firmly on the radar here. Ironically both he and Shiv were a lot shorter for this last year and everyone wanted to be on them. Khan was right up there after two rounds at the True Thailand classic but stalled over the weekend. He's back in familiar territory on a track he knows extremely well and where he claimed his breakthrough win at the Sail-SBI Open in 2014.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips
Kevin Kisner - 34.00 or 7.50 - is an interesting one this week. He may not have the desirable length for Bay Hill but shot a couple of 69s on his debut in 2015. He also comes here off a top 25 at Doral - a venue that doesn't suit at all. Kisner is now a winner after multiple playoff losses in 2015 and big things are expected this season. Kisner does rank 24th in GIR and most notably, he leads the all-round stat.
Two big prices I think are worth watching here are Gary Woodland 126.0 or 23.00 - and Freddie Jacobson - 81.00 or 17.00. Both have been simmering current form wise and you could say the same about course form with two recent top 10s for adopted Floridian Jacobson, and three top 30s on the spin for Woodland. Jacobson gets the go ahead due to his brilliance around the greens, where he ranks 16th in strokes gained putting and 23rd in scrambling.
Woodland, on the other hand, can use his power to go low on the long holes, ranking 18th in par 5 scoring average and second in driving distance this year. Gary comes here off the back of four solid rounds at Copperhead - a venue that (on paper) wouldn't suit so he must be striking it well.