Handicapping the Arnold Palmer Invitational

We need eight good men for Arnie's event this week; normally this is as much the Tiger Woods Invitational as anything else, but as we all know, Eldrick's not here. Let's get right to it.

A-List: The first thing I did this week was scratch Steve Stricker off my sheet. He's skipped this event since the middle of the 2000s and it's no surprise, coming off four missed cuts in a row. Bay Hill is clearly not his friend.

So who to use? I'm going back to Ernie Els, with a recent win in his sack, some confidence, and plenty of back class at Bay Hill. He finished a respectable 18th at this event last year, he's made the cut in nine of his last ten visits, and if you look back far enough (1998), you'll find a trophy grab.

Zack Johnson gets my second slot, I like his last six over this track: 3, 54, 42, 43, 8, 6. I know it's dangerous leaving Phil Mickelson on the bench again, but he doesn't play here every season and I'd like to know he's in form before I dial him up.

B-List: I didn't play the chalk in the top group but I'm going to here. Obvious names coming at you in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1.

Start with Sean O'Hair, who ran third at the API in 2008 and second last year. Pretend this is the SATs, see if you can figure out the pattern. Camilo Villegas doesn't have any form here (44, 61, 59), which means he should start off on your bench for Thursday. But it's hard to put him on the sidelines, isn't it? And obviously we've seen him play well at other Florida events; beware of the Florida Gator.

Jim Furyk had a respectable run going at Bay Hill (31, 20, 23, 8, 47, 36) before missing the cut last year. Off a win, I'm of the mindset that we keep him on the course, and in our lineups, and look out for him in the majors (Pebble especially). Nick Watney has a stat profile to die for - other than sand play, you won't find any major area where he's lacking through three months of play. He came in fourth at Bay Hill last year, and T21 two years back.

If none of those names work for you, K.J. Choi isn't a bad fallback. He's made six straight cuts this year - quickly erasing the nightmare of 2009 - and although his history isn't astounding over this course, he does have three Top-35 checks over his last five visits, including a T8 back in 2005. If you got him in a straight-draft league back in January, congrats; you're set to make a monstrous profit.

C-List: Charl Schwartzel is making his debut at Bay Hill, but the way he's striping it in 2010 (two wins overseas, then last week's near-miss), I'm not going to fret about course familiarity. Stick with talent, momentum, and confidence. If you prefer to start out with Brandt Snedeker, I won't argue with you; the steady pro from Tennessee has three solid checks at Arnie's place (17, 14, 22).

So that's that. Get your picks in, then meet back at the 19th hole for a surprisingly-tasty drink.

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