Scott Scheffler follows through on the third tee during the final round of The American Express golf tournament on the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.
Scott Scheffler follows through on the third tee during the final round of The American Express golf tournament on the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.|Alex Gallardo | Associated Press

Kern checks out the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and picks a favorite (Tommy Fleetwood) and some long shots

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

And now for the weekly golf projections, where we really have to do better as we head towards next week’s Players Championship and then the Masters in another month.

And keep in mind that the last three weeks the winners have paid off at 30-1 once and 40-1 twice.

This week at Arnie's tournament at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy is the favorite, as always, at 4.5-1. He won this thing two years ago. Tommy Fleetwood, who could have got his first PGA Tour win last week, is next at 12-1. Hideki Matsuyama is 14-1. Bryson Dechambeau, who tied for second here in 2018 and has been playing well, is 16-1. Adam Scott is 18-1. Xander Schauffele and Sungjae Im, who won last week and is my pick this week in my yearlong and-and-done pool that I have to pick back in December (rarely a good thing), are 20-1. So how many blokes win back-to-back?

Brooks Koepka is 28-1, which seems unreal but based on recent form makes sense. He’s coming off a missed cut. Patrick Reed, who just won, is also 28-1. Jason Day, your 2016 winner, is 33-1. As is Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler, who MC’d last week as well. Ditto Justin Rose, one of a group at 40-1 that also includes Billy Horschel, Byeong Hun An, Collin Morikawa and Henrik Stenson, who has five top eights, including a runner up, in his last seven trips here.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, last year’s runner up, is 45-1. He’s also had a 13th here. Tyrell Hutton and Marc Leishman are 45-1 too. Bubba Watson is 50-1, Kevin Kisner 66-1 along with Lee Westwood, who contended last week. Phil Mickelson is 80-1. So is Scottie Scheffler, who had four finishes of seventh or better earlier this season. And Max Homa, who’s on a streak of four finishes of fifth, sixth, ninth and 14th. Defending champ Francesco Molinari is 90-1.

It’s so tempting to look at a Koepka and take him because you’re not going to get odds on him like that very often. But there’s a reason he’s going off at that number. You could always make a case for betting Rory, but as much as he’s always there he doesn’t win all that often. And Fleetwood is certainly an interesting possibility, given that he’s due to breakthrough on this side of the Atlantic.

I should take Fowler, since I had him last week and he stunk which means this week he’ll probably play great. Welcome to my world. But I digress.

Among the faves I would back Fleetwood the most. So, give me something on him. But in keeping with the recent trend I’m going to give you like three or four longer shots that are more worthy of an investment.

Let’s try Stenson, at 40-1. Heck, on track record alone. I know he’s getting older, but even if you back him up with a plus 900 for a top five finish or 400 for a top five. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t go too nuts on the straight win, especially at those odds. You don’t have to bet a lot to get a lot back.

I think Matthew Fitzpatrick is worth something at 45-1. And again, at 10-1 and 5-1 for a top five or 10. Just in case he only comes close. I would say the same about Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa at 80. And they’re both 14 and 7.5, respectively, for a 5 or a 10 showing.

Whichever way you go, good luck with it. And we’ll see you back here next week for the Players, the next-best thing to an actual major. If Rory wins this one, he might be a Tiger-like favorite in that. He’s that good.

Mike Kern’s picks:

Tommy Fleetwood (12-1)

Henrik Stenson (40-1)

Matthew Fitzpatrick (45-1)

Scottie Scheffler (80-1)

Max Homa (80-1)

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