The PGA Tour moves to Arnie's place this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Tiger Woods is the event's two-time defending champion, as he won last year on a Monday by two over Justin Rose and in 2012 by five over Graeme McDowell. He's won this event eight times.
Woods, however, withdrew Wednesday because of back spasms. He withdrew from the Honda Classic in early March because of his gimpy back, as well. We probably won't recommend him again until we see that his back can hold up over 72 holes. Fantasy owners need consistency, and Woods is anything but that at this time. Frankly, the only thing you can trust with Tiger is that he'll be wearing and using Nike gear.
Recent champions also include Martin Laird in 2011 and Ernie Els in 2010.
Our pick, though, is the golfer who finished second in 2010 and second last week in Tampa: Kevin Na. Through all his demons and pace of play issues, he has continued to hit high quality golf shots time and time again. It is absolutely remarkable, and the stats bear it out as well: he finished the week tied for first in driving accuracy, T6 in sand saves, T14 in greens in regulation and 15th in strokes gained-putting.
Who is Playing
Other notable players in the field include McDowell, Rose, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed, Harris English (someone we've recommended almost every week), Chesson Hadley (a recent winner), Rickie Fowler (who contended here last year until a final-round fall), Hunter Mahan, Brooks Koepka (see last week's article for why we like him), and Lee Westwood.
Jason Day has a thumb injury and withdrew on Monday.
Our picks are Scott and Reed. Reed's the obvious one, as he's playing great after the win at Doral, has all the confidence in the world, and is 46th in greens in regulation and 22nd in strokes gained-putting on the PGA Tour.
Scott hasn't made any big waves yet in 2014 - he's only made four starts - but his finishes are all strong: T6-T8-T12-T25. He hasn't played enough rounds to qualify for the PGA Tour's stats rankings, but his tournament stat rankings have been strong. At the Honda Classic, for example, he finished the week fifth in driving distance, T6 in greens in regulation, and 13th in strokes gained-putting.
Ryo Ishikawa - Ishikawa shot a dazzling Sunday 68 in tough conditions at the Valspar Championship, which moved him up 40 spots on the final leaderboard for a T25 finish. Ishikawa is fourth on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole, 31st in greens in regulation, 67th in scoring average and seventh in par-5 performance.
Cameron Tringale - Tringale shot a Sunday 70 to get a 24-spot jump on the final leaderboard. He also tied for 25th. He's played well lately and sits 53rd in strokes gained-putting and 14th in putting from 10-15 feet.
Erik Compton - Compton's Sunday 69 gave him a boost of 33 spots to a 32nd-place finish. Now 123rd in FedEx Cup points, Compton's putter has been hot so far in the 2013-2014 season, with him ranking 27th in strokes gained-putting and 25th in putts from 5-15 feet.