With three top-10 finishes to his name already this season, Graeme McDowell has been installed as one of the favourites to win the Arnold Palmer Invitation which gets underway today.
Now that defending champion Tiger Woods has been ruled out by injury, McDowell’s odds of winning have shortened even further at a tournament he refers to as his ‘home event’.
“It used to be that the Irish Open was my home event but I guess this is home these days so it is a special tournament for me,” said the 34-year-old who lives in Orlando.
“It was the start of my PGA Tour career in 2005 when I finished second and it has always been a tournament that I have enjoyed ever since.”
Two years ago McDowell carded a second round 63 at Bay Hill and enjoys the stiff test presented at Bay Hill.
“I heard a comment to where Arnie kind of wants it to play as a U.S. Open off the tee and Augusta-esque around the greens,” he said.
“I can see what he’s trying to achieve. The firmness and the speed of the greens was very Augusta-esque (last Sunday during a practice round) with these new runoff areas that he’s created the last few years.
“The golf course is pretty tight off the tee. Nice amount of rough.”
The 2010 US Open champion continued; “I’m a tough golf course player. It appeals to my type of game. I enjoy the Florida Swing, and even more so now because of how tough it is.
“You throw The Players Championship (in May) into that mix and you’ve got five of the toughest tests maybe on the PGA TOUR right now.”
Major champions Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington are also in field with Harrington battling to earn a place in this year’s Masters. Woods meanwhile, has been ruled out by a recurring back injury.
The 38-year-old has played just three times in 2014, missing the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines - scene of his last major title in 2008 - and then withdrawing after 13 holes of the final round of The Honda Classic.
A week later, Woods again complained of lower back pain during the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He finished the round but shot 78, the highest Sunday score of his career.