This could be the week, right? Bay Hill falls under his dominion, evidenced in a whopping eight career victories at the venue. His game seems to be progressing in the right direction, and the potential storyline—Tiger Woods, winning at Arnold Palmer's house to gear up for a run at his fifth green jacket—seems to good to be true.
According to Professor Lou's Model, that reality will have to remain a wish.
"Tiger's recent play should move him up in the Model but there is a lag effect in making this week's prediction," Riccio says. "The Model still rates his chances of winning low. He may have more difficulty achieving a top ten finish here than last week's event. But his play just might be ahead of the Model."
This is a shock, not only because of Woods' trend—from T-23 to MC to T-12 to runner-up—but given Woods track record at the event. Woods has the eight aforementioned wins, yes, but he's made the cut in all 16 tries as a professional, only twice finishing outside the top 25.
Understand that the excitement around the return of Tigermania can be, at times, overbearing, and it often loses perspective or sanity. And though he came this close to winning at the Valspar Championship, we're certainly not predicting that Woods will be his old, dominant self. Conversely, to think last week was an aberration is obtuse, and if he could turn in a performance at a site where he had almost zero experience, just imagine what's in store at Bay Hill.
Of course, there are others in the API field. Both our expert and the professor like Alex Noren to continue his hot streak this week. The 35-year-old has a runner-up and third-place showing in five PGA Tour events in 2018, with his worst finish a T-21 in Phoenix. He's getting it done with an absurd tee-to-green game (1.543 strokes gained/tee-to-green mark, 8th on tour) and though he ranks 25th in birdie average, that he's 3rd in scoring shows Noren's ability to avoid the big number. He's only logged four rounds at Bay Hill (a T-49 at last year's event), but don't expect that to stop his name from appearing on the leader board.
Anotther Euro to keep an eye on is Tyrrell Hatton. He doesn't get much pub stateside, but the Englishman has seven top 10s in his last 12 events, including a T-3 at the WGC-Mexico two weeks ago. Like Noren, he's only played here once, albeit with success, turning in a T-4 last year. If he can get control of his temper—something that might have cost him the Mexico title—Hatton could be in line for his first tour victory.
If you're looking for a dark horse, former PGA champ Keegan Bradley is worth your attention. Bradley's had just two top 25s this year, albeit sterling finishes with a runner-up at the CIMB Classic and a fifth place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. His iron and driving play have been solid, ranking seventh in approach and sixth in sg/tee-to-green. Alas, the short game has been the bane of his existence, coming in 204th—second-to-last—in putting, and his wedge play hasn't been much better (91st sg/around-the-green). But his past at Bay Hill—a silver medal in 2014, a bronze in 2013—circles Bradley as a nice gamble.