THERE is an air of inevitability about this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Tiger Woods can reclaim the world No1 ranking for the first time since October 2010 if he continues his exceptional record at Bay Hill.
The American has won there seven times previously – an eighth triumph would equal Sam Snead’s 48-year-old PGA Tour record for the most victories at one event – and has started 2013 in fantastic form.
I fancied him to land the Cadillac Championship earlier this month and he did not disappoint, his second title of the year moving him even closer to eclipsing Rory McIlroy at the top of the rankings.
It’s a huge opportunity for Woods, with McIlroy not playing this week, not least because the winner gets to shake hands with Palmer himself, who truly is the king.
Woods’s form is part of an apparent resurgence among American players this year, perhaps as a response to their defeat by Europe at the Ryder Cup in September, and there are others to look out for at Bay Hill. World No4, the American, Brandt Snedeker has one win, two second places and a third in his last five events but has been resting a rib injury for the past five weeks, so it will be intriguing to see how he fares.
Multiple Major winner Phil Mickelson has also been at the forefront of the US charge, with one win and a third place, and is another to keep an eye on.
England’s Justin Rose is playing great, with three top 10 finishes this year. He has a complete game, looks like being a contender virtually every week and I still strongly fancy him and countryman Ian Poulter to win Majors in 2013. Ernie Els is twice a winner at this event but has been managing a hip problem.
Lee Westwood is set to feature but has not always enjoyed this course, while Martin Laird carries Scottish hopes and is looking to recapture his form of 2011, when he clinched the title.
England’s Luke Donald, fourth last week at the Tampa Bay Championship, will instead be teeing off at the Malaysian Open and must be a strong contender for that, although he faces the challenge of Major winner Charl Schwartzel.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam
SINCE WOODS WAS TOP
Major events since October 2012
■ BUSINESS: European Union bails out Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Greece (again) and Cyprus; Occupy protests begin in Wall Street
■ POLITICS: Aung San Suu Kyi house arrest ends; Arab Spring begins in Tunisia; Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi killed; Barack Obama re-elected as US president
■ OTHER: Prince William marries Kate Middleton; Osama bin Laden killed by US forces; Queen celebrates Diamond Jubilee; CERN makes Higgs Boson discovery; London hosts Olympics