Back in-form Schwartzel to beat his playing partners
Willett struggling to rediscover form
Tournament starts 11.35am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Charl Schwartzel put up a spirited defence of his Valspar Championship title strongly last week, closing with rounds of 67 and 68 for sixth place, and the South African left the Copperhead Course delighted with the state of his game.
Schwartzel has made the short trip to another Florida event – the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill – and should have carried that form and confidence with him. Cheerful Charl looks a solid bet to win his first-round threeball today against Danny Willett and Ben Martin.
Willett has been a shadow of his former self since a horrific Ryder Cup debut. The Sheffield man has played on the US Tour three times since, finishing 75th of 78 runners in the WGC-HSBC Champions, missing the cut in the Honda Classic, then taking 69th spot in a WGC-Mexico Championship field of 77 last time out.
Willett looks out of kilter and vulnerable with his Masters title defence on the horizon, while Martin has missed six cuts in ten US Tour starts this season, with a best finish of 18th place in the low-grade Sanderson Farms Championship.
Bubba Watson is another former Masters champion rapidly losing self-belief. The newly slimline Watson has 2017 form figures of 25-MC-WD-38-MC. He has had no success with the new Volvic golf ball to which he switched at the start of the year and his putter is resembling a rattle-snake in his hands.
Charles Howell can outscore Watson over 72 holes of Arnold Palmer action. Howell, who has made eight cuts in a row at Bay Hill, has made his last ten US Tour cuts and is playing consistently well.
There are only 120 runners in this invitational event and the top of the market looks extremely powerful. Punters can get a sniff of juicy dual-forecast returns by perming the three most likely champions – Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy – in three wagers.
C Schwartzel to win threeball
2pts 11-8 Coral
C Howell to beat B Watson
2pts 10-11 bet365
Stenson-Fowler dual forecast
0.5pt 100-1 Sky Bet
McIlroy-Fowler dual forecast
0.5pt 80-1 Sky Bet
McIlroy-Stenson dual forecast
0.5pt 50-1 Sky Bet