5 Players to Watch at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIMarch 20, 2012

5 Players to Watch at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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    Newly re-crowned world No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood will be skipping the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week but a majority of the top players from the PGA Tour will be on hand to honor Arnie and tune-up for the Masters.

    Here are five players that could take home the hardware on Sunday evening from Bay Hill.

Tiger Woods Will Be Seeking His 7th Palmer Title

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    Tiger Woods is always the marquee name in any tournament and he will seeking his seventh win at Bay Hill.

    Due to personal problems, swing changes and injury, he has not won on the PGA Tour since 2009.

    Recently though he has shown signs of regaining the form that made him No. 1 in the world for over 12 years. 

    He was forced to withdraw on Sunday from the WGC-Cadillac with a sore Achilles. 

    The Palmer Invitational will be the last tune-up for Tiger before the Masters in two weeks.

Ernie Els Needs a High Finish at Bay Hill to Qualify for Augusta

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    42-year-old Ernie Els is currently ranked No. 62 in the world and ineligible for the Masters. 

    He desperately wants to earn a spot at Augusta. 

    He was a factor last Sunday at the Transitions until his balky putter refused to allow him to make a putt and shot himself out of the lead on the last four holes. 

    His overall game is solid right now and Bay Hill could be just the spot for Ernie to pick up his 19th PGA Tour win.

"Phil the Thrill" Is Always Fun to Watch

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    Phil Mickelson put a whuppin’ on Tiger Woods and won at Pebble Beach in February. 

    He then went on to collect a second-place finish the next week in Los Angeles losing in a playoff to Bill Haas at Riviera. 

    Phil went on spring break with his family and did not play in the WGC-Accenture Match Play but did return for the WGC-Cadillac. 

    “Phil the Thrill” is always fun to watch whenever he plays and he seems to be especially motivated this year. 

    He will also play next week in Houston before he makes his way to Augusta.   

Justin Rose Just Won the WGC-Cadillac

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    Justin Rose is coming off a win at the WGC-Cadillac at Doral. 

    He knows how to handle big events and top quality fields. 

    In addition to his win Rose has a T-5 at the Honda and is ranked 6th in the FedEx Cup.  

    His game is in a very good place right now.

Charles Howell Is One of the Most Consistent Golfers on Tour

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    Charles Howell III is ranked No. 65 in the world and without a win in the last 12 months is also on the outside, needing a win to get into the Masters. 

    Charles is a Florida guy and Bay Hill should fit his eye and game. 

    He has only missed one cut in his eight starts in 2012 and has T-16, T-26 and T-17 in his last three events. 

    "Chucky 3 Sticks" is a steady performer and when his putter cooperates can turn in some low rounds.

Garcia, Garrigus, Furyk & Woodland Also Could Be Factors This Week

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    Other players worth mentioning: 

         -Resurgent Sergio Garcia

         -Long Hitting Robert Garrigus

         -Steady Jim Furyk

         -Bomber Gary Woodland.

    The Arnold Palmer Invitational should provide another great finish on the PGA Tour.