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Steve Palmer’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and Puerto Rico Open first-round preview and free golf betting tips


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Where to watch

Sky Sports Golf, noon Thursday

Best bets

Sahith Theegala to miss cut
2pts 9-4 bet365

Tom Hoge to win 12.55pm threeball
2pts 7-5 bet365

Christiaan Bezuidenhout to win 1.28pm threeball
2pts 6-4 bet365

Akshay Bhatia first-round leader
1pt each-way 35-1 general

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Arnold Palmer Invitational and Puerto Rico Open first-round preview

All the golfing action is Stateside this week, with the Arnold Palmer Invitational taking centre stage, and the weather seems set to play a significant role in proceedings.

Bay Hill has become one of the toughest layouts on the PGA Tour, with water hazards everywhere and firm greens adding to the difficulty of approach shots, so any wind can turn the Florida track into a beast. Friday’s conditions look set to provide a serious challenge – and Sahith Theegala may find himself heading for Orlando Airport in the evening.

Theegala can be backed at 9-4 to miss the cut, which seems generous given that he is scheduled to be out in the strongest of the winds on Friday afternoon. The wind is expected to increase as the day wears on, with Theegala in the worst of it from a 12.06pm (local) Friday tee-time.

The dancefloors will be starting to turn nasty late on Friday, so Theegala probably needs a great round with receptive greens on Thursday morning to secure weekend employment. The Californian is full of talent, but when he made the long journey from west to east for last year’s Arnold Palmer, he carded rounds of 73 and 79 to miss the cut by five shots.

Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick and Justin Thomas comprise the marquee morning match on Thursday (12.38pm UK time), while Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele (5.28pm) and Rory McIlroy, Max Homa and Tyrrell Hatton (5.50pm) are out late.

Pick of the first-round threeballs options may be Tom Hoge (12.55pm) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (1.38pm). Hoge, one of the best iron-players in the game, started this year with third spot in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and was 14th in the Genesis Invitational last time out. He can boss Harris English, who has been wild from tee to green lately, and veteran Zach Johnson.

Bezuidenhout, who has Bay Hill form figures of 18-7-20, seems to relish Florida golf and should prove too steady for Ryan Palmer and Ryan Fox.

Harrison Endycott withdrew from the Puerto Rico Open, so stakes on the Racing Post Sport recommendation should be refunded. Punters looking for further investments can consider Akshay Bhatia for first-round leader.

Bhatia, due out at 8.16am local time in the calmest conditions, made waves in college golf before winning on the Korn Ferry Tour last year. His victory came in the Bahamas and there seems every chance that he will make a fast start on another island in Puerto Rico.

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