Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview

03-14-17

Jason Day returns to defend his title but without “The King”, this event will never be the same.

Arnold Palmer was larger than life and larger than golf.

This week’s winner will have plenty of incentive to be named champion of this event.

the-king

 

Arnold Palmer Invitational

 

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Orlando, Florida

 

Yards: 7,419 per the official scorecard

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Tifeagle Bermudagrass; 6,500 square feet on average

Rough: Bermudagrasss, ryegrass at 4″

Bunkers: 84

Course Architect(s): Dick Wilson & Joe Lee (1961); Arnold Palmer (2009, 2014)

Purse: $8.7 million; $1.566 million (winner); 500 FedExCup Points;

Defending Champion:  Matt Every successfully defended his championship by defeating Henrik Stenson by a shot.

 

Notes:

  • 120 players; stroke play;
  • top 70 and ties make the cut
  • winner gets a THREE year exemption on Tour and to THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP

 

 

2016-17 Winners

 

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

 

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

 

The Particulars:

 

This year’s tournament will obviously take on a larger meaning as “The King” will no longer be presiding as host. In fantasy golf, this shouldn’t factor at all as the world’s best all revere The King in the same way and all will be playing this week to honor his memory.

As Palmer once remarked, “You must play boldly to win” and that’s also the case at his tournament. With four par fives on the card, those who can shorten the track and take advantage will make plenty of noise this week.

Bay Hill was redone before the 2015 event and the changes they made were done so to enhance the bold. Tree limbs were removed for better angles and recovery shots. Bunkers were redone with sand that prevents plugging. Fairways were widened in areas to accept more tee balls. TifEagle Bermuda now is the preferred putting surface.

Last year the top 11 players were double-digits under-par so scoring will be prevalent again this year as will bogey-avoidance.

The top 26 players last year turned in seven rounds above par.

No player in the top 26 had multiple rounds above par.

Only Billy Horschel had one round over par and a round at par. He finished T-20.

The top five didn’t have a round at par or worse.

Do the math. Bad rounds don’t fly here so par-breakers must.

Big misses are punished and big greens will also test those not as confident on TifEagle if they find the wrong tier. The greens have also had another year to grow in which should also help scoring.

Wind is always a factor when playing in Florida, especially when not shielded by oak trees like they were last week at Innisbrook. Players who can handle the wind and know when to attack/pull back should have the advantage this week. There has only been two tenths of an inch of rain in the last 14 days so it should be play firm and fast to some degree.

With plenty of pros calling the Orlando angle home, that angle will fly as well.

 

 

Course Ratings

 

2016: 28th-most difficult of 50 used; -0.505 under par.

2015: 36th-most difficult; -0.801

(First time under par since reverting to par 72 in 2010)

2014: 16th-most difficult; +.473 over par

2013: 12th-most difficult; +.928

2012: 12th-most difficult; +1.176

2011: eighth-most difficult; +1.203

2010: ninth-most difficult; +.892

 

Previous Champions (since 2010)

 

2016: Jason Day, -17

2015: Matt Every, -19

2014: Matt Every, -13

2013: Tiger Woods, -13#

2012: Tiger Woods, -13#

2011: Martin Laird, -8

2010: Ernie Els, -11

 

*playoff

# not playing this week

 

Facts and Figures:

  • Tournament record: 264; Payne Stewart (1987).
  • Course Record: 62; Adam Scott (2014).
  • Multiple Winners: Tiger Woods (8), Loren Roberts (2), Ernie Els (2), Tom Kite (2) and Matt Every (2).
  • Maiden PGA Tour Win: Matt Every (2014) and Paul Goydos (2006).
  • First Time at Event: None post-1990.
  • Wire-to-Wire (no ties): Day; first since 1992.
  • Bogey-free rounds: 2014 (14), 2015 (one million) and 2016 (13).
  • Low round of 2016: 65; Day (Friday), McIlroy, Villegas and Aphibarnrat (Sunday).
  • Americans Winners: 38 tournaments, 33 winners.
  • International Winners: Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Rod Pampling, Martin Laird and Day.
  • Only Euro Winner: Laird #Bizarre.
  • Rookie Studs: Daniel Berger (T-11, 2015) is the lowest in the last four years while Smylie Kaufman was T-12 last year. #BombsAway.

 

 

 

 

The Field

 

Favorites

in order of preference for this week and this tournament

 

Rory McIlroy: With the rib problem fully in the rear-view mirror he should be back to contending every time he tees it. He put to rest any doubts of that injury or any rust as he finished T-7 in Mexico City his last time out. Water is wicked this week and that was McIlroy’s downfall here last year. He played 66 holes 18-under but had SIX doubles to finish T-27. He gets the nod up top because of his win rate.

 

Henrik Stenson: The Lake Nona resident is 50-under par here in the last five years. The last two years he’s finished on the podium (second, T-3) and the two years prior to that he finished T-5 and T-8. Stenson is known for his ball-striking and his familiarity with the weather and the area shouldn’t be dismissed either. As well as he hits it tee-to-green, the only question this week will be how many putts he makes. He’s hit the top 10 in seven of his last eight starts with the WD in Mexico City (illness) the only blemish.

 

Jason Day: The defending champ, as long as he’s healthy, should be primed for a defense. His length and putting acumen was the recipe last year. He’s not afraid to swing the driver and he obviously wasn’t confused with the new TifEagle greens. It’s no secret that he’s priming for Augusta and his double-ear ache and flu should be long gone.

 

Rickie Fowler: Stats, stats and stats. All of them point in the right direction. The last time he was in Florida he won convincingly at a difficult Honda Classic and backed that up with a solid T-16 in Mexico City. He’s been close here before (T-3, 2013) and stuck all four rounds under par last year.

 

Hideki Matsuyama: We’ve seen this before folks! The Japanese stud finished T-21 two years ago but figured it out quickly and cashed for T-6 last year. With four par fives and greens probably not running as quickly as they would like, this fits his game perfectly. He leads the Tour in par five scoring and is third in birdies. No wonder why.

 

Tyrell Hatton: It doesn’t matter which course, which continent or what’s on the greens, the Englishman is hotter than a take in Piers Morgan column. His worst finish in his last 10 worldwide events is T-25. In four starts in 2017 he’s hit the top 10 in his last three and the other was T-13.

 

Justin Rose: Similarly to Stenson, Rose has had his way with Bay Hill the last five years with three top 10’s and a T-15. His only blemish is 79 on Friday two years ago to MC. The former Orlando resident will see plenty of familiar faces this week and will be playing this even for the 12th time. I still can’t believe that Martin Laird is the only Euro to win this event! With three top fours in his last five events at Bay Hill, I’d expect another big finish this week from the guy who’s in the top five scoring average on Tour.

 

Paul Casey: He’s posted 12 of his last 15 worldwide starts T-31 or better and has only one MC during that streak. He’s in the top 16 for SG: Approach the Green and Proximity. He’ll hit enough greens to give that putter (gulp) a chance.

 

Francesco Molinari: If you’re confused, I am leaning on course form this week because it highlights the guys who have figured it out at Bay Hill. Molinari easily qualifies this week based on form alone as he hasn’t finished outside of T-20 in nine of his last 10 events (MC, Riviera). He’s 28-under the last three events at Bay Hill with 10 rounds under par (T-5, T-17 and T-9 last year). Molinari, like many of his Euro contemporaries, has never been accused of being a great putter but he’s rarely missing fairways and greens.

 

Brandt Snedeker: His recent form on Poa has sucked me in this week. He’s posted a round of 67 or 66 the last three years so he can get around at Bay Hill. He’s also had at least one round over par in those same three events. I’m always going to lean on a great putter here after they’ve made recovery shots easier to handle. He closed here with 66 last year and has top 10’s in three of his last four on Tour.

 

Tommy Fleetwood: His last time out on a new track all he did was hit the top five in fairways and GIR plus rack up his best finish ever on Tour as he was second in Mexico City. In 2017 he has also added a win and T-12 to a pair of MC’s so there’s plenty going on here. I’m always leaning on guys who’ll have the most chances to make birdies and they are usually the guys who hit the most GIR.

 

Adam Hadwin: Life is pretty sweet right now for the Canadian off his first Tour win last week at Valspar. He’s getting married next week and is also heading to the Masters. Gamers know he can really putt but it was his tee-to-green work last week that fueled the victory. I’m on board as he plays with the house’s money this week.

 

Zach Johnson: Form is temporary, class is permanent. He’s 24-under the last two years, both good for top 10’s. He’s only MC in 13 tries at Bay Hill. He’s proof that bombing it and gouging it isn’t the only way to get around here. His putter is behaving nicely and will be playing from the middle of the fairway most of the week.

 

Wesley Bryan: He won’t mind larger fairways and greens and as well as he rolls it, I’m not leaving him out. Hot golf is hot golf and back-to-back-to-back top 10’s on Riviera, PGA National and Copperhead is leeeeegiitttttt.

 

Thomas Pieters: He’s burned super hot (T-2, T-5) on Poa and super cold (MC) on TifEagle with water (Honda) over his last three events. Euro bombers have done well here in the past and he has four rounds (76th, 2016) to learn from last year.

 

 

Next Tier

no particular order

 

Anirban Lahiri: He’s probably not high enough in this column but this dude’s passport is just as solid as his game. He went from Hawaii (MC) to California (T-25) and then took a week off before a four-week stretch with stops in Dubai, Malaysia, Los Angeles and West Palm Beach. He made the cut in all four with three T-19 or better. Last week he was T-5 at his national open in India so he’s flying back to Florida this week.

 

Martin Kaymer: I’ll pretend this isn’t a “hooker’s” course as Kaymer prefers a fade. I’ll rely on the German continuing his solid form to the start of 2017.

 

Tony Finau: The plusses are his ball-striking and power as he led the field in fairways and was T-2 in GIR last week. He finished with because he had a decent week with the putter. That will need to translate again this week if he is looking to hit the top 10 in back-to-back weeks for the first time since June of 2015.

 

Charles Howell, III: If you’re PANICKING and can’t decide, here’s yer play. CH3 has cashed in 14 of 16 lifetime and eight in a row at Bay Hill. Oh, and he hasn’t MC in his last 10 on Tour. #PlugNPlay.

 

Louis Oosthuizen: He’s in my Gary Woodland All-Stars as a guy I NEVER am on the right side of timing. The last time he played here he pegged at top 10 (T-9) with all four rounds at 70 or lower. He’ll need a repeat performance of that effort to contend again this week. It’s probably better for all that he’s down here.

 

Charl Schwartzel: Get ’em while he’s hot! His 67-68 weekend at Valspar saw him steam up the leaderboard. He was 11-under on the par fives last week and putted the TifEagle excellently. He should probably be higher up this list.

 

Kevin Na: He didn’t bounce in Mexico City after his T-4 on a course he loves, Riviera so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Bay Hill is another course that Na loves as he’s rattled off six consecutive weekends that he was invited. Over those six weekends he’s finished T-14 or better in five of them with his worst showing T-30. He last played in 2015 when he was T-6 on 13-under.

 

Marc Leishman: Just press play and see how he did Monday morning. The Aussie has only MC twice since AT&T Byron Nelson last May with 11 top 25’s during that stretch. And if it gets windy, that won’t bother him a bit!

 

Hudson Swafford: The CB Challenge champ showed signs of life last week with T-38 at Valspar. He’s put his last seven rounds at Bay Hill at par or better because he hits it a mile, finds plenty of GIR and chews up par fives.

 

Pat Perez: He’s in the top 15 in both par four and par five scoring and hasn’t MC on Tour in his last 10 tries. This will be his 14th API and he’s played 11 weekends. #Solid

 

Graeme McDowell: Here’s another Orlando resident who’s been on point during the Florida Swing. His T-14 finishes at Honda and Valspar shouldn’t discourage gamers this week but his record at Bay Hill might. He hasn’t broke 70 since 2014 and this year he also will be one of the multiple tournament hosts filling in for the departed King.

 

 

 

Off the Beaten Path

Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings

 

Graham DeLaet: He’s taken home checks in his last five stops on Tour and that includes four in a row of T-22 or better that includes a pair of top 10’s. He closed with 67 at Valspar.

 

Ben An: He hasn’t MC anywhere in the world since Baltusrol, a string of 14 events. His last three rounds here are under par from a total of six.

 

David Hearn: He’s four-for-four at Bay Hill and broke a string of MC’s with T-43 at Honda and T-18 at Valspar.

 

Chad Campbell: He’s played here 14 times and has gone home early once. His T-20 last year was his best since 2006 and his T-11 last week suggests his form is turning in the proper direction. He won’t mind any wind either being a Texan.

 

Lucas Glover: He’s cashed eight in row with T-41 the worst of the lot.

 

Keegan Bradley: He’s 29-under the last four years with just three rounds over par. I’m always nervous about that putter but with four par fives, ground can be made up.

 

Morgan Hoffmann: He’s shown his chops here as he made the cut as a rookie in 2014 and was fourth the following year. Power and putting tends to work around here and he checks both the boxers.

 

Scott Brown: He had to take off his shoes to add ’em all up last week but he rattled off nine weekends in a row before that. With a T-27 and T-13 in two of the last three years, he might glide under the radar.

 

Kevin Chappell: He’s cashed three T-24 or better from five tries but the other two are MC. His solo second last year will garner interest but his recent play suggests otherwise. He knows how to get it around here but there’s plenty of risk based on his form.

 

Jamie Lovemark: Jason Day has won at TPC New Orleans and this joint. Justin Rose always plays well at both. Lovemark lost in a playoff there last year and was T-6 here. Hmmmmmmmmm….

 

Jason Kokrak: Sick of seeing him in here? Me too! He’s 30-under here the last three years with solo fourth, T-6 and T-20 last year. I go where they take me!

 

Smylie Kaufman: He’s fighting it pretty good right now but this track might be his way out of jail. He’s smokes driver and should have some extra landing space this week to help out. When he gets it going the putter is usually the catalyst and he’s proclaimed he’s a Bermuda boy.

 

Ian Poulter: He’s been paid seven in a row worldwide and six in a row at Bay Hill. Last year was the first time in six years he finished outside of T-21 in that stretch with T-46.

 

 

Fades

injured, rusty or not the track this week

 

Russell Henley: Next week…

 

Si Woo Kim: That’s his second in his last seven tournaments. There’s no need to reach here until he’s healthy and firing.

 

Bubba Watson: He’s WD before because of allergies and no longer lives in Tiger Woods’ old house in Isleworth. His recent results inspire inactivity from gamers.

 

Webb Simpson: He’s played here NOYNE times and has one top 25, T-11 in 2009.

 

Martin Laird: This should fall under “manage your expectations” rather than fade because he’s never MC in seven tries. The issue is that outside of his win he’s never cashed better than T-34.

 

Boo Weekley: He’s played here the last eight seasons and doesn’t have a round in the 60’s. He’ll probably win this week based on that fact and the fact each week there are usually one or two people from this column who reach the top 10.

 

Next:

 

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

 

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