The Confidence Factor: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard 2018

Bay Hill without Arnold Palmer will never be the same.

If Tiger Woods wins here this week, Bay Hill might never be the same.

Probably want to find a few pros that keep it out of that thick stuff!

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard

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: Bermuda grasss, rye grass at four inches.

Bunkers: 84.

Water Hazards: In play on half of the holes.

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

Purse: $8.9 million; $1.602 million (winner); 500 FedExCup Points.

Defending Champion: Marc Leishman handled the gusty conditions to make up a three-shot deficit to win by a shot.



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


2017-18 Winners Brendan Steele

CIMB: Pat Perez

WGC-HSBC: Justin Rose

Sanderson Farms: Ryan Armour*

Shriners: Patrick Cantlay*

OHL Mayakoba: Patton Kizzire*

RSM Classic: #- Austin Cook*

Sentry TOC: Dustin Johnson

Sony Open: Patton Kizzire

CB Challenge: Jon Rahm

Farmers: Jason Day

WMPO: Gary Woodland

AT&T Pebble Beach: Ted Potter, Jr.

Genesis Open: Bubba Watson

Honda: Justin Thomas

WGC-MC: Phil Mickelson

Valspar: Paul Casey

*- First-time winner

#- Rookie


The Particulars:

Check The Confidence Factor for more course details.

Course Ratings

2017: ninth-most difficult of 50 played; +0.890 (second-most difficult par 72 behind TPC Sawgrass)

2016: 28th-most difficult of 50 played; -0.515

2015: 36th-most difficult of 52 played; -0.801

(first below-par average 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)

2017: Marc Leishman, -11

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



Facts and Figures: Facts and Figures:

  • Tournament record: 264; Payne Stewart (1987).
  • Post-2009 Tournament record: 269; Matt Every (2015).
  • Course Record (most recent): 62; Adam Scott (2014).
  • Multiple Winners: Tiger Woods (8), Loren Roberts (2), Ernie Els (2), Tom Kite (2) and Matt Every (2).
  • First Time (PGA Tour) Winners: Matt Every (2014) and Paul Goydos (2006).
  • First Time (Event): None post-1990.
  • Wire-to-Wire (no ties): Day; first since 1992.
  • Bogey-free rounds: 2014 (14), 2015 (one million), 2016 (13) and 2017 (9).
  • Low round of 2017: 65; Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy (Saturday). #GustyWeekend.
  • Americans Winners: 39 tournaments, 33 winners.
  • International Winners: Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Rod Pampling, Martin Laird, Jason Day and Marc Leishman.
  • Only Euro Winner: Laird #Bizarre.
  • Rookie Studs: Daniel Berger (T11, 2015) is the lowest in the last six years while Smylie Kaufman was T12 in 2016. Young folks don’t know when to hit the brakes!
  • Every trailed by five shots in 2014 and three shots in 2015 on Sunday. #ItAintOverTilItsOver.
  • Leishman came from three back last year.
  • Every made 21 birdies in 2014 (T-1) and 25 in 2015 (1st).
  • Day made 23 (T2) in 2016 and Leishman 16 (T14) last year.
  • Low round 2015: 64, Danny Lee (Friday); Lee WD with a family emergency at Honda and MC last week. #BuyerBeware.
  • Low round 2016: 65 (Day, Aphibarnrat, Villegas, McIlroy).
  • Rookies don’t fare well here as Ben Kohles (T14, 2013), Brooks Koepka (T26, 2014), Carlos Ortiz and Zac Blair (both T21, 2015), Daniel Berger (T11, 2015), Smylie Kaufman (T12, 2016)


The Field


in order of preference for this week and this tournament

Tiger Woods: Um, yeah, well, he’s won eight of these and finished T2 last week so yeah. He wiped out Spieth (MC) and Stenson (MC) in the first two rounds and Brandt Snedeker (67-78) on the weekend. Day should and will get serious consideration but I’ll guess he’s not thrilled being paired with Woods the first two rounds. Steamroller.

Justin Rose: I expect a full bounce-back performance this week after a tough Sunday last week at Valspar. Sure he beat Conners by five shots in the final group but he was one of only three rounds above par in the top 15 on Sunday last week. The former Lake Nona resident has plenty of reps and experience around here, exactly what is needed for this week.

Jason Day: The ONLY two things I’m concerned about this week is his grouping with Woods and the circus that goes along with it and his layoff. The last time he returned to action after a big layoff was at the Farmers Insurance Open and he won. Now, about that grouping with Woods…

Tyrrell Hatton: His debut last year saw him T4 after posting all four rounds at par or better in difficult conditions. Last year he entered on sizzling form and this year the same can be said. After making a hash of PGA National he rebounded with T3 at WGC-Mexico the following week. He’s cashed in 11 of his last 12 world-wide events and his worst check is for T19.

Henrik Stenson: His record here led gamers right off the cliff last year as he MC for the first time in nine tries. The Lake Nona resident also broke a streak of T5 or better finishes over three years. He hasn’t finished outside of the top 15, when making the cut, since 2012. He had even more prep time after skipping Mexico and getting caught up in the Woods tidal wave last week.

Tommy Noren Alex Fleetwood: Yep, either or both. Fleetwood gets the course nod as he was T10 last year on his debut (Noren T49). They’re both on fire in the form department as well.

Brian Harman: Busted out of his mini-slump (MC, T33) with another top 10 (T5) last time out at WGC-Mexico Championship. His sixth top 10 leads the TOUR this season. He’ll quietly navigate while the spotlight is pointed in another direction. I’m fully on board here.

Rory McIlroy: His four starts on U.S. soil in 2018 have resulted in MC, T20, T59 and MC last week. For the first time in five events he’ll be able to swing his best weapon, the driver, the most. He SHOULD feast on the Par-5 holes. His length SHOULD overwhelm this track. He was T11 on his debut here in 2015. He backed that up with T27 that included four doubles the following year. He also made a TON of birdies last year (T1, 21) and tied the low round of the week (65) in trying conditions to finish T4.

Zach Johnson: The last two editions where the weather has cooperated Johnson has cashed in the top 10. That’s the case this year so he’s last man in the premium selections. He cashed in 13 of 14 events and has played every year stretching back to 2004. He fits the veteran mould and knows how to wedge a place to death. He’s also third this season in adjusted scoring. Stewart Cink suggested this is a course for the mentally tough. Sold.


Next Tier

no particular order

Adam Scott: I struggled with him and Zach Johnson in this spot so I’ll congratulate Scott on his win now. The Aussie keeps cranking it but it just won’t turn over. But he’s getting close. It’s always hard to ignore the guy who leads the TOUR in strokes-gained: tee-to-green. He owns a share of the course record and the 36-hole scoring record.

Marc Leishman: The field is loaded if the defending champ can’t force his way into the top 10! I’d expect another solid week from the Aussie as he looks to join Matt Every as a multiple champ.

Kevin Chappell: Missed out on a playoff with Day in 2016 that added another layer of experience that would see him finally breakthrough at Valero the following spring. He adds two other top-25 paydays in six events and has nothing worse than T31 in 2018.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat: His last five world-wide paychecks are WIN, T68, T5 and WIN. I’d point out that he’s played this event twice and finished T6 each time just for added emphasis. Bay Hill obviously fits his eye but you never know how these guys react with Woods in the field. Check these out:

Francesco Molinari: Proper ball-striker and world player who feasts on this track as well. He’s never missed in five tries and three of his four top-25 finishes are top 10’s. The battle for Ryder Cup positions is going to be fierce this season and he knows it’s time to step on the pedal.

SIDE NOTE: I would watch Ryder Cup II. Play it the week before/after. I’m in. There are that many great players to make TWO teams each. Do it.

Bubba Watson: The best part of his win at Riviera for gamers was his T9 in Mexico City two weeks later. His big problem is missing fairways but that shouldn’t be as much of an issue this week. He feasts on Par-5 holes and that shouldn’t be a problem either.

Patrick Reed: The putt that never was to get into a playoff at Valspar should have his ass the color of his shirt this week. He’ll need to swing the big stick well but his short game is devine.

Luke List: He wasn’t eligible for the WGC-Mexico Championships after he lost in the playoff at Honda to Justin Thomas. He showed up in Tampa last week and posted all four rounds at par-or-better, making it seven rounds in a row below that number. After MC and MC to open 2018, it’s five in a row of T26 or better. Did I hide him down here far enough? That’s the real question.

Jason Kokrak: Took a couple weeks off after the West Coast swing and returned with T8 at Innisbrook. Like List, he hits it a mile and roasts Par-5 holes. Like List, he’s in his early 30’s and should have a proper idea of what it takes to be in the hunt on Sunday. A pair of top 10’s here suggests this course is one of his favorites.

Jamie Lovemark: The kid from California has taken a liking to Florida this winter. His first stop at The Honda Classic saw him collect a check for solo seventh and he backed that up with T16 at Valspar. I’ll point out his 68-68 weekend on the Copperhead Course should give him PLENTY of momentum heading to Orlando. The Jupiter resident must love Bermuda. Check his record here in The Confidence Factor linked above.

Patton Kizzire: His weakness is hitting fairways but he has no problem with GIR or the putter. He trashes Par-5 holes and closed with 66 in Mexico City last time out.


Off the Beaten Path

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

Martin Laird: He was flying along before MC at Valspar. I’m not sure if he loves Florida golf though. I’ll save him for Valero even though he’s never MC here in eight tries. #DigDeeper.

Ben Martin: After rattling off seven paydays in a row including 68 to close at Innisbrook. He makes more sense than Laird this week especially with the forecast setting up the way it does.

Sean O’Hair: He’s played Florida courses well for most of his career and this week qualifies. He’s collected nine checks from 11 tries with three top 10’s at Bay Hill. His T12 last week was his best since last July in Canada.

Sam Burns: This week will be the test for me. He’s no longer flying under the radar. He knows he’s close enough to smell Special Temporary Membership. He knows his bogey on the last hole last week cost him a free roll into Punta Cana next week. With all that swirling, let’s go see if he can force himself into the top 15 for the third event running. This course suggests it will not.

James Hahn: He’s started the season perfect through eight events but there’s been no love in Orlando. Something is going to have to give!

Sam Saunders: I liked that he closed with 68 at Valspar last week after his very solid start on the West Coast was derailed with his first five rounds in Florida. I bet he’s played this track a few times.

Collin Morikawa: Justin Suh might be getting all the attention but he’s not in the field this week. Morikawa fired 16-under for 54-holes in his last NCAA tournament in Cabo. He’s not going to win this week but you need to but both of their names in your Rolodex for future seasons.

Sam Horsfield: Those of you who follow me on Twitter, thank you, know I have been following Ian Poulter’s buddy for some time. Horsfield, from England but grew up in Orlando, was the medalist for Q-School on the European Tour last November. His last four world-wide starts have resulted in fourth, MC, MC and second. He grew up in Orlando and I’m guessing has played here once or twice.

Kyle Stanley: He fits the mold perfectly this week as he can overpower Bay Hill and should be able to clean up on the Par-5 holes. This is the first time he’s playing this event in an even-numbered year. His last three are T12, MC and T17 spread over 5 years.

Bryson DeChambeau: Most of you will find he shot 66 paired with McIlroy, who shot 65, in the final round of 2017. If you can find that, surely you know he WD with back issues after one round at Valspar last week. He should be in the fades but you never know with the scientist…

Ian Poulter: He’s cashed for seven straight at this event.

J.B. Holmes: Add one more.

Matt Every: His best finish on TOUR this season is T51. You’ve been made aware.

Vijay Stricker: He won last week on PGA Champions and plays every year in this event. His last top 25 was 2014 when he was a pup, just 51.

Keegan Bradley: So where are we at on this #NappyFactor ride? I’m hopping on board this week to make sure it’s not broken.



injured, rusty or not the track this week

Rickie Fowler: Convince me otherwise. I get class is permanent and form is temporary. What’s the clue it’s going to be THIS week? Gotta have more than fancy shoes! This isn’t a course he’s shredded in the past either. Hard Pass.

Hideki Matsuyama: I’m not touching him after missing time with a wrist injury AND being paired with Woods in his first two rounds back. His WD after one round at WMPO has left a bad taste as well. Bad combo. Sayonara.

Anirban Lahiri: His travel schedule has been LAX-PBI-DEL-MCO in four of the last five weeks. That by definition is jet lag. Have by buddy @A340Spotter help you with deciphering the above!

Vaughn Taylor: Late WD at Valspar always makes me nervous.

Ryan Moore: The last three events here he’s played the weekend 78-73, 81-73 and 74-73 last year.

Kevin Na: Last minute WD at Valspar. Buyer beware.


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