A field of heavy hitters will line up to win The King’s tournament at Bay Hill this week.
It’s been a very busy golf-news week and I’ve tried to keep up with my evaluations below.
As always, I ask that you read Horses for Courses as well to answer all of your questions.
Gamers will hope these two will factor greatly in the proceedings this week!
Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Bay Hill Cheat Sheet
|Yards (per official scorecard):||7,454|
|Greens:||6,500 square feet; Tif-Eagle Bermudagrass.|
|Rough:||Tif-Sport Bermuda over-seeded with ryegrass at 3.5″|
|Water Hazards:||In play on half of the holes|
|Architect(s):||Dick Wilson & Joe Lee (1961); Arnold Palmer (2009, 2014).|
|Purse:||$9.1 million; $1.638 million, 500 FedExCup points (winner).|
|Defending Champion:||Rory McIlroy, -18|
|Notes:||TifEagle added after 2015 event.|
|Notes II:||Fairways expanded, trees removed after 2015 event.|
Previous Winners (since 2014):
|2018||Rory McIlroy||-18||Won by three as he led the field in proximity and SG: putting.|
|2017||Marc Leishman||-11||Trailed Kisner and Hoffman by three but won in a stiff breeze by a shot.|
|2016||Jason Day||-17||Picked up his first top-10 payday with a wire-to-wire victory.|
|2015||Matt Every||-19||Par-72 tournament record; joined Woods and Roberts as the only defenders.|
|2014||Matt Every||-13||First TOUR win after trailing by four shots after 54 holes.|
Recent History Lessons
|Safeway Open||Kevin Tway**|
|CIMB Classic||Marc Leishman|
|CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES||Brooks Koepka|
|Sanderson Farms Championship||Cameron Champ**|
|WGC-HSBC Champions||Xander Schauffele|
|Shriners Hospitals for Children||Bryson DeChambeau|
|Mayakoba Golf Classic||Matt Kuchar|
|The RSM Classic||Charles Howell III|
|Hero World Challenge*||Jon Rahm|
|Sentry TOC||Xander Schauffele (2)|
|Sony Open in Hawaii||Matt Kuchar (2)|
|60th Desert Classic||Adam Long**|
|Farmers Insurance Open||Justin Rose|
|Waste Management||Rickie Fowler|
|AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am||Phil Mickelson|
|Genesis Open||J.B. Holmes|
|WGC-Mexico Championship||Dustin Johnson|
|The Honda Classic||Keith Mitchell**|
(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)
Facts and Figures:
Bay Hill went to Par-72 after the 2009 edition.
|Tournament Record:||269 (-19); Every, 2015.|
|Course Records:||62; last was Adam Scott (2015, Round 1).|
|Recent Defending Champion(s):||Every, Woods and Roberts; only Every is in the field.|
|Multiple Winners (entered)||See above.|
|First TOUR Win (since 2007 move):||Every, 2014, and Paul Goydos in 1996 are the last two.|
|First-time in the field:||N/A this century.|
|Low Round 2018:||64; Stenson (Round 1) and McIlroy (Round 4).|
|Odd Fact:||The last three winners have been internationals yet only seven total from 40 previous events.|
The Confidence Factor was the weekly column I wrote for PGATOUR.COM. It has evolved into Horses for Courses. I’ve included the link here for you. It can also be found in The Confidence Factor section at my website.
Inside the ropes
From Jack to Arnie to start the Florida Swing so who’s complaining?!?!
The keys to winning at Bay Hill are below but I’ll add some context as well. If you’re gonna hit it crooked here, hit it as far as you can. Navigating the rough from 180 or 135 is a massive difference especially when it’s almost four inches and damp.
Kids don’t do well here unless they’re off-the-charts talented. Rookies struggle to find the top 10 so that should be a clue. The field is always deep, so that’s problem No. 1. The other issue is they don’t have the tactical nous to use the brakes. Check the top part of the leaderboards over the last five years and count how many over-par rounds the top players have. Not many.
Slick Bermuda isn’t for everyone but I think it helps everyone. TifEagle rolls PERFECTLY and getting the ball to the hole at 13.5′ feet won’t be the issue.
The forecast suggests scoring conditions so don’t be surprised if 16-under or better is required heading into the back nine on Sunday. With four Par-5 holes daily and perfect greens, that’s not out of the question.
Trend or Not a Trend?
|Rory McIlroy||Marc Leishman||Jason Day||Matt Every|
|Distance of All Drives||7||17||5||19|
|Greens in Regulation||T45||T1||T29||2|
|Proximity to the Hole||1||T43||58||3|
|Putting: Birdie-or-Better %||3||31||3||3|
Horses for Courses
Each week I’ll put the major players in here. There are always exceptions to rules and “new” players every year so use this as a guide or tiebreaker.
|Rory McIlroy||4/4||2||3||Win (2018)||T4 (2017)|
|Bryson DeChambeau||2/2||1||1||2 (2018)||T27 (2017)|
|Justin Rose||11/13||5||8||3 (2018)||2 (2013), T9 (2016), T3 (2011)|
|Henrik Stenson||9/10||5||7||4 (2018)||5 of last 6 top 10|
|Ryan Moore||7/9||2||3||T5 (2018)||T4 (2012)|
|Marc Leishman||7/9||3||4||T7 (2018)||Win (2017), T3 (2011)|
|Luke List||2/2||1||2||T7 (2018)||T17 (2017)|
|Patrick Rodgers||2/3||1||2||T7 (2018)||T20 (2016)|
|Patrick Reed||2/3||1||1||T7 (2018)|
|Kevin Kisner||2/4||1||1||T2 (2017)||T49 (2015)|
|Charley Hoffman||3/6||1||2||T2 (2017)||T14 (2018)|
|Tyrrell Hatton||2/2||1||1||T4 (2017)||T69 (2018)|
|Adam Hadwin||2/2||1||1||6 (2017)||T36 (2016)|
|Francesco Molinari||6/6||3||4||T7 (2017)||T9 (2016), T5 (2014)|
|Lucas Glover||7/9||1||4||T7 (2017)||T14 (2014)|
|Hudson Swafford||4/5||1||2||T10 (2017)||T11 (2015)|
|Tommy Fleetwood||2/2||1||1||T10 (2017)||T26 (2018)|
|Jason Day||6/8||1||5||Win (2016)||T22 (2018), T23 (2017)|
|Zach Johnson||14/15||5||6||5 (2016)||T9 (2015), 3 (2009)|
|Kiradech Aphibarnrat||2/3||2||2||T6 (2016)||T6 (2015)|
|Hideki Matsuyama||4/4||1||2||T6 (2016)||T21 (2015)|
|Matt Every||6/9||2||3||Win (2015)||Win (2014), T24 (2012)|
|Jason Kokrak||4/6||2||3||T6 (2015)||4 (2014)|
|Kevin Na||7/10||3||5||T6 (2015)||T4 (2012), T2 (2010)|
|Louis Oosthuizen||3/4||1||1||T9 (2015)||T28 (2017) MC (2018)|
|Keegan Bradley||6/7||2||2||2 (2014)||T3 (2013)|
|Brandt Snedeker||9/12||1||5||T8 (2014)|
|J.B. Holmes||9/10||1||2||T10 (2014)||T13 (2015), T21 (2010)|
|Rickie Fowler||6/7||1||3||T3 (2013)|
|Thorbjorn Olesen||1/2||1||1||7 (2013)||MC (2017)|
|Bill Haas||4/6||1||2||T8 (2013)||T17 (2010)|
|Jimmy Walker||4/5||1||3||T8 (2013)||T24 (2012), T19 (2005)|
|Graeme McDowell||7/11||3||4||2 (2012)||T10 (2014), T2 (2005)|
|Ian Poulter||9/13||1||5||3 (2012)||T12 (2011)|
|Ernie Els||17/23||4||8||T4 (2012)||Win (2010, 1998)|
|Bubba Watson||7/11||2||4||T4 (2012)||T8 (2008)|
|Martin Laird||9/9||1||1||Win (2011)||T26 (2018)|
|Kevin Streelman||7/8||1||2||T10 (2010)||T21 (2013)|
|Pat Perez||12/14||3||4||T4 (2009)||T17 (2018)|
|Vijay Singh||21/25||7||15||T3 (2008)||Win (2007)|
|Charles Howell III||16/18||1||7||T8 (2005)||T14 (2018)|
|Phil Mickelson||11/14||4||7||T3 (2002)||First start since 2013 (MC)|
Rory McIlroy: It would have been great to see him possibly duel with Tiger on the weekend but c’est la vie, right? His 69.25 scoring average here is the best as it’s obvious he enjoys the greens and smashing Par-5 holes.
Justin Rose: Took a nice break after his WIN-MC in San Diego followed by a trip to Saudi Arabia. He’s 28-under in his last three trips the last three years and that’s with two over-par rounds on Sunday.
Rickie Fowler: I’ve wondered if the pressure of winning here bothers him to some degree because he was tight with The King. He embraced the demons at TPC Scottsdale and slew that dragon last month. I have no problem endorsing T2-T36-WIN in his last this week.
Bryson DeChambeau: Led the field in SG: TTG and was T-1 in Par-5 scoring last year as he finished runner-up. Playing with McIlroy in the final group on Sunday as an amateur in 2016 he fired 66 and lost by one. That was your clue, folks!!!
Brooks Koepka: Along with DeChambeau, course history is irrelevant with this fella. His best finish at PGA National was T26 but that didn’t stop him from almost winning last week (T2). He’s made no secret that he loves golf in Florida so I’m not going to argue with him!
Jason Day: His only top 10 here is a win but he’s rounding into form at the right time with T5 at Torrey, another bomb-and-putt track, and T4 at Pebble Beach.
Marc Leishman: With five top-10’s in eight worldwide starts, I’m backing the Aussie again this week on a track he’s enjoying regardless of wind. In perfect conditions last year he put up a staunch defense with T7 and that included a round OVER par. T17 or better in his last three here.
Lucas Glover: Don’t look now but his putting numbers this season are almost as good as his finishes! He’s on fire regardless of the coast with T7 at Pebble followed by T4 last week at PGA National.
Ian Poulter: Did we change the Ryder Cup to ODD years now? After a pair of “warm-up events” in Hawaii he’s finished T6 or better in his last four world-wide starts. He’s played the weekend in eight straight in his annual home game.
Tommy Fleetwood: It’s just a matter of time before he gets comfortable in the States and starts knocking down the door. This will be his third trip around Bay Hill where he’s never finished worse than T26 with a 76 and 78 over those eight rounds.
Patrick Reed: I’ve mentioned he reminds me of Jason Day a bit as he won’t have any problems on slick greens or getting up-and-down this week. If he can keep his tee ball on the property he’ll have a real shot. T7 last year included THREE doubles on the card.
Charles Howell III: With just two rounds over 70 in five events the CH3 Express keeps rolling. He’s only 16 of 18 at Bay Hill including 10 in a row! Hahahahahaha. It’s not surprising he’s eighth in SG: Total.
Hideki Matsuyama: I don’t love the rumours swirling that he won’t play and I’m not crazy about him on Bermuda. But he hits it so well tee-to-green I can’t omit him unless he WD. Nobody said this would be easy.
Michael Thompson: His nickname is “Slick” because he enjoys putting fast greens. He’s 29th SG: Putting so dots connected. The paychecks from his last five on TOUR are all T16 or better.
Billy Horschel: A bookend pair of 67’s at Honda saw him post his best finish (T16) since solo eighth at Torrey Pines.
Si Woo Kim: Dude won THE PLAYERS and should have won RBC Heritage so any questions about Bermuda have been answered. Arrives after cashing T4 Pebble and third at Riviera.
Keegan Bradley: You’ll have to go all the way back to Shinnecock for his last MC, 17 events ago. You only have to go back to his last start, WGC-Mexico Championship, for his last top 10. Course form doesn’t hurt either.
Tyrrell Hatton: Gave it a whirl (T4) in his first appearance but was quiet last year with T69. A run of T15, MC and T19 last time out in Mexico have caught my eye.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: He’ll look to join Hatton and Fleetwood as panting a top-10 finish on debut. He’s a safe play as he hasn’t MC in 15 straight worldwide and is 25th SG: Total.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: Speaking of top-10’s on debut The Barn Rat went T6-T6 in his first two before MC last year. He won’t be flying back from Brunei this year, just a quick jaunt up I-95 from Palm Beach Gardens. He’s had time to settle in as well as he left early (MC).
J.B. Holmes: Bomb it, find it and hole putts? Worked just fine at Riviera where he won the last time out. He’s only MC once in 10 tries here and will have four Par-5 holes to taunt.
Jason Kokrak: Tired of seeing him in this column? I’m not, especially after his season-best T9 last week. He’s rattled off 14 consecutive cuts.
Byeong-Hun An: Played here in 2010 after winning the U.S. Amateur but hasn’t missed in his last three tries at Bay Hill. T14 last year was the best of the bunch.
Kevin Kisner: I should probably stick him higher up the board but T26, T27 and T28 in his last three put a halt to that. He loves Bermuda and this part of the world so I’d expect big things this week AND next where he’s been runner-up.
Haotong Li: Entering with T19-second-T12 run of form makes for an interesting decision.
Matt Wallace: He didn’t make any big numbers (no doubles or worse) at PGA National and will have bigger targets to aim at this week. His worldwide form and lack of recognition helps those of you in certain formats.
Bud Cauley: With T26 or better in three of his last four, I’ll get my saddle off the wall and climb back on. His best finish of the bunch was T12 last week as the Florida native looked very comfortable on his native shores.
Coming in HAWT
Long Shots, Course Horses, Wings, Prayers
Charley Hoffman: T14 and T2 in his last two visits but did absolutely nothing on the West Coast.
Zach Johnson: His last top 10 was 2016 but he’s only MC once in 15 tries.
Ryan Moore: If it wasn’t for his ice-cold form, he’d be up the list. Finding fairways, greens and holing putts keeps him inside the top 25 in SG: Total. He usually plays well here (see above).
Daniel Berger: Didn’t fire at his home event last week but he was T13 here as a rookie in 2015. Another professed lover of golf in Florida, I’ll sprinkle him around a bit, AGAIN, this week.
Luke List: Try the course horse angle again this week if you must, he was T7 last year and T27 in 2017. Now about that recent form…
Kevin Na: Check his record above and hope his pinky finger is getting better. I’ll say it is after closing 66-70 in Mexico City. Move him up.
Patrick Rodgers: A run of T30 last week after T15 after a great start at Riviera has me dreaming. Time to put four in a row together.
Adam Hadwin: Didn’t play here last year after solo sixth in 2017 and T36 in 2016.
Harris English: Closed 68-68 at Honda (T12) for his best result since T11 at Sedgefield. #TifEagle.
Brian Gay: Get the greens as fast as you can. He leads the TOUR in SG: Putting and has three top-25 paydays in six 2019 events.
Graeme McDowell: Time to see if last week was the exception or the rule as he plays this event for the 11th-consecutive season in his backyard.
Nate Lashley: Look it all up, metrics, cuts-made, you name it, he’s in this week.
J.T. Poston: Six straight and he’s 36th in scoring average. Sneaky.
Ryan Armour: Broke out last week with T12 as he navigated the sand and water at Honda. Ok, I see you after four straight MC.
Vaughn Taylor: T9 at Riviera and a solid outing at Honda before a Sunday swim meet knocked him from T21 to T59.
Aaron Baddeley: Had a chance to win in Puerto Rico and is a super putter. Another event with big fairways should help, not hurt.
The College Kids: I always like to see how they handle hot greens.
Caution – Maybe, Maybe Not
Henrik Stenson: Looking above, the Orlando resident knows this joint inside and out. His 2019 has be colder than even The Iceman himself would prefer. He’s also recently split with caddie Scott Vail so I’m having a hard time being optimistic.
Francesco Molinari: Another course horse with a new jockey but his comes in the form of new clubs. He’ll be debuting his new Callaway bag and Odyssey putter. Rose debuted his new stuff on the easy tracks on TOUR and barely cracked the top 40. I’ll save Frankie for THE PLAYERS or Royal Portrush.
Brandt Snedeker: Announced this week he’s heading back to teacher Todd Anderson after four years away. Whatever he found late last season at Sedgefield hasn’t sustained. Gamers learned this the hard way as he didn’t fire on the West Coast in his usual spots at Torrey, Pebble and Scottsdale. No wonder why he’s going back!
Phil Mickelson: It seems like he’s won everywhere on TOUR and this week qualifies. He’ll make his first start since 2013 but he’s unsure if he’s heading to TPC Sawgrass next week. I could read this as his GAS (Give A Shit) tank is empty for golf in Florida or I could hook my wagon up to him this week. Easy choice for me. I’ll suggest he’s killing two birds with one stone this week: knocking a “new tournament” venue off his list and wearing himself out for THE PLAYERS. What’s YOUR theory?
–IF YOU DIDN’T SEE YOUR GUY(S), READ THE CONFIDENCE FACTOR: HORSES FOR COURSES.–