Horses for Courses: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Master Card 2020

Tiger’s won this thing eight times.

He’s not playing.

Franny Molly defends and continued an interesting trend last year.

Read more!

The “Bermuda Quadrangle” isn’t as catchy as its cousin the “Bermuda Triangle”, or Cameron Tringale for that matter, but it’s the second of four consecutive weeks on TifEagle Bermuda greens in the state of Florida. The PGA TOUR rolls into Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge and provides a last chance saloon to qualify for THE PLAYERS Championship next week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The field of 121 will face the slickest greens (13-plus Stimpmeter), Bermuda or otherwise, they have navigated this season. Also, rough over two inches will be in play for the first time since Torrey Pines South. With generous fairways and large green complexes, there will be punishment for missing targets. Throw in the breeze, 84 bunkers and eight water hazards over 7,454 yards (Par-72) and all 14 clubs in the bag will need to be on point.

The invitational prize pool, similar to The Genesis Invitational and the Memorial Tournament, is $9.3 million with $1.674 million, 500 FedExCup points and a three-year exemption, along with a red Alpaca cardigan, going home with the winner.

 

RECENT WINNERS

2019: Francesco Molinari (-12, 276)

Became the second consecutive champion to post a bogey-free 64 (-8) in the final round to win. … Trailed by five entering Sunday. … 64 was the lowest round of the week. … Third consecutive winner (1st) in the top two in Strokes-Gained: Putting and top three (T3) in bogey avoidance. … Kept it out of trouble – T3 fairways and T6 GIR, plus was fifth in scrambling. … Fourth consecutive international winner. … Won in his seventh attempt.

Notables in the field this week: 54-hole leader Matthew Fitzpatrick beat 2018 champ Rory McIlroy (T6) by a shot in the final group to claim second, two shots back. … Debutants Rafa Cabrera Bello, who opened with 65 and led after Round 1, and Sungjae Im shared T3 with co-36-hole leader Tommy Fleetwood. … Sung Kang and 2019 Honda Classic winner Keith Mitchell were also T6 along with first-timer Matt Wallace. … Mitchell co-led the field in par-breakers with 21. … 2019 Desert Classic winner Adam Long (T10) hit the top 10 on his first look. … 45 players were under par, but just two signed for double-digits.

2018: Rory McIlroy (-18, 270)

Began Sunday two back before posting a bogey-free 64 to win by three. … Played the weekend 13 under, which alone would have been good enough for T4. … Gained a career-high 10.027 strokes on the greens and only needed 100 putts. … Made 54 of 54 inside seven feet. … Like Molinari and most winners, did NOT have any form entering the week. … Last four winners, including McIlroy (T3) have all been in the top four in Par-3 scoring. … Only winner in the last four inside the top 15 (1st) in proximity. … Co-led the field in bogey avoidance. … Won in his fourth visit.

Notables in the field this week: Bryson DeChambeau’s first appearance (2nd) as a professional found him co-leading after 36 and playing in the final group one shot behind local Henrik Stenson (4th). … Former Orlando/Lake Nona resident Justin Rose was third playing the weekend 67-67. … Ryan Moore shared fifth with Tiger Woods (not entered 2020) to round out the double-digit under-par club. … Marc Leishman’s title defense fell short at T7, leaving Matt Every (2014-2015) as the last champion to back it up.

2017: Marc Leishman (-11, 277)

Renowned wind player became second consecutive Australian to win after Jason Day in 2016 and only sixth international winner. … Trailed by three entering the final round before posting 69 to win by one. … Co-led the field in GIR, was T1 bogey avoidance and second Strokes-Gained: Putting. … Only player to have all four rounds under-par. … Won in his eighth attempt and didn’t have a top-10 payday to his name in 2017 entering the week, just like Molinari and McIlroy.

Notables in the field this week: Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner played in the final group, both shot 73 and both shared second. … Rory McIlroy and debutant Tyrrell Hatton shared fourth. … Co-18 hole leader Emiliano Grillo, Lucas Glover and 2019 champ Molinari finished T7.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

 * –  previous top 10 finish here since 2015

Strokes Gained: Putting

1  Denny McCarthy

4  Graeme McDowell

5  Andrew Putnam

8  Wyndham Clark

9  Vaughn Taylor

10 Beau Hossler

13 Rickie Fowler

14 Pat Perez

15 Harris English

16 Billy Horschel

17 *Justin Rose

20 *Kevin Kisner

22 *Patrick Rodgers

23 Sam Ryder

24 Ian Poulter

24 *Rory McIlroy

Par-3 Scoring

1  *Rory McIlroy

3  Scott Piercy

3  Hideki Matsuyama

7  Rory Sabbatini

7  Danny Lee

7  Andrew Putnam

7  Keegan Bradley

7  *Marc Leishman

7  *Troy Merritt

7  Denny McCarthy

16 Vaughn Taylor

16 Billy Horschel

16 Charles Howell III

20 Corey Conners

20 *Jason Kokrak (T10, 2019)

20 Brian Stuard

20 Bud Cauley

Bogey Avoidance

1  *Rory McIlroy

4  *Tommy Fleetwood

4  Charles Howell III

7  Scott Piercy

9  *Lucas Glover

10 Vaughn Taylor

11 Brooks Koepka

12 Xander Schauffele (debut)

13 *Matt Jones (3rd, 2015)

14 *Sungjae Im

14 Hideki Matsuyama

17 Bud Cauley

19 Denny McCarthy

22 Rory Sabbatini

25 *Patrick Reed (T7, 2018)

Horses     

Rory McIlroy: 69.40 scoring average with T11 or better in four of five, plus 15 of 20 rounds in the red.

Francesco Molinari: Hasn’t missed in seven attempts and three of the last four T9 or better; 24 of 28 rounds in the red.

Henrik Stenson: Orlando resident has cashed seven of his last eight, all T17 or better but has never won.

Justin Rose: Broke a run of 3rd-T13-T9 with T63 last year, but is 12 of 14 career with eight T25 or better.

Cut Makers

Tommy Fleetwood: Three straight the last three years (T3-T26-T10) and each visit has a round of 76 or WORSE!

Byeong Hun An: Four of five and all heading in the right direction.

Emiliano Grillo: DNS 2019 but T26-T7-T17 the three years prior.

Hideki Matsuyama: Five straight but only top-20 was T6 in 2016. Caution.

Billy Horschel: Seven running but T13 is the best of the bunch.

Charles Howell III: 11 on the trot and the last two years are the best of that streak.

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