Not hard to spot the favorite this week but let’s dig deeper!
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Presented by Master Card
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
|South Course: Yards (per official scorecard):||7,454|
|Greens:||TifEagle Bermudagrass; 7,500 square feet on average.|
|Rough:||Over-seeded Bermuda (ryegrass) at three inches.|
|Architect(s):||Dick Wilson and Joe Lee (1961); Arnold Palmer (2009).|
|Purse:||$9.3 million; $1.674 million and 500 FedExCup points (winner).|
|Defending Champion:||Francesco Molinari (-12), 276.|
|Fact of the Week:||Greens were replaced after 2018 event with same TifEagle Bermuda (frost).|
|Fact of the Week II:||TifEagle introduced after 2015 event so start with 2016.|
2019-2020 Season Winners
*- First-time winner
**- First-time winner AND rookie winner
|A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier||*- Joaquin Niemann|
|Sanderson Farms Championship||*- Sebastian Munoz|
|Safeway Open||Cameron Champ|
|Shriners Hospitals for Children Open||Kevin Na|
|Houston Open||*-Lanto Griffin|
|CJ CUP AT NINE BRIDGES||Justin Thomas|
|ZOZO Championship||Tiger Woods|
|WGC-HSBC Champions||Rory McIlroy|
|Bermuda Championship||Brendon Todd|
|Mayakoba Golf Classic||Brendon Todd (2)|
|The RSM Classic||*-Tyler Duncan|
|Hero World Challenge||Henrik Stenson|
|Sentry Tournament of Champions||Justin Thomas (2)|
|Sony Open||Cameron Smith|
|The American Express||Andrew Landry|
|Farmers Insurance Open||Marc Leishman|
|Waste Management Phoenix Open||Webb Simpson|
|AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am||Nick Taylor|
|The Genesis Invitational||Adam Scott|
|WGC-Mexico Championship||Patrick Reed|
|The Honda Classic||*-Sungjae Im|
Recent Event Winners
|2019||Francesco Molinari, -12||Bogey-free 64 to post early and win by two.|
|2018||Rory McIlroy, -18||Bogey-free 64 to post early and win by three. Check HFC for his unbelievable stats.|
|2017||Marc Leishman, -11||Noted wind player was the only player to post all four rounds under-par to win by one.|
|2016||Jason Day, -17||Wire-to-wire to kick off the streak of international winners.|
Facts and Figures:
|Tournament Record:||264; Payne Stewart, 1987.|
|Course Record:||62; Adam Scott, 2014 (bentgrass)
64; multiple (TifEagle)
|Recent Defending Champion(s):||Matt Every, 2014-15.|
|Multiple Winners Entered:||Every.|
|First-time – TOUR:||Every is the only player this century.|
|First-time – Event||Every is the only player this century.|
|Low Rounds 2019:||64; Molinari (Rd 4)
65; Rafa Cabrera Bello (Rd 1)
|Best First-timers 2019:||T3: Cabrera Bello, Im
T6: Keith Mitchell, Matt Wallace.
T10: Adam Long
T17: Ryan Blaum (not entered)
|Odd Fact:||After 2015 event, fairways were widened and trees removed to open sight lines and attack angles.|
Bay Hill is a big ballpark but there’s plenty of room for the big dawgs to take swings. As with most tracks, inaccurate shots will be punished as the TOUR runs into some actual rough for the first time since Torrey Pines. Big fairways and big green complexes equal big penalties for missing so it’s not terribly surprising the average winning score hovers around 15-under and that’s usually just the podium.
Good News, Bad News: The invitational field of 121 is short of the usual capacity field of 156. Of the top 50 players in the OWGR, 31 are present while 30 of the top Sagarin 50 are teeing it up. Since the change to invitational status, only the big boys have picked up the trophy.
Changes in Latitude, Changes in Altitude: Not much elevation change in the Butler Chain of Lakes but the temperature is different this week. Thursday will feature 90 but a cold front moves thunderstorms thru the area overnight. Friday early won’t be as warm as Thursday early but Saturday will be chilly. Sunday is cloudy but temperatures return to the 70s.
So What? So Let’s Dance!: Legit rough, the fastest Stimp, water, sand and wind that will blow from four different directions over four rounds suggest another experienced, veteran winner at Bay Hill. Arnie told us “You must play boldly to win” but left out when to floor it and when to take the medicine.
The last four winners have all handled big Par-3 holes, lightning greens and have ground out pars instead of accumulating bogeys. Keeping in play off the tee and into the greens will reduce stress but there will be bogeys this week again. Anybody who makes 20+ birdies here will be in the top 10 after Sunday afternoon. Patience, course management and knowing where to miss return to the recipe for success this week.
Class Warfare – Ying & Yang
Rory McIlroy: No surprise he’s at the front of the line and he will be next week as well when he defends at THE PLAYERS. Only thing he’s been missing this season is the kill shot on Sunday and I’m not betting against that happening this week. His career-best putting round was on this track in 2018 and his scoring average is 69 and change. Talk me out of him.
Tommy Fleetwood: Caused an international incident, at least on Twitter, last Sunday when he didn’t win at Honda. Ok, Boomer! I’m not letting one shot wipe out an otherwise super-solid performance last week. He’s almost figured out Bay Hill and should give it a run again this week.
Henrik Stenson: Orlando resident won the Hero late last year and always rolls into Bay Hill with a smile on his face. He’s 18-under the last two years with a 77 on the card.
Bryson DeChambeau: Broke onto the scene here as an amateur when he went head-to-head with McIlroy on Sunday. Both shared T27 and McIlroy’s 65 beat him by a shot. With a second in Mexico City and T5 at Riviera, he’s just as hot as Rory.
Patrick Reed: The winner in Mexico two weeks ago jumps into his first event since claiming his second WGC victory. He’ll have room to swing it off the tee this week and his short game always travels.
Adam Scott: Anybody who starts their calendar year at Riviera AND WINS is a total savage. Never can tell how hot the fire burns here but I can’t find a reason why he won’t contend this week.
Marc Leishman: Straight garbage since he won at Torrey but the wind this week pushes him up the list. Oh, and he rakes here, 31-under the last four years with 14 of 16 rounds par or better.
Ben An: Shit-hot fire final three rounds at Honda and is trending here. I prefer him on known tracks. Let’s ride. Getchaselfsome
Rafa Cabrera Bello: Another savage who kicked off his USA events Riviera-WGC-Mexico with T16-T17.
Tyrrell Hatton: Hasn’t missed in three trips and started 2020 T6 in Mexico City. Just patient enough to frustrate, right?
Sungjae Im: USUALLY. I’ll stay away from first-time winners in their next event. USUALLY. Dude lives out of a suitcase and his family is a million miles away so it’s just “on to the next event” for him. If Keith Mitchell can do the Honda-API WIN-T6 last year, I’m sure that Im, who was T3 on debut last year, can surely follow.
Brendan Steele: I learned on the ol’ TV last weekend that he loves putting on Bermuda. He almost won, again, just like he nearly did on the Bermuda at Sony. Wanna guess who led the field in SG: Putting last year here?
Wyndham Clark: Blazing hot T34-T18-T17-T11 all on less-than-easy tracks. Hits it a mile and putts lights out. Ride or die.
Justin Rose: Form is temporary, class is permanent. Course should fit this week but there’s nothing recently that suggests he’ll contend. Contrarians unite!
Brooks Koepka: One of these days he’s going to feel better (knee) and start contending again. I’m let you know when I see some signs but I’m not sure this is the track (MC last two) to be contrarian. Pass.
Hideki Matsuyama: Big test for gamers this week as he’s BOILING after T5 at Riviera and T6 in Mexico City. This isn’t a track he’s thrived upon over the years reinforcing that putting does matter here and lightning greens might not be his favorite. Rarely does his putter bail him out over four rounds. One round in the 60s in his last three visits and ALWAYS plays well on the West Coast prior. Hmmmmm.
Rickie Fowler: The streak is now five straight without a top-10 here. Wonderfully inconsistent start to 2020 has me looking elsewhere.
Jason Day: Nothing before his win in 2016, nothing after.
Tony Finau: Took a week off after a tough loss in a playoff in Scottsdale and didn’t break par at Riviera (T51). Not sure why he skipped Mexico City to play here for the first time since 2017. Oh, because he wants a rep on Bermuda before THE PLAYERS. Careful, folks…
Billy Horschel: Learned that he left PXG Tuesday of last week. Not sure if that’s the tourney prep I wanted to hear about after laying him down as one of my win tickets. So maybe I’m surly this week but bookend 73-75 at Honda is more important than my mood. He’s never MC in seven tries here but he’s has one top-15 finish (T13, 2017).
Worth another look:
Matthew Fitzpatrick: T30-something weekly sounds about right. In five visits here he’s nearly won (last year) and has T13 and T27 surrounding a pair of MC.
Lee Westwood: Can the putter hold up another week? I’m betting it doesn’t. First look here since 2014.
Charl Schwartzel: Last chance to qualify for THE PLAYERS. Gave it a sniff last week before running out of gas (T17). Led the field in SG: Putting last week but he’s probably not thrilled to be reminded he’s never put a round in the 60s here in 14 chances. He’s probably thrilled that forecast suggests four rounds of 70 could be just fine…
Abraham Ancer: Will be it be him or An to become the next Presidents Cup International team member to win? T12 in Mexico after closing with 63 in Palm Springs (2nd) suggests he’s not fading away.
Kevin Kisner: ON HIS PREFERRED SURFACE. I’m saving him for next week.
Collin Morikawa: First three rounds par-or-better as an amateur in 2018 saw him make the cut and reinforce his talent was probably gonna translate at this level. Never MC as a pro.
Maverick McNealy: I wondered last week how it would translate on Bermuda. T11 is the answer, his best of 11 starts in 2019-2020 and his 11th consecutive payday. T46 as an am here.
Patrick Rodgers: Another warm Stanford alum who has rattled off five of six all T35 or better. T7 and T20 in four starts here doesn’t push me away either.
Max Homa: His win last year was on Champion Bermuda at a long, difficult Quail so he should adapt quickly in his first visit. Oh, and he’s on absolute fire entering with nothing worse than T14 in his last four including three in the top 10.
Harris English: If he was good enough last week, T17 isn’t chasing me off this week.
Francesco Molinari: Trust the course form because there is nothing else to hang your hat on recently. The good news is he didn’t show any signs entering last year. When I’m not sure, I’m out.
Mark Hubbard: T11-MC-T9 with both results on Bermuda.
Sebastian Munoz: His first WGC event he cashed T14 last time out. Won on Bermuda at SFC last fall.
Joel Dahmen: T14 at Pebble followed by T5 at Riviera. Putting numbers are frighteningly bad.
Carlos Ortiz: Move him up, again, this week as he’s cashed T26 or better in his last three and has two top 30 from two trips to Bay Hill.
Matt NeSmith: This is a recording. Six straight T38 or better.
Talor Gooch: 10 straight. Co-led on 9-under in 2018 before falling apart.
Denny McCarthy: Coming off his first MC in 11 events he should be encouraged about tough putting conditions.
Sam Burns/Ryder: Burns never missed in two here and was T23 Riviera LTO. Ryder grew up in Orlando area. BOTH!
Keith Mitchell: Nobody will ask him one question this week or wonder what he’s doing. Sweet freedom.
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