Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Yards: 7,419 per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagass; 6,500 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass and ryegrass at 4”
Water Hazards: 7
Course Architect: Dick Wilson and Joe Lee (1961)
Winner’s Share: $1,152,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: March 20-23
Format: Stroke play
Notes: As of Monday afternoon, 22 of the top 50 players in the OWGR rankings are entered this week.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 16 of 18 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley and Chesson Hadley have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. John Senden joins Jason Day as Australia is alone representing the rest of the world.
Walker (three wins) and Patrick Reed (two) are the only two players on TOUR with multiple victories this season.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson, 35, joined them at Riviera.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. That’s nine wins from 18 events this year from the up-and-comers!
Finally! Breakthrough! The 40-something-“Old Guys” have broken their 2013-14 maiden as John Senden, 42, entered the winner’s circle last week in Tampa.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
The API was called the Bay Hill Invitational until 2007 when it was renamed.
The API switched from par 71 to par 72 after AP’s redesign in 2009.
The 2010 tournament was the first contested at par 72.
Past Champions in the Field:
1992: Robert Gamez
1996: Paul Goydos
1999: Tim Herron
2004: Chad Campbell
2006: Rod Pampling
2007: Vijay Singh
2011: Martin Laird
2012-13: Tiger Woods. Plus seven other wins on this course.
Since 1990, only Paul Goydos has broken his maiden on this track.
Since 1990, no first-timer has ever won.
Woods and Loren Roberts (1994-95) are the only players to defend their titles in 36 events at Bay Hill.
Martin Laird is the only European winner.
Els (twice), Pampling, Singh and Laird are the only international winners. This means that 31 of the last 36 winners are Yanks. #math
Inside the Ropes
Here’s where the API has ranked, relative to par, since moving to par 72 in March of 2010:
2013: 12th-most difficult; +.928 above par
2012: 12th-most difficult; +1.176
2011: eighth-most difficult; +1.203
2010: ninth-most difficult; +.892
For the fourth week in a row, the pros will find themselves navigating some of the most difficult, non-major tracks on TOUR. First, it was the water and Bear Trap at Honda. That was followed by the “new” Blue Monster at Doral which swallowed up enough golf balls to fill a pro shop twice. Last week, the hills, rough, wind and trees of The Snake Pit at Innisbrook made par an excellent score. This week shouldn’t be much different. Bay Hill has never played beneath par, on average, even after changing to par 72 in 2010.
Arnold Palmer enjoyed hitting driver so the players this week won’t have to worry about tight landing areas or heavily bunkered fairways. The driver will be constantly pulled out of the bag as the pros will try and give themselves the best position to attack the multi-tiered, heavily bunkered green complexes. The average winning score since 2010 has been slightly over 10-under-par. With four par fives, players have chances to attack but the successful players will be the ones who can control their golf ball in the wind and be able to measure the speed of the greens. If there is not rain in the forecast these Bermudagrass greens, already scheduled to run at 12’ on the Stimpmeter, will be lightning late in the afternoons.
Last year, Woods was almost last in fairways hit, middle of the pack in GIR but was number one in putting. He was the only player in the top 15 to find 10 or more bunkers. Rickie Fowler only made six bogeys for the week but his eight on the 70th hole saw him fall out of a tie for second place. Guys who will be successful this week will take advantage of the par fives, roll in birdies to offset bogeys and make plenty of pars everywhere else. Oh, and they will have to hold off Tiger Woods, if he’s healthy.
The Chalk, NCAA-Tournament Style!
The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )
In honor of everyone filling out a bracket this week, I’ll take my chalk and seed them for your enjoyment.
Number One Seeds:
Justin Rose (B): A sore shoulder has kept gamers like me nervy about inserting the Englishman into the lineup but after the WGC-CC and last week’s Valspar, I’ve seen enough to convince me that Rose is ready to win again. Sure, he missed some shorties and chunked a few but it wasn’t because of his shoulder. Think about all the ones he gave away on Sunday and then remember he was still T8! Rose, as many do, lives in the area and this is a home game this week. He’s shown over the last few years that being close to home helps and if it gets windy, he’s the man for the job. He was T3 in 2011, T15 in 2012 and was T2 last year. He’s posted 10 of those 12 rounds at par or better.
Bubba Watson (A): He has sniffed around the top of the leaderboards more than once here so that tells me he likes the layout. The way Watson is playing right now he would enjoy just about any course on the planet. In his last four starts three of them have found the top TWO and include a win at Riviera and T2s at WMPO and WGC-CC. #scalding. His 68 in the final round at Doral showed me a lot on a day when guys were going in reverse. Watson now calls Orlando home as well as he moved into the area this time last year. He’s eighth in the all-around ranking and that includes 14th in total putting. His driver can get loose but with big fairways this week that doesn’t bother me a bit.
Adam Scott (A): As the great Judge Smails lamented in Caddyshack, “Well, we’re waiting!” gamers feel the same way about Adam Scott. Sure he’s landed in the top 25 his last two starts (T12, T25) but WE WANT MORE. It’s hard to be patient and understanding of the schedule the Aussie has created so that he PEAKS at the Masters. This is not a secret. This is the new normal. Gamers have to decide when is the proper time to jump on and catch him on the upswing. His overall resume put him as a one seed but I’ll be taking a closer look to see if he needs to be in the lineup this week. I’ll have NO problems finding starts/plays for him down the road, obviously. This is his first trip to Bay Hill since 2009. Buyer beware.
Gary Woodland (A): Just like the NCAA tournament committee, the final No. 1 seed is a very tough decision and could have gone to a few different players this week and Woodland is as deserving as any to hold this position. The last two weeks on two difficult golf courses he’s managed to play each weekend under par. He hits hit a mile, and that doesn’t hurt around these parts, but his putter will make him or break him. With four par fives again this week, there’s not much wonder why he’s sitting up here. This will be his fourth time around Bay Hill in competition so he should have most of it figured out by now.
Number Two Seeds:
Graeme McDowell (C): With three top 10s in his last four starts it’s easy to put him on this list and the way he putts fast greens made it a no-brainer. He’s currently third in scoring average and sixth in strokes gained-putting on TOUR. The Lake Nona resident is also eighth in par four performance. It’s a Ryder Cup year and he’s playing like it. He has a second and a T2 in six trips to Bay Hill.
Zach Johnson (B): Similarly to GMAC, ZJ will be hoping that this course plays firm and fast as well as he too enjoys slick fairways and greens. He currently sits second in the all-around and doesn’t mind a bit of a grind on the weekend. It’s hard to ignore a guy who leads the TOUR in scoring and has earned three top 10s in 10 tries at Bay Hill. Not many blemishes on his game this season.
Patrick Reed (A): Well, what should gamers expect for an encore after his first WGC championship his last time out? This gamer is expecting another solid four days of putting and driving the golf ball and his bunker play at Doral squashed any fears I might have going into this week. Sure, he’s going to be asked 1,000,000 times about his quote of being one of the five best players on TOUR. The only way that question fades away is with another big performance on the course. Love him or hate him shouldn’t be an issue this week with seasoned gamers. The one weakness is his game is hitting fairways and that shouldn’t be too much of an issue this week.
Harris English (C): He’s in the top five in too many categories to add up so that’s why he keeps ending up in this part of the column every week he’s entered. He actually looked somewhat human last week as he finished T38 in Tampa. That’s what happens when zero putts are holed. I’m guessing he’s working on that before he tees it up Thursday and with his talent, I expect a nice bounce back effort this week.
Number Three Seeds:
Kevin Na (C): After grinding it out last weekend, Na was still fired up down the stretch as he holed clutch putt after clutch putt in an effort to catch John Senden but he just came up one birdie short and settle for second. In Na’s last four trips to Bay Hill he’s pegged finishes of T11, T2, T30 and T4. This will be his first start since 2012 at the API and with his MME in the rear view mirror, he can just relax and play the rest of the year.
Hunter Mahan (B): Part of me thinks he’s under-seeded as but that can be the case when almost half of the top 50 players in the world are teeing it up this week. He’s seen the weekend in his last six visits but he has only one top 20 finish in that time with T6 in 2008. Mahan has been all-or-nothing for gamers in 2014. In six events, he has four top 10s, a T47 and T52. With a Ryder Cup spot to chase down I’m interested to see if he has that “next gear” to go get it. In 2012, that wasn’t the case after two, early season wins. He’s racked up 13 cuts on the bounce as well if you’re looking for an #ATM selection this week.
Keegan Bradley (B): In only his second time at the API he fought off an opening round 74 to post 69-66-71 to claim T3 last year. Bradley usually enjoys a tough layout and will looking to build on last year’s result to kick-start his chase for a Ryder Cup spot.
Will MacKenzie (C): His 2014 speaks volumes to gamers as the 38-year-old is firing all on all cylinders. A slight regression should be expected at some point but I’m not leaving off a player who is fourth the all-around, sixth in scoring average and 24th in ball-striking. His confidence is through the roof so I see no reason to hesitate on loading him up. Again.
Number Four Seeds:
Henrik Stenson (A): Welcome our Louisville/Michigan State analogy to the proceedings! His 69 on a tough Sunday at Doral should be the igniter on his 2014 season. He loves Bay Hill and the Orlando resident has shown that with finishes of T15 and T8 in his last two visits.
George McNeill (C): With finishes of T6, T12, T19 and solo seventh last week, McNeill played himself into this position. He has only two rounds over 71 in his last 16 and he’s played every weekend in four trips to Bay Hill. As well as the Floridian scrambles and saves pars, he’ll welcome another high-scoring Florida event!
Matt Every (B): Another Sunshine State product, Every has been quietly going about his business on difficult courses as well. He was T6 at a slick Riviera, T24 at Honda and ground out another top 10 (T8) last week at Tampa. His first seven events of 2014 have seen him produce some of his most consistent golf of his young career. I’m on board.
John Senden (C): If he balances his chipping and putting again this week with his normal persistent ball-striking, the rejuvenated Aussie should be pushing up the leaderboard come Sunday. Bay Hill is known as a ball-striker’s track and that’s where Senden excels. It’s hard to overlook a guy who made 17 birdies on THAT track last week!
Horses for Courses:
Ian Poulter (B): His basecamp is just up the street and maybe sleeping in his own bed nightly will keep his hot streak at Bay Hill alive. In 2014 in the States, Poulter, in four events, has only two rounds in the 60s so this familiar track should get him bubbling over. With finishes of T12, third and T21 in his last three, that’s where gamers are focusing this week, if at all.
Ryan Moore (A): He was trending in the right direction at Bay Hill, T40, T12, T4 before 78-72 snapped that streak last year. Moore just missed out on one of the seeds as he’s fourth in GIR and 10th in the all-around but was all-or-nothing last time out at Doral. As I’ve written before, I’m looking for Moore consistency in the bigger events down the road. This qualifies.
Ken Duke (C): In four visits, the veteran has posted two top 10s. His putter is the weapon of choice and experience on these greens won’t hurt this week. He could be a great roster filler in deep drafts.
Chad Campbell (C): Remember, this is the “horse-for-course” column. The 2004 champ has made all 11 cuts in his 11 attempts since 2002. #strettttttttttch for you folks in leagues where made cuts mean something as his current form is, well, not good.
Jamie Donaldson (C): He didn’t seem bothered by Doral’s new design and the new Special Temporary Member has only his golf to worry about, instead of his status. #freeasabird! I’m not crazy about guys in their first trip around this place but his play against one of the best fields in golf the last time out deserves merit.
Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (B): He had no problem in his maiden voyage last year as he fired all four rounds at par or better en route to T3. He carded 13 birdies and a pair of eagles but bogeyed the 72nd to share third instead of having it alone. His ball-striking has gotten him this far.
Chris Stroud (C): All six cuts he’s made in nine events have registered in T20 or better and that includes two T3s and a T9, in his last event in Puerto Rico. His excellent short game will be his key on and around the greens here this week. His T12 at the Honda doesn’t hurt either.
Sang-Moon Bae (C): He was the 36-hole leader at Riviera, again and he almost back-doored a top 10 last week with 67 on a very tough Copperhead Course. These first back-to-back T15 or better starts for him in three years on TOUR. #confidence
Chesson Hadley (C): He backed up his win in Puerto Rico with a very solid T14 last week in Tampa. Nobody will be bothering him this week and he can go back to concentrating on golf. He’s righted the ship since early February after three MCs to open 2014. He opened with 75 last week and still was T14. #focused
Freddie Jacobson (B): In two events on the Florida Swing, he’s posted T12 at Honda and T20 last week at Valspar with final rounds OVER par. He’s getting close to putting it all together and has three top 17s or better in three events at Bay Hill. The Junkman will grind it out with the best of them and is on the up!
Bryce Molder (B): He’ll be overlooked this week in most games after his MC last week at Tampa but that was his first event in almost a month. #rusty. He was trending in the right direction, T29, T10 and T6 before that hiccup but I’ll take a flier on a guy who’s short game is excellent and get can the putter going.
Brandt Snedeker (A): I haven’t seen anything in his game in 2014 that makes me want to jump back on. I’m waiting for his hair to grow back out and his putter to get white hot. He’ll come in handy down the road so no point in forcing him back into any lineups based on his recent results.
Lee Westwood (A): Another premium ball-striker that I’m leaving out this week. I don’t have time to look up his last top 25 in a full-field, stroke play event.
Billy Horschel (B): For the second year in a row the Floridian has not fired on the Florida Swing. Gamers will recall his final round 85 here last year. Gamers will ALSO recall he went on TILT once he left Florida in 2013 as he ripped off finishes of T2, T3, T9 and WIN in late March through the end of April. This year, he’ll add the Masters to that swing of events. Be patient.
Lucas Glover (B): He’s missed seven cuts in a row.
The Man with His Own Section
Tiger Woods (A): The one angle I’ve taken with Woods over the last few years is to run him on tracks that he’s absolutely dominated and sit back and count the points at the end of the week. His turbulent start to 2014 has now left me even more gun-shy moving forward. He couldn’t close the deal in Dubai. He MDF on a course he’s won eight events (Torrey Pines). The Honda gave gamers hope with 65 on Saturday but his WD on Sunday put the doubt right back into the equation. His back gave out again the following week at another course, Doral, that he had dominated in years past. Gamers should be concerned about his health moving forward which is directly proportional to his form. This week, he sits again, for me, because there are plenty of spots down the road where I can use him 10 times. For example, Memorial, AT&T (his tournament), four majors and four Playoff events add up to 10 starts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won; I would be surprised if he won with a bad back. Since I don’t know how his back is or is going to respond, I’ll sit it out.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
Coming Later This Afternoon
A brand new column, Playing the Tips, will be up and running this afternoon that will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the API and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.