The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Master Card
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Bay Hill Club and Lodge Course
Yards: 7,419 per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass with Poa trivialis (6,500 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass with perennial ryegrass at 4”
Water Hazards: 7
Course Architect: Dick Wilson and Joe Lee (1961); Arnold Palmer & Landscapes Unlimited (2009)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods defeated Graeme McDowell by five shots to win this event for the seventh time in his illustrious career.
Dates: March 21-24
Notes: 72 holes, stroke-play event with a field of 132 players.
This will be the 35th edition of a tournament at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
Tiger Woods has won this event seven times.
Tom Kite (1992; 1996), Loren Roberts (1994-95) and Ernie Els (1998; 2010) are the only TOUR players to win this event more than once.
Loren Roberts and Tiger Woods (2000-2003; 2008-2009) have successfully defended their championships.
Martin Laird (2011) is the only European winner in 34 editions of this tournament.
Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Rod Pampling are the other international winners.
There have been 12 events on TOUR in 2013. American golfers have won all of them. It’s the longest streak to open a season since 1991.
The former winners in the field this week in addition the aforementioned above are:
Rank and File
When “The King” calls, TOUR pros listen! Of the top 50 players in the OWGR, 34 of them are teeing it up this weekend at the API, including 24 of the top 30. Central Florida is known for its great bass fishing but you won’t have to go too deep this week to find quality players.
Arnold Palmer’s layout has generous landing areas so the big boys will be able to use the big stick most of the time. They better take advantage of the large landing areas in the fairway as the Bermudagrass/Ryegrass rough is up to four inches. From the middle of the fairway they will be attacking well-bunkered and tiered greens that will be running around 12’ or faster, depending on the wind. We heard during the telecast last weekend of “shiny” Bermudagrass greens at Innisbrook. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear more of the same this week if the weather stays dry.
Over the last two years the bunkers have had a direct effect on the outcome on Sunday. In 2011 Steve Marino couldn’t deal with a fried-egg lie and Martin Laird capitalized. Last year, Graeme McDowell had the same issue and that allowed Tiger Woods to comfortably separate himself on the back nine. Jim Furyk and Trevor Immelman, who both finished T11, each had 13 bunker shots to execute! Woods only had four.
You’ll need to find guys who can bang GIR, get it up-and-down and are not afraid of Bermudagrass greens.
In 2010, the tournament was converted from par-71 to par-72 after Palmer’s redesign.
In the three installments since being shifted to par-72, the average winning score has been just over 10-under-par. Last year, there were exactly 14 rounds in the 60s on the WEEKEND. I better find some guys who can avoid bogeys and take advantage of the par-fives.
Omitting the rankings of the majors, Bay Hill ranked eighth-most difficult in 2012 and fifth-most difficult in both 2011 and 2010 so the boys will have their hands full this week in Central Florida.
“The King’s Court”
Tiger Woods: Seven times. That is all. Are you worried that Lindsey Vonn will be the issue of the day? I wouldn’t think so if they released those pictures purposely, which they did. That tells me he’s comfortable where he is in his life. He has two wins in four starts on U.S. soil. It doesn’t mean he WILL win this week but there’s no way I’m sitting on the sidelines like I stupidly did at Doral. Not the way he hit it there. Not the way he plays here.
Sergio Garcia: In 11 career events at Bay Hill, Garcia has racked up six, top 10 finishes so it’s obvious that he is comfortable around “The King”. He’s played two events on the “Florida Swing” and has finished T3 at Doral and T7 last week at Tampa. He’s been excellent on tough courses and easy courses so that shows me he’s dialed in. He’s on my very short list for my one-and-done player.
Justin Rose: The “Florida Swing” has always been good to Rose and this year is no different with T4 at The Honda Classic and T8 at Doral. His ball-striking is excellent and his confidence should be up after finishes of T15 last year and T3 in 2011. Any field he’s in, he’s on this list.
Graeme McDowell: GMAC had a busy weekend last weekend opening his new Nona Blue Tavern and with St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, he’s looking to keep the luck of the Northern Irish flourishing this week. After hitting the quarterfinals of WGC-Match Play, GMAC has kept it rolling with a T9 finish at The Honda Classic and T3 at Doral his last time out. He was in the final group with Woods last year here and last time out at Doral so he’s getting used to it. He’ll have no problem grinding if the conditions require that. He was also T2 in 2005 so that’s two top twos in five tries. Not bad at all. He’s my other candidate for one-and-done. Stay tuned!
Keegan Bradley: After bowing out in the first round of Match Play, Bradley rebounded to finish T4 at The Honda Classic and T7 at Doral. Do you see a pattern developing here? Yep, guys who are playing well and playing well in Florida. The only knock on Bradley is that he shot 78-77 here as a rookie in 2011. He’s accomplished quite a few things since that March back in 2011 so I’m not worried about it. He hits it a mile; he hits GIR and he putts and scrambles it. Oh, and he kills par-fives.
Ian Poulter: If you are worrying about his form entering the week, I wouldn’t. He’s proved over the years that he can flip the switch for his “home game” in Orlando. In 2011, he finished T36 at The Honda and T45 before his T12 at API. Last year, his best finish in his opening four events was T33 (first round loss) at Match Play. He backed that up with a third-place finish in Orlando. Don’t look at his history beyond the last two years at API though as it’s not what you would expect! Live in the kinda-now!
Jim Furyk: I never hesitate to include Furyk when tough courses are the order of the day. He’s proven over the last couple of years that he’ll be right there at the finish on the toughest tracks on TOUR. His last three starts at Bay Hill have been T11, T9 and T11. His T7 last week has done nothing to put me off this week either.
Bubba Watson: He’s made the cut in four out of five to start 2013 while remodeling Woods’ old house in Iselworth and trying to adopt another child. Last year, he bought the General Lee before he adopted his first child. Oh, and he made the “Golf Boyz” video. He’s also done that again recently. Does this mean he’s going to win the Masters again? All I know is distractions DO NOT BOTHER this man. His worst finish in the four cuts (of five) he’s made in 2013 is T18. He was T4 here last year in the midst of all of that. #urwelcome.
Peter Hanson: Ever since posting 80 in the third round at Riviera the Swede has played six of his last eight rounds under par to finish T13 at The Honda Classic and T8 at Doral. He’s only played once at Bay Hill and was MC in 2011. I’ll ride the current Florida form over the history at the course.
Brandt Snedeker: If there is any golfer that you should not fear after returning from injury it is Brandt Snedeker. He opened 2012 after hip surgery by firing a first round 64 at the Humana en route to an eighth-place finish. The following week he won at Torrey Pines. Later in that same season, he WD from the Memorial with a rib issue. His first tournament back he fired three of four rounds under par and in his next tournament, The Open Championship, he was T3. He returns this week from another rib injury but the history says it shouldn’t be a major factor.