As we embark on the first Arnold Palmer Invitational without the legend on the grounds of his Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Jason Day returns to defend his title. Here is a preview and power ranking to get you off and running in your research.
Once a venue dominated by Tiger Woods, Bay Hill will play to a par of 72 this week. It tips out at 7,419 yards and features a quartet of par 3s and par 5s, as well as 10 par 4s. Despite the overall length of the course, the par 5s are largely reachable and offer legitimate birdie opportunities. The par 3s, however, are quite beefy. The par 4s offer a little bit of everything.
It’s a typical Florida layout in that it has plenty of water and Bermuda putting surfaces. Success at The Honda Classic or the Valspar Championship would certainly bode well for this layout.
The key to the course is taking advantage of the par 5s. With the winning score typically in the mid-to-high teens (under par), making the most of those 16 scoring opportunities and holding on for the other 56 holes is the formula. For stat gurus, par 5 scoring should be on the radar.
While Tiger Woods is the elephant in the room at Bay Hill, another trend to keep an eye on is the number of International players that have found their way to the podium in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Since 2007, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Martin Laird and Jason Day have all won. Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Eduardo Molinari and Graeme McDowell are all runner-ups. Several of those are notables in the Orlando community, having setting up their U.S. shops in the area.
As always, we will take a hard look at current form, course history and statistical fit in constructing this week’s power ranks.
Here we go!
1. Henrik Stenson – While Jason Day is the defending champ, it’s the Swede that takes the first spot. He went T8-T5-2-T3 in his last four Arnold Palmer Invites. Throw in two runner-ups and four top 10s in his last four starts where he didn’t withdraw, and you have the perfect convergence of trends for a top pick.
2. Jason Day – This will be his first action since a T64 at Riviera, as he was ill and did not make the trip to Mexico for the WGC two weeks ago. His win last year at Bay Hill proves his merit on this layout, but he’s not as consistent as Stenson over a longer litmus.
3. Hideki Matsuyama – Cooled a bit with a missed cut and a T25 following his WMPO win, but his record at Bay Hill revives our confidence. He improved from a T21 in 2015 to post a T6 last year. It’s impossible to let him slide any farther down your draft board than this slot.
4. Tyrrell Hatton – First-timer in Arnie’s event, Hatton has been a machine leading up to this. That includes top 10s in The Honda Classic and the WGC-Mexico Championship. He’s earned my trust.
5. Rory McIlroy – It was a big relief to all full-season McIlroy owners to see him score a T7 in Mexico eight days ago. He has not cracked the code at Bay Hill just yet, posting returns of T11 and T27. He should have no trouble taming the par 5s, though he needs to avoid any big numbers.