Horses for Courses: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard – PGA TOUR

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We welcome March today but the state of affairs remains in the state of Florida as the PGATOUR shifts from Jack Nicklaus’ PGA National in Palm Beach to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill in Orlando.
RELATED: Expert Picks | The First Look
The 44th edition at Bay Hill Club and Lodge welcomes an invitational field of 120. The annual test involves plenty of room to swing driver off the tee and massive TifEagle targets to aim for on approach. As is the case with big targets, any misses will be severely punished. The flat track on the Butler Chain of Lakes relies on 84 bunkers, nine holes with water in play and over-seeded rough at three inches to provide the defense. Getting it close here isn’t easy but those who do will score if the putter cooperates.
Like PGA National’s Champion Course, Bay Hill has ranked in the top 10 of most difficult courses in three of the last four seasons. It reached No. 1 on the charts in 2020 when only four players posted red figures for the week. This week the wind is manageable and for the most part will be out of the same direction all four days so scoring should benefit. Scoring can also benefit as four Par-5 holes are in play and the sand in the bunkers are perfect for recovery shots. Par-3 holes all tip out at 199 yards or better so ball-strikers have that advantage as well.
For the second year running this event will be given elevated status and serve the warm-up for THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP. The prize pool will be $12 million with the winner taking home $2.16 million, 550 FedExCup points plus a three year exemption on TOUR. Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau has withdrawn this week due to injury.
Let’s find some horses for courses!
Odds sourced on Tuesday, March 1 at 1 p.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
2021
Lee Westwood (2nd) led the field in GIR, Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green and Par-4 scoring but closed with 73. … Corey Conners (3rd) played in the final group with DeChambeau after sharing the lead after 18 and riding solo after 36. … Andrew Putnam (T4) posted all four rounds at par or better in his second appearance. … Christiaan Bezuidenhout (7th) backed up his T18 in 2020 with T2 Putting. … Chris Kirk (T8) cashes his first top 10 in his ninth start. … Jason Kokrak (T8) hits the top 10 for the fourth time in seven paydays and second time in three years. … Keegan Bradley (T10) makes it nine straight at Bay Hill and posted the 64, the low round of the week in Round 3 (preferred lies). … Paul Casey (T10) played for the first time since 2017. … Matt Fitzpatrick (T10) makes it three straight years in the top 10. … Tommy Fleetwood (T10) picks up his third top 10 in five tries. … Max Homa (T10) backed up his T24 2020 debut nicely and led the field in SG: Putting. … 2018 champion Rory McIlroy (T10) has never MC in seven tries and posted 66 or better in each appearance. … Debutant Will Zalatoris (T10) was T2 GIR. … Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton (T21) opened and closed with 77 but had 66-67 in the middle rounds. … Justin Rose (WD) was T7 after 54 holes before calling it a day. … Only five bogey-free rounds for the week.
2020
Winner Tyrrell Hatton became the fifth consecutive international winner and won in his fourth start here. … Only Tiger Woods has won more money here than Marc Leishman (2nd). Sungjae Im (3rd) ranked in the top 10 in both Fairways and GIR in blustery conditions. … Danny Lee (T5) was 6-under before 75-75 on the weekend. … Rory McIlroy (T5) opened with 66 to lead after 18 holes. … Keith Mitchell (T5) backed up his T6 from 2019. … Matt Fitzpatrick (T9) posted the only round in the 60s on THE WEEKEND. … Only eight players finished the week Par or better. … Just four bogey-free rounds for the week. … Highest winning score at the event since 2009.
2019
Matt Fitzpatrick (2nd) led by one after 54 holes. … Tommy Fleetwood (T3) co-led by four after 36 holes. … Sungjae Im (T3) posted four rounds under par on his debut. … Rory McIlroy (T6) was top 10 in both Fairways and GIR but could not join the list of champion who defended. … Keith Mitchell (T6) closed with 66 on debut. … Matt Wallace (T6) followed with T18 and T24 the next two seasons. … Lucas Glover (T10) picked up his last top 10 before T66-MC the last two seasons. … Jason Kokrak (T10) only squared three bogeys and a double. … Luke List (T10) backed up T7 in 2018 and T17 in 2017. … Adam Long (T10) closed 69-67 on debut and followed with T24 in 2020. … Mitchell was the only American in the top 9. … Weather was perfect. … Only nine bogey-free rounds. … Followed THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP.
• Of the last 16 winners 9 are internationals.
• TifEagle grass on the greens after the 2015 event.
• Last first time winner was Matt Every (2014). He was also the last back-to-back champion in 2015.
• Jason Day (2016) was the last wire-to-wire winner.
• Adam Scott (2014) was the last player to post 62, the course record.
• McIlroy closed with 64 to post 18-under in 2018, the lowest winning total since TifEagle.
• The last playoff here was 1999.
• Average winner here wins on around his fifth try.
• Newly minted Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson has rattled off 11 straight here.
• So has Lake Nona resident Ian Poulter.
• Billy Horschel ended a streak of eight straight last year.
• Rickie Fowler hasn’t missed in his last six visits.

Recent Course Rankings (since 2018):
2021: 9th most difficult; 73.105
2020: MOST DIFFICULT; 74.106
2019: 9th most difficult; 72.378

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week
Winners have:
• Have not relied on Fairways hit. Only one winner (Molinari, T3) of the last six inside of T17.
• Last five top 3 in Bogey Avoidance.
• Only one of the last six outside T15 in SG: Putting.
• Last six all T4 or better Par-3 Scoring.

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