The likes of world number one Jon Rahm, reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and two more of the current top five in Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy all meet at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week.
As the PGA Tour reaches its ninth event of the calendar year, a strong field gather at Bay Hill Golf Club in Florida with a purse of €12,000,000 at stake.
So, what can we come to expect from this weekend? Our resident golfing-guru and PGA-previewing-mainstay David Kristiansen has you covered…
Course: Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Length: 7400 yards (Par 72)
Architect: Dick Wilson
DK: After Sepp Straka triumphed over a field without a single top 12 player in the world at the Honda last week, we see a stronger crop of players at Arnie’s place, but still not close to what we saw at the Genesis Open two weeks ago.
Bay Hill is the course on tour where the players hit most 200+ yard approaches, so a good long iron game is essential to contend this week.
It helps being long, but it is not a necessity to be an absolute bomber as four of the last seven winners have ranked outside of the top 50 in driving distance in the year that they won.
With long par 3s, some tough 4s and three of the four 5s being over 550 yards, good scrambling will also be an important quality. With this being a par 72 we will have four par 5s as well, so par 5 scoring should also be taking into consideration this week.
The greens are big, fast and some of the purest bermudas on tour and I see the winning score being in the teens under par.
Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:
Strokes gained approach
Strokes gained off the tee
Proximity 200+ yards
Par 5 scoring
2019-20 season: +35.61 units , ROI: 121%
2020-21 season: +170,92 units, ROI: 148%
Wagered: 79 units
Won: 49.58 units
Result: -29.42 units
Hideki Matsuyama 26,00 4 pts to WIN
After some years in the wilderness, the win at Augusta seems to have sparked to life a strong second act for the newly turned 30-year-old who since his win at Augusta last April has added two more victories to his résumé.
His history at Bay Hill is good if not spectacular, making the cut in all six appearances but having a sole top ten (T6 in 2016) to show for it.
The course should set up perfectly for the rejuvenated Matsuyama though as he ranks in the top ten in approach, proximity from 200+, greens in regulation and par 5 scoring over the past 24 rounds.
Thomas Pieters 126,00 1 pts EW (1/5 the odds 6 places)
As with Hideki, my second pick of the week is a guy who seems to be finding back to his best from the mid-2010s.
The Belgian bomber hadn’t been himself since his dominant performance alongside Rory at 2016 Ryder Cup, but has re-found his winning ways at the Portugal Masters last year and followed that up with another victory in a strong field in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
The course as a whole should set up well for a player who his both long and straight off the tee and is ranked in the top 25 both off the tee and on approach so far this season on the PGA tour.
It’s just a matter of time before he gets his breakthrough states side and this seems like as good a spot as any for him to finally live up to the expectations set on him years ago.
Leave a comment
Follow GolfKristiansen on Twitter