The PGA Tour continues the Florida swing this week at “Arnie’s Place,” Bay Hill Club and Lodge. There are a number of storylines at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but none more important than honoring the memory of Mr. Palmer at the first Invitational after his passing. Players and attendees will be able to see the new bronze statue of Mr. Palmer overlooking the first and the 10th tees.
The field is another major topic of conversation this week, both those playing and those not playing. The field is headlined by defending champion Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Henrik Stenson. Notable names missing include Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
- Tournament Record: 264 by Payne Stewart in 1987
- Single-Round Record: Andy Bean (1981), Greg Norman (1984) and Adam Scott (2014) share the single-round record of 62.
The par-72 Bay Hill Club and Lodge plays just over 7,419 yards. It was dubbed “the best course in Florida” by Arnold Palmer in 1965 and has been a staple on Tour since the 1979 Florida Citrus Open. It features generous fairways and punishing rough. In terms of rough proximity, it was ranked as the toughest on Tour in 2016, averaging 51 feet, 2 inches. The rough, along with a number of forced carries and doglegs over water, is a recipe for disasters and heroics.
Past Champs in the field: Martin Laird +10000, Jason Day +1400
- Rory Mcilroy +700
- Henrik Stenson +900
- Jason Day +1400
- Hideki Matsuyama +1400
- Rickie Folwer +1600
- Justin Rose +1800
- Thomas Pieters +3000
- Brandt Snedeker +3500
- Paul Casey +3500
- Tyrell Hatton +4000
My Pick: I’m all in on Rory McIlroy (+700) this week. With wide, generous fairways, Rory should be able to let it rip with the driver and overpower the course. He’s well rested coming off of his rib injury and finished T-7 in the WGC-Mexico championship. He’s hitting 73 percent of fairways and 76 percent of greens on the European Tour this year. His accuracy and recent putting form make him a scoring machine. I think McIlroy’s game fits Bay Hill, and the favorite has won 7 of the past 11 tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Value Pick: I’m going with Wesley Bryan at +5000. He’s been playing incredible golf as of late and has found his footing on Tour. He hasn’t finished outside the top-7 in his past three events. You’ll never get +5000 on a player on this kind of run again; these odds can’t be passed up.
Long Shot: I’m going with Sam Saunders at +30,000. This is a pick more from the heart than anything else. It would be an incredible story to see Saunders win at his grandfather’s tournament, especially this year. He’s having a rough season so far, four missed cuts in six starts, but under these circumstances you can’t count him out.
Will there be a playoff: Yes (+275) No (-400); I’m going with “No” here. There hasn’t been playoff since Tim Herron beat Tom Lehman in ’99. Bay Hill lends itself to drama. Whether it’s a ball in the water or a heroic hole-out like Robert Gamez’s 7-iron to beat Greg Norman, I think this tournament is going to be won on No. 18.
Wesley Bryan (-115) v. Ryan Moore (-115): Bryan is a lock in my opinion. He’s finished inside the top-7 in his past three starts while Moore has a T18, T28 and a missed cut in the same events. Bryan is in great form and I’d take him against just about anyone.
Hole-in-One – Yes (+135) No (-175): I’m going with “Yes” this week. The Par 3s are tough this week; every par 3 played above par last year and only the sixth plays less than 200 yards. With that said, there should be some accessible pin locations where the ball will funnel back to the pin. I think we get to see at least one ace this week.
McIlroy, Stenson, Fowler (+285) vs. the Field (-425): This is another no-brainer to me. You have to go with McIlroy, Stenson, and Fowler here. McIlroy is the favorite and my pick to win and Stenson has the distance and ball striking to compete every week. Fowler didn’t play last week but is on a mini hot streak with a win and a T4 in his past three starts.