As a winter storm continues to bombard much of Northeastern Canada and United States, the PGA tour continues across the warmer Southern climate and this week the stop is none other than the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Course in Orlando Florida.
The beautiful course at Bay Hill plays a long 7381 yards from the tips and will see a small field of just 120 golfers compete for the $8.7 US million purse. Last year’s champion Jason Day is in the field to try and defend his title although it’s another former world number one ranked golfer that headlines the event.
Rory McIlroy (6.50): Rory comes into this week as the favourite to win this week and looks to win for the first time at the prestigious event. McIlroy hasn’t played a lot this year as this week’s Arnold Palmer marks just his third event of the season. Rory has made the cut in both events he’s played in this year with a 2nd place and T7 finish to show for it. You can bet that the highly touted Irishman will remain Stateside in the coming weeks with a lot of prestigious events in the near future.
Henrik Stenson (9.00): The 40-year old Swede left much to be desired last week at Valspar Championship as Stenson came in as a heavy favourite to win the event with a lighter field. However after shooting an opening round 64 on Thursday he followed that up with a combined score of minus one the next 54 holes, for a T7 finish on the week. Stenson will once again look for his first win on the season when he tees off on Thursday morning, and will be looking to improve on his T3 finish at this event last year where he carded an impressive score of fourteen under par.
Jason Day (15.00): Jason Day forced his way to the top of the official world golf rankings a year ago with three tour victories, however his play has dropped off considerably this year by his lofty standards. Day has played in four events this season making three cuts with a T5 finish at Pebble Beach headlining the results. Some people worry that his health is once again thwarting his progress on tour as he’s battled vertigo and countless dizzy spells in the past. Day showed no signs of being dizzy last year at this event where he scored an impressive victory and a 17-under par score to earn his first win at Bay Hill.
Hideki Matsuyama (15.00): Matsy has been one of the best golfers on tour so far this year as he’s already won two events and has three top 10 finishes through his seven events played. The 25-year old Japanese phenom is loaded with ability, and if it wasn’t for an ugly second round score of 80 at the Genesis Open last month he would have a near flawless season this year. Starting Thursday he will be looking to improve on his impressive showing at this event in 2016 where he finished T6 at 11-under par.
Long shot picks for the Arnold Palmer...
Tyrrell Hatton (41.00): Although Hatton may not be one of the premiere names on tour the 25-year old Englishman has been very good this year. Through four events this year Hatton has not only made all four cuts but he’s made three straight top ten finishes. Hatton is hoping for the hot streak to continue this week as his last three finishes were a T3 at the Omega Dubai Classic, T4 at Honda Classic and 10th place at WGC Mexico.
Francesco Molinari (41.00): Francesco has six professional wins under his belt although he is still searching for his first PGA tour victory, and this week may be it. Molinari has been good this year making four of five cuts with his lone miss coming at the Genesis Open. The four cuts the Italian did make all resulted in top 20 finishes. Molinari is always among the leaders in greens in regulation and his short game is solid. He also finished T9 here a year ago with a very good 10-under par.
Adam Hadwin (67.00): Fresh off his first career PGA tour victory Adam Hadwin will still be riding high when he tees off this week. Hadwin earned his first victory last week and showed great poise after blowing a four stroke lead heading into the final round although his par on the 18th hole was enough to earn over $1M payday as well as a berth into next month’s Masters tournament. The Canadian has been very good this year as he’s made all six of his cuts this season along with two top 10 finishes. You may also remember that Hadwin became just the 11th golfer in history to card an 18-hole score of 59. Can he find the magic twice in a week?
Zach Johnson (51.00): Johnson hasn’t won a tour event since capturing the Open Championship back in 2015 however the Arnold Palmer Invitational is a tournament that has become quite familiar to the 41-year old. Johnson has made three straight cuts and five of six overall and will be looking for some of the same success at Bay Hill he experienced a year ago. Zach finished last year alone in fifth place with a final score of 12-under par and was highlighted by back to back rounds of 68 on the weekend.
Kevin Chappell (81.00): Chappell may appear to be a long shot this week and you’d be right in thinking that considering his play so far this season. Chappell has made three cuts in five events this year and has scored just one tournament below par. His 72-hole score of three under par at Pebble Beach is the highlight of this year’s campaign. However last year Chappell was quite the force on tour and although he was unable to record a victory in 2016 where he finished one stroke behind Jason Day at Bay Hill, good for second place. Chappell once again played second fiddle to Jason Day a couple months later at the Players Championship. The 30-year old typically plays his best golf in the warmer months and could be a high-value long shot to win this week.