Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Sung-Jae Im gets his first Tour victory at the Honda Classic:

Im was the #4 player on my rankings to win and was one of my favorites to win at 28/1 odds.  He played more events than anybody on Tour last season and continues to play a heavy schedule.  it's probably not a bad move for him given that he's young and he can determine what courses suit his game and eye the best, but he should want to cut back his schedule a bit in the near future.


This week the Tour comes back to the homeland...the Arnold Palmer Invitation at Bay Hill.

The predecessor to the API was the Citrus Open and that used to be held at Rio Pinar Country Club.  I was a former member at Rio Pinar.  They moved the event to Bay Hill and Mr. Palmer re-designed the course while Rio Pinar became frozen in time and now the Rio Pinar area has fallen on hard times while Bay Hill is in the trendy Dr. Phillips neighborhood of Orlando.

This is still a popular stop with Tour players as they generally like the course and so many players either live in Orlando (or used to live in Orlando) or they live in Jupiter which is about a little over two hours away.  Now that the event is the week prior to Sawgrass and has a fairly large purse ($9.3 million) it's kind of a no-brainer to play the event.

The weather and conditions can dramatically change the course.  If it's soft, it plays really soft because much of the course sits in a bowl.  And when that happens it greatly fits bombers because the course is fairly long and they can keep more tee shots in the fairway.  But, if it's crusty the course starts to sway more towards shorter and more accurate players.

Last year the course played moderately soft until the last day where it became very firm and Francesco Molinari, a shorter but accurate driver of the ball who greatly improved his short game put up a stellar final round to win the event.

At its heart, Bay Hill is still a fairly long iron course and the 3-wood certainly comes into play quite often.

This week it is supposed to get breezy and the course is already playing a bit firm to begin with.  So I expect scores to rise and more shorter hitters to get into contention. 

ON a side note, I always recommend people that have never been to a Tour event or had a bad experience going to a Tour event to give Bay Hill a try as outside of the majors and Sawgrass, it's arguably the best even to go to on Tour from a fan-friendly experience.  Scottsdale has its own carzy experience and that looks incredible.  But from a fan friendly experience Bay Hill is as good as it gets with easy parking during practice rounds, the bleachers and chair seating right behind the driving range, the practice green so close that you can almost touch the players, the great merchandise booths and the course is quite easy to walk thru and go to different holes.

The final critical hole on the course is the par-4 18th. 

It plays to 460 yards.  The fairway is pretty wide (35 yards wide) which is a smart design with form following function because not only is the approach shot difficult, but the tee shot is blind and it's often difficult to get a good target to aim at thus the wider fairway suits the hole nicely.  Missing the fairway to the right can be death about 50% of the time.  Missing it left and there are still a lot of shots available.

It has led to a lot of incredible winning shots over the years from Robert Gamez's eagle, to all of the crazy putts Tiger has made on the hole over the years to Matt Every's big putt in 2015, Rory's big putt in 2018 and Molinari's monster putt last year.

Projected Winning Score: -8

Rory McIlroy +500
Tommy Fleetwood +1,400
Bryson DeChambeau +1,800
Hideki Matsuyama +2,200
Sung-Jae Im +2,800
Jason Day +2,800

Collin Morikawa +5,000
Billy Horschel +6,600
Kevin Kisner +8,000
Joel Dahmen +10,000


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