This week we head to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
The event was founded in 1979 and before that it had several different name changes since it began in 1966 when it was known as the ‘Florida Citrus Open Invitational’ and was played at the Rio Pinar Golf Club which is also situated in Florida.
Arnold Palmer has owned Bay Hill since 1974 however the tournament was first played under his name in 2007. In the 1966 Inaugural event Lionel Herbert beat the Legend Jack Nicklaus by 2 shots. Arnold Palmer has also won this event and that was in 1971, eight years before he became the host.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of only 5 tournaments given Invitational status by the PGA Tour. The other 4 are The Heritage, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Memorial Tournament and AT&T National. Invitational events have smaller fields which are usually between 120-132 players.
The bookies top five in betting are $6.50 Rory McIlroy, $10.00 Henrik Stenson, $13.00 Bubba Watson, $17.00 Jason Day and $17.00 Adam Scott.
The field this week is of a very high standard with plenty of top players including $67 Billy Horschel, $29 Hideki Matsuyama, $46 Paul Casey an $34 Brooks Koepka.
Matt Every is the Defending Champion this week and s available at $151.
The course is Par 72, 7419 yard with 103 bunkers and water coming into play on 9 of the 18 holes. The Purse is $US6.3M with the winner taking home $US1,116,000. The Pros rank Bay Hill as one of the most challenging and enjoyable courses on the tour.
Unlike a lot of the courses on tour where it becomes a birdie-fest, Bay Hill is one of those courses that will require patience and plotting to make your way around all 18 holes. Just ask John Daly who in 1998 hit 6 balls into the water on the 6th hole during his last round to score an 18!!
This week it is all about ball striking and hitting those greens. Looking back at the past winners you will notice that they all ranked highly in Greens in Regulation stats. If you get lost in the Bermuda rough it makes it almost impossible to shoot for the green.
Patience is paramount this week. As mentioned earlier it is vital to play your shots well and maintain those Pars as they are just as important as the birdies this week. It will require a steady head and poise.
Not many rookies or first times fair well at Bay Hill so look for players who have had good experience on the course and know how to plot their way around here. Experience will get you a long way at Bay Hill. Just look at the list of past winners and you will see what I mean.
The two players to follow this week are:
In the last four years Poulter has faired well at Bay Hill with results of t12th in 2011, 3rd in 2012, t21st in 2013 and t20th last year showing that he enjoys the challenge.
With five starts on the PGA Tour to date in 2015 Ian has shown that his game is in a good place with three Top 25 finishes.
They include t19th Farmers Insurance, t3rd The Honda Classic and t24th Valspar Championship. At the Valspar last week he was ranked 13th in driving accuracy, 13th in greens in regulation and 24th in putts per GIR. This bodes well for Bay Hill.
As a local resident of Orlando look for Poulter to continue his current and course form at an excellent each way price.
This could be the week that sees Harris back to the form that saw him win twice in 2013. He has had three Top 10 finishes already this year from just seven starts.
Those results were t3rd Sony Open, 2nd Farmers Insurance (beaten in a playoff) and t10th Valspar Championship just last week.
At the Valspar he was ranked 13th in greens in regulation, 10th in strokes gained putting and 5th in driving distance. It is also worth noting he is ranked 13th in ball striking on the tour this season.
English had his first start at Bay Hill in 2012 and missed the cut. The following year he was t57th and last year he finished t14th, so he has continued to improve at each start.
Expect to see him in contention this weekend.