Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips 2022

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Well done to those of you on Sepp Straka last week at a Monday best price of 125/1 (bet365). I reckon quite a few of you may well have followed our very own Golf Betting System podcast contributor Barry O’Hanrahan (@AGoodTalkGolf) who landed the Austrian’s maiden PGA Tour title on his 95th PGA Tour appearance. I more or less covered my week with Chris Kirk at 66/1 who had the decency to birdie the last hole and grab a full each-way place.

This week at Bay Hill we have a decent field – with no early season World Golf Championship event in 2022, many are using this as their lead-in to the Players Championship next week. Recent injury-permitting Bryson DeChambeau should defend, with Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Hideki Matsuyama, Sam Burns, Billy Horschel, Tyrrell Hatton, Sungjae Im, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jason Kokrak, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na and Will Zalatoris from within the OWGR top 30 all in the field.

This is an Invitational-status (3 year PGA Tour exemption for the winner) tournament that top players undoubtedly want to add to their CVs, especially now following the passing of Arnold Palmer in September 2016. 

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Arnold Palmer Invitational we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, +6,000 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: Bay Hill is a classical golf course just around the corner from the world famous Disney theme park and extremely close to the golfing commune of Windermere in Florida.

The stretching 7,466 yard, Par 72 features a set of tough par-4s, plus 3 of the par-5s measure over 555 yards. To score around here every facet of a player’s game is tested to the maximum. Not many PGA Tour events these days feature 4″ of rough plus green complexes that can run as firm as 12 on the stimpmeter if the elements allow. Since the 2015 renewal, all holes and green complexes have been re-grassed with the putting surfaces featuring TifEagle Bermudagrass – as per last week at PGA National.

Bay Hill is a Florida set-up that’s classical in its nature. The course has changed quite considerably over the tenure of current Course Superintendent Chris Flynn, who’s taken strides to returning the layout closer to its original guise, saying recently, “In addition to extensive tree trimming, we widened and lengthened all the fairways. To balance out the fairway changes, we also removed a lot of the rough areas in front of water hazards and bunkers. These areas have traditionally served as backstops for players, but now there’s a higher chance of your ball rolling into those hazards. We’ve also made the traditionally high rough even higher than in the past.

2019 saw a new tee box on the par-5 4th hole, which took the overall yardage up from 561 yards to 590 yards for the hole, with the overall course being extended 35 yards. 2022 sees Bay Hill in a new guise yet again with the short 13th par-4 jumping from 370 yards to 382 yards, taking its total yardage to 7,466 yards – and remember this is at sea level.

Bay Hill Country Club, Windermere, Florida: Designer: Wilson & Joe Lee 1961 with Arnold Palmer re-design 2009; Course Type: Florida, Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,466 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 8; Fairways: Celebration Bermuda; Rough: Celebration Bermuda overseeded with Perennial Rye 3″; Greens: 7,500 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 73.18 (+1.18), Difficulty Rank 12 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.93 (+0.93), Difficulty Rank 12 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.47 (+0.47), Rank 16 of 48 courses. 2015: 71.12 (-0.88), Rank 36 of 52 courses. 2016: 71.49 (-0.51), Rank 28 of 50 courses. 2017: 72.89 (+0.89), Rank 9 of 50 courses. 2018: 72.02 (+0.02), Rank 15 of 51 courses. 2019: 72.38 (+0.38), Rank 9 of 49 courses. 2020: 74.11 (+2.11), Rank 1 of 41 courses. 2021: 73.02 (+1.02), Rank 9 of 51 courses.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Arnold Palmer designs include:

  • Albany – 2015 – 2019 Hero World Challenge
  • Isleworth Golf & Country Club – 2014 Hero World Challenge
  • PGA West – Palmer Private – Host Course 2008 through 2015 Career Builder Challenge
  • TPC Boston – Dell Technologies Championship + 2020 The Northern Trust.
  • TPC Twin Cities – 3M Open.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Bay Hill and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:34; 325:31; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.

Course Overview: 2015 saw Bay Hill receive a facelift. Fairways were widened and tree numbers were reduced, making driving here a lot easier than for the other Florida Swing stops at both PGA National, TPC Sawgrass and Copperhead. ‘Driving Distance – All Drives’ also paints a picture as Bay Hill perennially ranks in the top 15 shortest for all drives, highlighting that this course, when firm, cannot be simply over powered by brute force, although Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy may both disagree!

The new, wider Bay Hill format dictates that the strength of the wind is a key variable when it comes to scoring, as naturally are turf conditions and green speeds. The Bay Hill course has a set of par-3s which are some of the toughest on the PGA Tour and if the course isn’t soft, it also has a set of par-4s which traditionally are some of the sternest on Tour. The 2019 renewal won with an amazing Sunday final round -8/64 by Francesco Molinari saw course scoring as: par-3 Scoring Average – 7th most difficult on Tour, par-4 Scoring Average – 6th most difficult, and par-5 Scoring Average 19th most difficult. Those numbers will have only got far worse after 2020’s tournament where Tyrrell Hatton captured his first PGA Tour title of his career with a winning score of -4/284. Only the Englishman, Marc Leishman, Sungjae Im and Bryson DeChambeau shot under par. Bay Hill played +2.11 shots over par, which made it the toughest golf course on the whole of the 2019/20 PGA Tour.

2021 saw mixed conditions with Lift, Clean and Place in-play during a showery Saturday. With a softer course Keegan Bradley shot -8/64 and Doug Ghim and Lee Westwood shot a pair of 65s. The beauty of Bay Hill though is that just 24 hours later with firm, releasing greens and 25 mph gusting winds in-play, only Andrew Putnam, Matt Wallace and winner Bryson DeChambeau broke par.

All of which highlights that firm conditions can make this classical golf course a pretty U.S. Open-type test. Bay Hill perennially ranks in the top 5 in terms of difficulty for Proximity to Hole, so to score heavily here players need to make their fair share of putts on the TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces. Pure ball-strikers alone will not get the job done; instead Bryson DeChambeau, Tyrrell Hatton, Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Jason Day and Matt Every, across both of the Floridian’s 2014 and 2015 wins, ranked 21st, 15th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th and 3rd in Strokes Gained Putting.

arnold palmer invitational tips

Winners: 2021: Bryson DeChambeau (-11); 2020: Tyrrell Hatton (-5); 2019: Francesco Molinari (-12); 2018: Rory McIlroy (-18); 2017: Marc Leishman (-11); 2016: Jason Day (-17); 2015: Matt Every (-19); 2014: Matt Every (-13); 2013: Tiger Woods (-13); 2012: Tiger Woods (-13); 2011: Martin Laird (-8); 2010: Ernie Els (-11).

Cut Line: 2021: +2; 2020: +3; 2019: +1; 2018: +1; 2017: +2.

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2021: Round 1 -9; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -10; Round 4 -12.
  • 2020: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -7; Round 3 -6; Round 4 -5.
  • 2019: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -12.
  • 2018: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -12; Round 4 -18.
  • 2017: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -11; Round 4 -11.

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman, Billy Horschel, Cameron Young, Adam Scott, Keith Mitchell, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and Scottie Scheffler.

Tournament Winners & Prices: 2021: DeChambeau 12/1; 2020: Hatton 55/1; 2019: Molinari 33/1; 2018: McIlroy 20/1; 2017: Leishman 100/1; 2016: Day 14/1; 2015: Every 300/1; 2014: Every 66/1; 2013: Woods 3/1; 2012: Woods 8/1; 2011: Laird 45/1; 2010: Els 16/1. Past 8 Renewals Average: 75/1. Overall Average: 56/1.

For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2021: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 74. Wind NNW 9-13 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 77. Wind NNE 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy with scattered showers. High of 68. Wind ENE 10-15 mph. Preferred lies were in effect. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 68. Wind ENE 15-20 mph, with gusts to 24 mph.
  • 2020: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 89. Wind SSW 10-15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy and cooler. High of 75. Wind NW 12-16 mph, with gusts to 22 mph. Saturday: Sunny and cool. High of 66. Wind N/NE 10-16 mph, with gusts to 23 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with a high of 73. Wind ENE 15-20 mph, with gusts to 25 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Sunny. High of 73. Wind NE 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 80. Wind SE 6-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind SE 10-15 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 87. Wind S 5-10 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 72. Wind WNW 4-8 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 77. Wind variable 3-6 mph. Saturday: Sunny with a high of 83. Wind SW 5-12 mph. Sunday: Sunny with a high of 85. Wind W 6-12 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Sunny and cool with a high of 63. Wind NNW 10-15 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 71. Wind NE 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny with a high of 79. Wind WSW 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny with a high of 78. Wind NNW 12-18 mph with gusts of 25 mph.
  • 2016: Weather: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 85 degrees. Wind WSW 7-12 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 88 degrees. Winds SSW 7-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. Afternoon gave way to scattered showers totalling 0.25” of rainfall. High of 82. Wind SW 10-15. Sunday: Scattered showers in the morning followed by partly cloudy and breezy conditions in the afternoon. High of 80. Wind WNW.
  • 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. Wind SE at 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 87. Wind W at 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. Wind W at 5-10 mph. Sunday: W wind at 10-15 mph. Mostly cloudy and warm. High of 88.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Bay Hill, Florida, is here.

I’m not expecting the conditions that we saw here in 2020 when Tyrrell Hatton won. There hasn’t been a lot of rain in the Orlando area, and there was none at all last week. We could see a sprinkle Monday of tournament week and the forecast is clear, so personally I’d expect plenty of run on the fairways and a course which is in a perfect spot. If the organisers want some crispier conditions then it’s totally up to them. Wind also looks like it will be down on the levels we even saw 12 months ago, with calm conditions on Thursday and nothing more severe that 10-15mph easterly and south-easterly across Friday to Sunday.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Sentry Tournament of Champions which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Sergio Garcia; 4) Tyrrell Hatton / Sungjae Im; 6) Lee Westwood; 7) Keith Mitchell; 8) Si Woo Kim; 9) Viktor Hovland; 10) Hideki Matsuyama; 11) Cameron Champ; 12) Billy Horschel / Luke List; 14) Chris Kirk; 15) Paul Barjon / Will Zalatoris; 17) Marc Leishman; 18) Maverick McNealy / Trey Mullinax / Erik van Rooyen; 21) Kevin Streelman; 22) Thomas Pieters / Cameron Young; 24) Paul Casey; 25) Scott Stallings.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Will Zalatoris; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Tyrrell Hatton; 4) Matt Fitzpatrick; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Keegan Bradley; 7) Adam Scott; 8) Viktor Hovland / Hideki Matsuyama; 10) Marc Leishman; 11) Russell Henley; 12) Patton Kizzire / Kevin Na; 14) Jason Kokrak / Nick Taylor / Erik van Rooyen; 17) Scottie Scheffler; 18) Lucas Glover / Lanto Griffin; 20) Padraig Harrington / Andrew Putnam; 22) Adam Svensson; 23) Max Homa; 24) Greyson Sigg; 25) Pat Perez.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Sean O’Hair; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Lanto Griffin; 4) Chris Kirk / Scottie Scheffler / Cameron Tringale; 7) Paul Casey / Jason Day / Pat Perez; 10) K.H. Lee / Hideki Matsuyama; 12) Will Zalatoris; 13) Kevin Streelman; 14) Matt Fitzpatrick / Marc Leishman; 16) Billy Horschel / Sungjae Im; 18) Mat Jones; 19) Sam Burns / Lee Hodges / Si Woo Kim / Thomas Pieters; 23) Zach Johnson / Patrick Reed / Brendon Todd / Matt Wallace.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Will Zalatoris; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Jon Rahm; 4) Scottie Scheffler; 5) Rory McIlroy; 6) Matt Fitzpatrick / Tyrrell Hatton; 8) Hideki Matsuyama; 9) Keegan Bradley / Lanto Griffin; 11) Russell Henley; 12) Marc Leishman; 13) Erik van Rooyen; 14) Adam Scott; 15) Luke List; 16) Chris Kirk; 17) Viktor Hovland; 18) Martin Laird; 19) Keith Mitchell / Lee Westwood; 21) Sergio Garcia / Sungjae Im; 23) Si Woo Kim; 24) Maverick McNealy / Thomas Pieters / Nick Taylor.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Tyrrell Hatton; 2) Max Homa; 3) Viktor Hovland; 4) Matt Fitzpatrick / Adam Scott; 6) Kevin Kisner; 7) Jason Kokrak / Rory McIlroy; 9) Billy Horschel; 10) Lucas Herbert / Denny McCarthy / Henrik Stenson; 13) Danny Lee; 14) Thomas Pieters; 15) Cam Davis / Sean O’Hair; 17) Carlos Ortiz / Seamus Power; 19) Lanto Griffin / Erik van Rooyen; 21) Scottie Scheffler; 22) Marc Leishman; 23) Andrew Putnam; 24) Hideki Matsuyama / Ian Poulter / Sahith Theegala.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Tyrrell Hatton; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Matt Fitzpatrick / Scottie Scheffler; 5) Paul Casey / Jon Rahm; 7) Adam Scott / Will Zalatoris; 9) Lanto Griffin; 10) Marc Leishman; 11) Hideki Matsuyama / Erik van Rooyen; 13) Billy Horschel; 14) Russell Henley; 15) Maverick McNealy / Sean O’Hair; 17) Sergio Garcia; 18) Viktor Hovland / Jason Kokrak; 20) Keith Mitchell; 21) Thomas Pieters; 22) Padraig Harrington / Max Homa; 24) Lee Westwood; 25) Sungjae Im / Chris Kirk.

For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at Bay Hill since 2016 click here.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends: Analysing the Strokes Gained final stats of the Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2016 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2021, Bryson DeChambeau (-11). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 9th, SG Around the Green: 30th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 21st.
  • 2020, Tyrrell Hatton (-4). SG Off the Tee: 24th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 27th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 15th.
  • 2019, Francesco Molinari (-12). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 34th, SG Around the Green: 44th, SG Tee to Green: 13th, SG Putting: 4th.
  • 2018, Rory McIlroy (-18). SG Off the Tee: 31st, SG Approach: 13th, SG Around the Green: 20th, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2017, Marc Leishman (-11). SG Off the Tee: 32nd, SG Approach: 10th, SG Around the Green: 45th, SG Tee to Green: 13th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2016, Jason Day (-17). SG Off the Tee: 11th, SG Approach: 25th, SG Around the Green: 22nd, SG Tee to Green: 8th, SG Putting: 6th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 16th, SG Approach: 16th, SG Around the Green: 32nd, SG Tee to Green: 8th, SG Putting: 8th.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the winners of the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

  • 2021, Bryson DeChambeau (-11). 321 yards (1st), 57.1% fairways (25th), 69.4% greens in regulation (2nd), 44’2″ proximity to hole (57th), 68.2 % scrambling (10th), 1.76 putts per GIR (29th).
  • 2020, Tyrrell Hatton (-4). 287 yards (45th), 53.6% fairways (33rd), 58.3% greens in regulation (9th), 40″7″ proximity to hole (10th), 66.7 % scrambling (7th), 1.74 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2019, Francesco Molinari (-12). 295 yards (36th), 76.8% fairways (3rd), 66.7% greens in regulation (6th), 38’0″ proximity to hole (16th), 79.2 % scrambling (5th), 1.71 putts per GIR (18th).
  • 2018, Rory McIlroy (-18). 317 yards (1st), 64.3% fairways (48th), 63.9% greens in regulation (45th), 30’0″ proximity to hole (1st), 80.8 % scrambling (1st), 1.61 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017, Marc Leishman (-11). 294 yards (26th), 73.2% fairways (17th), 73.6% greens in regulation (1st), 39’11” proximity to hole (39th), 68.4 % scrambling (16th), 1.74 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2016, Jason Day (-17). 305 yards (6th), 67.9% fairways (44th), 63.9% greens in regulation (29th), 40’11” proximity to hole (59th), 73.1 % scrambling (20th), 1.59 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2015, Matt Every (-19). 290 yards (34th), 73.2% fairways (34th), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 31’6″ proximity to hole (3rd), 64.3 % scrambling (30th), 1.66 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2014, Matt Every (-13). 282 yards (48th), 60.7% fairways (51st), 72.2% greens in regulation (7th), 33’8″ proximity to hole (11th), 60.0 % scrambling (34th), 1.65 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2013, Tiger Woods (-13). 279 yards (49th), 53.6% fairways (71st), 63.9% greens in regulation (34th), 38’10” proximity to hole (46th), 61.5% scrambling (32nd), 1.63 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2012, Tiger Woods (-13). 295 yards (11th), 64.3% fairways (29th), 79.2% greens in regulation (1st), 36’4″ proximity to hole (20th), 60.0% scrambling (10th), 1.84 putts per GIR (52nd).
  • 2011, Martin Laird (-8). 297 yards (5th), 71.4% fairways (22nd), 68.1% greens in regulation (20th), 40’11” proximity to hole (59th), 52.2% scrambling (34th), 1.78 putts per GIR (22nd).
  • 2010, Ernie Els (-11). 291 yards (17th), 69.6% fairways (7th), 69.4% greens in regulation (9th), 39’5″ proximity to hole (44th), 50.0% scrambling (40th), 1.68 putts per GIR (15th).

Traditional Skill Set Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 23rd, Driving Accuracy: 32nd, Greens in Regulation: 14th, Proximity to Hole: 30th, Scrambling: 20th, Putting Average 16th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Bay Hill sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Bryson DeChambeau (2021): “Well I think there’s a lot of holes you have to kind of step up on and be confident with. Bay Hill is very visually intimidating and if you can conquer that and execute a great shot, you’re already ahead of the field.”

Man, after that drive on 1, I was thinking, Uh-oh, this is not going to be a great day. And sure enough I was able to salvage a bogey. From then on out, I just told myself, Keep your head down, this is going to be a gruelling day, make as many pars as you can, make birdies where you can. And people are going to backtrack. This is not a golf course that you can shoot a lot under par and in conditions like they were today. You know, 20 mile an hour, 29 mile an hour gusts is what I saw and firm greens, firm fairways, long rough. This is what you do to make it play really, really difficult and have it be an amazing competition.

“It didn’t play that tough the first three days, considering the rain yesterday, but today definitely played like a U.S. Open. You could see that not very many people were under par. I don’t know how many people were under par. There were three people under par? Yeah, and so you could definitely note how difficult the golf course conditions were. And I took a lot of pride in knowing the fact that in these difficult conditions I can persevere and win a golf tournament, like I did at the U.S. Open. So I took a lot from that tournament and played it into this event, knowing that there are going to be weird things that come about, and just make sure that you are focused on hitting as many fairways and as many greens and having good speed control on the putting green.”

Tyrrell Hatton (2020): I mean, the greens are pretty firm anyway so I think they’re only going to get firmer throughout the week. I wouldn’t say it was an advantage going out really early this morning because they were still kind of rock hard then. So it’s an interesting challenge, the course is in great condition and we’ll see how it goes.

Yeah, the wind was obviously coming from a slightly different direction, so obviously some holes played easier, some played tougher. To give you an indication, the 9th hole, yesterday I was trying to hit a flighted 4-iron into there and today we were hitting a 9-iron. So it’s it shows you the difference. I mean, it’s obviously a tough course. The setup with the fairways are fairly soft and then you’ve got pretty firm greens. So if you miss fairways you’re punished because the rough is so thick. And it’s not like you can run the ball up onto the greens from the rough because they are kind of too soft, they don’t release. And then equally, if you’re trying to pitch a ball on the greens out of the rough, they’re just not stopping. So that’s obviously quite a challenge.”

Francesco Molinari (2019): “No, yeah, definitely I got everything out of it. I was saying before, it’s probably my best putting round ever. I started making two great putts at the 1st and 2nd for birdie and par and then just kept going, hit the ball reasonably well, I won’t say it was my best, but, yeah, the putting was just incredible. But I did well to keep it going, keep pushing through the back nine. It’s not easy, this golf course, when it gets firm like this, you don’t get too many chances, so I’m really pleased with what I’ve done.

I think yesterday playing in the third to last group probably I saw it as tough as it can be and today it was a little bit easier compared to that, just a tiny bit softer. And, yeah, I just started well and made a couple of great putts at the beginning and then just tried to keep pushing and keep going, so I don’t know if it’s going to be enough or not, but I’m proud of what I’ve done today.”

Rory McIlroy (2018): “This is a golf course where you need to play the par-3s well and play the par-5s well and to be only 1-under on the par-5s is, I need to do that better. So I guess with shooting what I shot today and only being that, it’s not a, it’s not disastrous. But yeah, I need to take advantage of the par-5s, because that’s – look at Tiger’s won it plenty of times around here and that’s what he did, he can be conservative and play conservative for the most part, but if you make birdies on the par-5s, you’re going to be right up there.

Marc Leishman: “I think I missed my first fairway on number 15. So if you can drive it on the fairway around here, that’s really important, especially with the greens the way they are, pretty firm and very quick. So that’s a start. And then, obviously, you got to try and leave yourself uphill putts and then you got to make them. So it was everything that clicked today, it’s nice to play well and get a good score out of it.

Jason Day: “I mean today, I was pretty aggressive with the par-5s for the most part. I still tried to stay aggressive on the par-5s today but you know I hooked a 4 metal on 4 and ended up making a bogey and then I hit another 4 metal on 12 and ended up making a birdie. You know, there’s no formula to it. You have to come to a golf course like this and just crush the par-5s. That’s more where all the scoring is. If you can get on the fairways, give yourself an opportunity to get to the green or around the green, let the short game take over and make birdies.

Rory McIlroy: “As I said earlier, I came away from this golf course kicking myself that I hadn’t played it more often because I feel like it’s a golf course that suits my game. The par-5s are quite long and I feel with my length I can take advantage of those. Very strong par-3s and the par-4s give you some chances but there’s a lot of strong par-4s out there. I feel like it’s a golf course that sets up well for me and you can’t not feel good about your putting on these greens, they’re so pure, that get the ball started on line with decent speed you know it’s got a great chance of going in.

Henrik Stenson: “It’s a course where you can’t get away with playing only decent, you’ve got to play pretty well around here. Quite a lot of shots, especially towards the end when you got to commit and hit some good shots coming in and ball striking is normally one of my strong parts. Maybe two years ago or three years ago there when I think I finished 8th I put that down to magician around the greens. My pitching was phenomenal and I putted nicely. I wasn’t playing that great but I still managed to squeeze a good finish out of it when I needed to have a chance to get in Augusta last on that year and last year was pretty solid. I didn’t putt well and then this year I’ve been playing and putting well. I think it’s a pretty tough course. It’s been a bit easier this year due to the softness of the greens and lack of wind but it’s still quite a few shots that can come up and bite you if you don’t hit good – in a few the holes if you don’t hit good shots at the right time. They can definitely bite back.

Martin Laird: “Sand seems the same. That’s just what you know, you’ve got to expect it here. You know, for example, on 17, if you come up short, it’s going to plug in that face. You just can’t come up short. Pretty much every hole out here, the chances are, I mean, three out of four balls are probably going to plug, a lot of the shots here. So that’s just to be expected. The bunkers are a true penalty around this golf course. It’s not like some courses, you almost aim for bunkers sometimes as a good spot to get up and down.

Graeme McDowell: “The course is in magnificent shape. Nice amount of rough. I heard a comment to where Arnie kind of wants it to play as a U.S. Open off the tee. And Augusta-esque around the greens. And I can see what he’s trying to achieve. The greens, like I say on Sunday, the firmness and the speed of the greens was very Augusta-esque with these new runoff areas that he’s created the last few years. The golf course is pretty tight off the tee. Nice amount of rough. I’ve always enjoyed the way the golf course sets up for me. I’ve had a couple of good years here. Basically it’s my home event these days. Used to be the Irish Open was my home event, this is home these days. So it’s a special tournament for me.

Ernie Els: “We play some of the toughest par-3s at Bay Hill. Actually in the whole of Florida, the whole of the Florida Swing, we play tough par 3s and Bay Hill is especially long. The 14th hole depending on the winds you can hit anything from 6-iron to 3-iron or 5-wood. It’s well bunkered with bunkers on the left side, the front right and quite a small green, so you have to be accurate. Like all of the par 3s, if you can make pars even, you’ve done very well, so a tough hole.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 12 Arnold Palmer Invitational winners:

  • 2021 – Bryson DeChambeau: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2020 – Tyrrell Hatton: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Francesco Molinari: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 17th.
  • 2018 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 13th, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2017 – Marc Leishman: Round 1: 20th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2016 – Jason Day: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – Matt Every: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2014 – Matt Every: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 10th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2012 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Martin Laird: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Ernie Els: Round 1: 5th, Round 2 1st, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 12 Arnold Palmer Invitational winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2021 – Bryson DeChambeau: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2020 – Tyrrell Hatton: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2019 – Francesco Molinari: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 5 back.
  • 2018 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2017 – Marc Leishman: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2016 – Jason Day: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2015 – Matt Every: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2014 – Matt Every: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 9 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2012 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2011 – Martin Laird: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2010 – Ernie Els: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.

Form of Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2010:

  • Bryson DeChambeau: 22nd WGC Concession/MC Riviera/18th Saudi/7th Kapalua.
  • Tyrrell Hatton: 6th WGC Mexico/46th DPWTC/1st Turkish Open/14th HSBC.
  • Francesco Molinari: 17th WGC Mexico/27th Kapalua/26th DPWTC/43rd HSBC.
  • Rory McIlroy: MC Copperhead/59th Honda/20th Riviera/MC Pebble.
  • Marc Leishman: 27th PGA National/MC Riviera/24th TPC Scottsdale/20th Torrey.
  • Jason Day: 23rd Doral/11th Pebble/MC Torrey Pines/10th Torrey Pines.
  • Matt Every: MC Copperhead/63rd PGA National/49th Riviera/69th Torrey Pines.
  • Matt Every: 8th Copperhead/24th PGA National/6th Riviera/MC Pebble/37th TPC Scottsdale.
  • Tiger Woods: 1st Doral/37th PGA National/1st Torrey Pines/MC Abu Dhabi.
  • Tiger Woods: WD Doral/2nd PGA National/15th Pebble/2nd Abu Dhabi.
  • Martin Laird: 5th Copperhead/10th Doral/25th Riviera/3rd TPC Scottsdale.
  • Ernie Els: 1st Doral/67th PGA National/10th Riviera.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2021 – Conners / McIlroy AM/PM Split -6/66 – 90/1 & 18/1.
  • 2020 – Every PM -7/65 – 175/1
  • 2019 – Cabrera-Bello AM -7/65 – 66/1
  • 2018 – Stenson PM -8/64 – 33/1
  • 2017 – Grillo / Fitzpatrick AM/PM Split -5/67 – 80/1 & 66/1
  • 2016 – Day – PM -6/66.
  • 2015 – Hoffmann – PM -6/66.
  • 2014 – Scott – AM -10/62.
  • 2013 – Rose – AM -7/65.
  • 2012 – Dufner / Wi – AM/PM Split -6/66.
  • 2011 – Levin – PM -6/66.
  • 2010 – Holmes / Love III – AM/PM Split -6/66.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 6 – Rory McIlroy.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed.
  • 3 – Sergio Garcia, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson.
  • 2 – Sam Burns, Paul Casey, Matt Every, Rickie Fowler, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Marc Leishman, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Robert Streb, Hudson Swafford.
  • 1 – Keegan Bradley, Cameron Champ, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Lanto Griffin, Padraig Harrington, Tyrrell Hatton, Lucas Herbert, Garrick Higgo, Max Homa, Charles Howell III, Sungjae Im, Matt Jones, Patton Kizzire, Jason Kokrak, Martin Laird, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Sebastian Munoz, Kevin Na, Sean O’Hair, Carlos Ortiz, C.T. Pan, Pat Perez, Rory Sabbatini, Scottie Scheffler, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd, Nick Watney, Lee Westwood, Aaron Wise, Gary Woodland.

Read any player interview around this week and you’ll note that ‘Arnie’s tournament’ has a Major feel about it. The emotion attached to this week only heightened that feeling 5 years ago, which was the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the great man’s passing away. This is no standard domestic PGA Tour event.

Taking Tiger and out of the equation, recent top 3 finishers here include the likes of Bradley (twice), Cabrera-Bello , Day (winner 2016), DeChambeau (winner 2021), Els (winner 2010), Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Fowler, Hatton (winner 2020), Im, Kisner, Laird (winner 2011), McDowell, McIlroy (winner 2018), Poulter, Rose (3 times), Scott, Stenson (3 times) and Westwood. All were inside the Official World Golf Rankings top 50 when they competed and all had invites in their back pocket for Augusta.

Only Matt Every when defending (2015, 96th OWGR 300/1) and Marc Leishman (2017, 62nd OWGR, 100/1) have won this event when ranked outside the OWGR top 50, going back to 2006.

For me this week is quite a defined exercise. The nature of the course dictates that par-5 scoring is essential and birdie conversion tends to be driven predominantly by those who are at their most comfortable on grainy Bermudagrass greens, especially of the TifEagle variety. Therefore I want players who’ve performed well on TifEagle Bermudagrass greens, ideally in Florida. If it’s in this calendar year – even better.

Clearly we can also work off DP World Tour courses such Emirates GC (Dubai Desert Classic) and the Earth Course (DP World Tour Championship). This is quite a specialised event so strong results on Florida-type courses such as Doral, PGA National, TPC Sawgrass and The Concession should also be embraced.

My Final Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips Are As Follows:

Viktor Hovland 2.5pts EW 16/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

At the top of the market, I’m struggling to see a parallel universe where Viktor Hovland does not get right into the mix this week.

The World Number 4 is playing some outstanding stuff and there are a couple of angles I really like about him this week on a course that should be perfect for him. Hovland was 3rd here a year ago, tied with Rory McIlroy after 36 holes, before falling away over the weekend. That in my view was down to a mixture of fatigue from going so close to winning a World Golf Championship the week before, allied to weather which was gusting 25mph over the weekend, on a firming golf course.

But 12 months on Viktor has added 4 more titles to his winning collection. 2021 saw wins at the BMW International Open, WWT Championship at Mayakoba when defending and the Hero World Challenge. 2022 has already seen him win his biggest title – the Dubai Desert Classic. For those counting that’s 4 wins in his past 17 appearances. But there are still targets to achieve. Winless in the United States on the PGA Tour, this would undoubtedly be his biggest win to date. He played in 2 Palmer Cups as an amateur and got the chance to play this as an amateur back in 2019 – so he also understands the gravitas of Arnold Palmer and winning this tournament which is steeped in history and has a list of elite winners.

Florida form is also good in general. His first win as an amateur in the United States came at the 2018 Valspar Collegiate played at The Floridian. On the PGA Tour, 2021 saw him finish 2nd at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession and 3rd at the Valspar Championship played at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook. Both of those courses feature TifEagle Bermudagrass greens.

And those comfort levels on TifEagle greens are another reason for Viktor’s selection this week, as we can add 3rd at the 2020 DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course in Dubai, 1st at the 2021 Hero World Challenge and 1st at the 2022 Dubai Desert Classic into the TifEagle Bermudagrass success basket. Strokes gained-wise, he was 11th for Tee to Green and 9th for Putting when 4th last time out at Riviera. RESULT: T2

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Adam Scott 1.5pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I remember Adam Scott taking the Texas Grand Slam back in 2014 when he won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, and his record in the Sunshine State of Florida is none too shabby either. A winner at TPC Sawgrass in 2004, he won at both PGA National and Trump National Doral in consecutive 2016 weeks, so winning on Florida’s finest courses is something the big Queenslander is very adept at.

His record here at Bay Hill is none too shabby either. 3rd (2004), 3rd (2014) and 12th (2016), I get the feeling that winning at “Arnie’s Place” would actually mean a great deal to the 41 year-old, whose last victory was at the 2020 Genesis Invitational. 10th in Abu Dhabi, 9th at the Dubai Desert Classic on TifEagle Bermudagrass greens, and 4th last time out at Riviera where his driving, approach play and putting were all stellar, 2022 is going very well for Scott who’s jumped up to Number 35 in the OWGR in President’s Cup year.

7th for Strokes Gained Current Form in this field across my 8-week trackers, a 15th PGA Tour title and his 4th in Florida is certainly not beyond Adam this week in my view. RESULT: T26

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Max Homa 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

Max Homa is the upwardly mobile sort who could go very well this week on a stretching, classical golf course.

Within the OWGR top 40, Max has won 3 PGA Tour titles since May 2019, and a couple of those wins were in big tournaments. His maiden victory came at the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship, followed by 2 wins across 2021 at the Genesis Invitational and Fortinet Championship. Wells Fargo is played at major-hosting Quail Hollow, which is long, classical and has Bermudagrass greens. His Genesis Invitational win came at Riviera Country Club, which again is a lengthy, old-style classical track and even his win at the Fortinet, came at Silverado Country Club, which again is another old-style classical set-up. Although continually underrated, Max has also finished 10th (2019) and 7th (2021) at Pebble Beach, 5th (2020) at Riviera prior to his win, 6th at Copperhead (2021) and 6th (2021) at Muirfield Village, so Bay Hill should fit.

Adept on firm courses and when wind becomes a factor, Max has a decent record here at Bay Hill. 24th on course debut in 2020, Max saw Bay Hill at its most windswept and brutal. Wind was only really a feature on Sunday here 12 months ago and Max finished in 10th, ranking 10th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 1st for Strokes Gained Putting.

Boosted by 10th last time out at the Genesis Invitational when he was defending his title, I can see the 31 year-old Californian, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, having a great week here in Orlando. RESULT: T17

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Erik van Rooyen 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

Erik van Rooyen hasn’t done too much wrong recently, yet finds himself in danger of missing out on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He made the Round of 16 at the Austin Country Club last May and finished 3rd at the 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship, so he’s had WGC success. But at 63rd in the OWGR, a couple of bad weeks here at Bay Hill and next week at TPC Sawgrass could see him endanger his spot in Texas.

I always get the feeling with the talented South African that he needs a target to get him to perform to the best of his ability. Take the summer of last year: a winner of the alternate event at Barracuda Championship to claim his maiden PGA Tour title, he then used the FedEx Cup Playoffs, finishing 7th at Liberty National and 5th at Caves Valley to qualify for the Tour Championship. That got his ticket stamped to all 4 Majors this year. Big tournaments – big finishes – he’s more than capable to contend when motivated! The Matchplay is the only top-level tournament he can miss out on in 2022, but in President’s Cup year tournaments such as this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational offer up a huge opportunity to stake a claim in Mark Immelman’s International team.

And the 32 year old from Johannesburg is playing some decent enough stuff. 25th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, 20th at the Sony Open, 12th at the Abu Dhabi Championship and 4th at the Dubai Desert Classic, 39th last time out at the Genesis Invitational was no disgrace on only his second visit to Riviera Country Club. Across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers he also ranks in the top 20 for Putting, top 15 for Tee to Green and 11th for Current Form. RESULT: MC

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Keith Mitchell 1pt EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I’ll close with a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) bet on Keith Mitchell, who reminds me a little of Bay Hill champions Martin Laird (2011) and Matt Every (2013). They were playing the best golf of their careers and took this title at 45/1 and 66/1 respectively. The only difference is that they were both within the OWGR top 50 at the time and had a Masters invite in their back pocket.

But that’s the point with Keith, who despite all of his brilliant 2022 play, finds himself outside all of the 2022 Major fields (clearly May’s PGA Championship is likely) plus the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as he is ranked 73rd in the OWGR right now. Undoubtedly on the outside looking in is a great motivational situation for the St Simon’s Island, Georgia dweller. Plus witnessing and applauding fellow Georgia Bulldog Sepp Straka to his maiden victory at PGA National last Sunday, could just be the boost that ‘Killer Keith’ needs to land his second PGA Tour title and the Augusta invite and top 50 OWGR position which would go with it.

12th (RSM Classic), 7th (Sony Open), 12th (AT&T Pebble Beach), 10th (WM Phoenix Open) and 10th (Honda Classic) across his past 6 tournaments, regulars will know my love for Mitchell in Florida and on Bermudagrass greens. The 2019 Honda Classic winner where he held-off no less than Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler, Keith has also finished 6th (2019) and 5th (2020) here at Bay Hill. He undoubtedly likes TifEagle Bermudagrass.

One of the best drivers on the planet right now, Mitchell was 10th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 12th for Strokes Gained Putting on the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens last week at Palm Beach Gardens. Across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers he also ranks 7th for Off the Tee, 17th for Tee to Green and 20th for Current Form. RESULT: T61

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:40GMT 28.2.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.