Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips 2024

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Congratulations if you were on Austin Eckroat at the Cognizant Classic at Monday prices of up to 100/1. So far in 2024 we are looking at PGA Tour winning prices of 150/1 (Kirk), 400/1, 300/1, 125/1, 70/1, 100/1, 80/1, 50/1 and 100/1 (Eckroat). Incredible! I landed a full each-way return on Cameron Young at 20/1.

This week at Bay Hill we have another mini-Major Signature Event field, with most of the PGA Tour’s elite stars using this as their lead-in to the Players Championship next week. Surprise 2023 winner Kurt Kitayama defends, with Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris, Max Homa, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and many more all in the field. This is a tournament that top players undoubtedly want to add to their CVs, especially now following the passing of Arnold Palmer in September 2016.

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, +6,300 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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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 3″ 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.

Bay Hill Country Club, Windermere, Florida: Designer: Wilson & Joe Lee 1961 with Arnold Palmer re-design 2009 & 2015; Course Type: Florida, Classical, Technical, Long; Par: 72; Length: 7,466 yards; Holes with Water Hazards In-play: 9; Number of Bunkers: 84; Acres of Fairway: 31; Fairways: Celebration Bermuda overseeded with Perennial Rye; Rough: Celebration Bermuda overseeded with Perennial Rye 3″; Greens: 7,500 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 12ft

Course Scoring Average: 2015: 71.12 (-0.88), Difficulty 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. 2022: 73.89 (+1.89), Rank 4 of 50 courses. 2023: 72.66 (+0.66), Rank 10 of 49 courses.

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

  • Albany – 2015 – 2021 Hero World Challenge
  • Bay Hill Country Club – Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • 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
  • TPC Twin Cities – 3M Open

Bay Hill 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.
  • Pete Dye 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.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.

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 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 -7/65s. 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 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 Kurt Kitayama, Scottie Scheffler, 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 2nd (Kitayama), 17th, 21st, 15th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th and 3rd in Strokes Gained Putting.

arnold palmer invitational tips

Arnold Palmer Invitational Winners: 2023: Kurt Kitayama (-8); 2022: Scottie Scheffler (-5); 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).

  • 2023: Kurt Kitayama 67-68-72-72 -8/280
  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler 70-73-68-72 -5/283
  • 2021: Bryson DeChambeau 67-71-68-71 -11/277
  • 2020: Tyrrell Hatton 68-69-73-74 -4/284
  • 2019: Francesco Molinari 69-70-73-64 -12/276
  • 2018: Rory McIlroy 69-70-67-64 -18/270
  • 2017: Marc Leishman 71-66-71-69 -11/277

Path to Victory: Below are end of round positions for the Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2010:

  • 2023 – Kurt Kitayama: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2022 – Scottie Scheffler: Round 1: 21st, Round 2: 20th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 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 Arnold Palmer Invitational winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament since 2010:

  • 2023 – Kurt Kitayama: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2022 – Scottie Scheffler: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 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

OWGR of Arnold Palmer Invitational Winners: 2023: Kitayama 46; 2022: Scheffler 6; 2021: DeChambeau 11; 2020: Hatton 32; 2019: Molinari 10; 2018: McIlroy 11; 2017: Leishman 62.

Cut Line: 2023: 2022: +3; 2021: +2; 2020: +3; 2019: +1; 2018: +1; 2017: +2.

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2023: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -9.
  • 2022: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -7; Round 4 -5.
  • 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.

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.

My published predictor is available here. Top 10 of my published predictor are: Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Harris English, Cameron Young, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Winners & Prices: 2023: Kitayama 200/1; 2022: Scheffler 16/1; 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 5 Renewals Average: 63/1; Overall Average: 63/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2023: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 87. Wind SW 10-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 87. Wind SW 25-30 mph, gusting 35 mph. Saturday: High of 87. Wind WSW 15-20 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 84. Wind W 4-8 mph.
  • 2022: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Wind NNE 4-8 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 84. Wind E 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 84. Wind ESE 14-18 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 87. Wind SE 13-18 mph, with gusts to 22 mph.
  • 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 Orlando, Florida is here.

Over 140 mm (5.5 inches) of rain has fallen in the Orlando are since the turn of the year. That’s the highest on my records going back to 2013. Granted none was last week, but there is a 70% chance of rain on tournament Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning, so I think that turn conditions will be softer than we have seen in recent renewals. Similar to the Cognizant Classic, there also looks the potential for rain on Sunday.

The other big influencer here is always the strength of the wind. Thursday will be the positioning day, with light winds throughout. From there wind levels will pick up through to Saturday – gusting 25mph south-westerly – and Sunday – gusting 20 mph north-west to westerly.

Temperature wise expect 27-31 Celsius (81-90 Fahrenheit) Thursday through Saturday, then a significant reduction to just 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) on Sunday, which could be stormy as per Cognizant last week.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to Sony Open in Hawaii / Dubai Invitational which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events, where recorded. Player rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Jordan Spieth; 3) Cameron Young; 4) Adam Scott; 5) Nicolai Hojgaard; 6) Viktor Hovland / Si Woo Kim; 8) Byeong Hun An / Corey Conners; 10) Tommy Fleetwood / Min Woo Lee; 12) Keegan Bradley; 13) Kurt Kitayama; 14) Justin Thomas; 15) Jason Day / Grayson Murray; 17) Patrick Rodgers; 18) Tom Kim / Chris Kirk; 20) Scottie Scheffler; 21) Xander Schauffele / Sepp Straka; 23) Ludvig Aberg; 24) Seamus Power; 25) Sahith Theegala.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 2) Scottie Scheffler / Adam Scott; 4) Nick Taylor; 5) Tom Hoge; 6) Wyndham Clark; 7) Ludvig Aberg; 8) Tommy Fleetwood / Xander Schauffele; 10) Kurt Kitayama / Collin Morikawa; 12) Justin Thomas; 13) Corey Conners / Nicolai Hojgaard / Erik van Rooyen / Cameron Young; 17) Si Woo Kim / Rory McIlroy; 19) Emiliano Grillo; 20) Cam Davis / Matthieu Pavon; 22) Webb Simpson; 23) Lucas Glover; 25) Keegan Bradley / Taylor Moore.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Hideki Matsuyama / Jordan Spieth; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Xander Schauffele; 5) Tommy Fleetwood; 6) Seamus Power; 7) Lucas Glover / Max Homa; 9) Mackenzie Hughes; 10) Keegan Bradley / Collin Morikawa; 12) Rory McIlroy; 13) Harris English / Kurt Kitayama / Grayson Murray; 16) Russell Henley / Denny McCarthy; 18) Austin Eckroat; 19) Scottie Scheffler; 20) Brian Harman / Andrew Putnam / Patrick Rodgers; 23) Jason Day / Brendon Todd; 25) Will Zalatoris.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Scottie Scheffler; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Jordan Spieth; 4) Adam Scott; 5) Tommy Fleetwood / Justin Thomas; 7) Kurt Kitayama / Hideki Matsuyama / Rory McIlroy; 10) Keegan Bradley / Corey Conners / Si Woo Kim; 13) Ludvig Aberg / Nicolai Hojgaard; 15) Cameron Young; 16) Wyndham Clark; 17) Byeong Hun An / Nick Taylor; 19) Matthieu Pavon / Webb Simpson / Erik van Rooyen; 22) Lucas Glover / Russell Henley; 24) Austin Eckroat / Stephan Jaeger / Chris Kirk / Seamus Power.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Sam Burns; 2) Matthieu Pavon; 3) Adam Scott / Nick Taylor; 5) Andrew Putnam; 6) Ludvig Aberg / Tommy Fleetwood; 8) Nick Dunlap / Justin Rose; 10) Brendon Todd; 11) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Tom Hoge; 13) Emiliano Grillo / Russell Henley; 15) Denny McCarthy / Sahith Theegala; 17) Harris English / Adam Schenk / Cameron Young; 20) Jordan Spieth; 21) Max Homa / Viktor Hovland; 23) Cam Davis; 24) J.T. Poston; 25) C.T. Pan / Xander Schauffele.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Sam Burns / Scottie Scheffler; 3) Adam Scott; 4) Ludvig Aberg / Matthieu Pavon; 6) Xander Schauffele; 7) Tommy Fleetwood / Kurt Kitayama; 9) Justin Thomas / Cameron Young; 11) Rory McIlroy / Jordan Spieth; 13) Russell Henley; 14) Nicolai Hojgaard / Si Woo Kim; 16) Erik van Rooyen; 17) Tom Hoge; 18) Hideki Matsuyama; 19) Keegan Bradley / Nick Taylor; 21) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Emiliano Grillo / Denny McCarthy; 24) Byeong Hun An; 25) J.T. Poston / Sahith Theegala.

Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the Strokes Gained Stats of the Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2016 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2023, Kurt Kitayama (-9). SG Off the Tee: 42nd, SG Approach: 18th, SG Around the Green: 18th, SG Tee to Green: 14th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2022, Scottie Scheffler (-5). SG Off the Tee: 48th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 28th, SG Tee to Green: 8th, SG Putting: 17th.
  • 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: 24th, SG Approach: 14th, SG Around the Green: 30th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 9th.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2015 course renovation gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this tough Florida golf test:

  • 2023, Kurt Kitayama (-9). 301 yards (31st), 69.6% fairways (1st), 70.8% greens in regulation (1st), 32’2″ proximity to hole (4th), 71.4 % scrambling (7th), 1.73 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2022, Scottie Scheffler (-5). 312 yards (13th), 51.8% fairways (55th), 61.1% greens in regulation (9th), 36’10” proximity to hole (8th), 53.6 % scrambling (40th), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 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).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 21st, Driving Accuracy: 29th, Greens in Regulation: 12th, Proximity to Hole: 22nd, Scrambling: 15th, Putting Average 14th.

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

Kurt Kitayama (2023): “Yeah, I mean it’s, there’s no gimmie holes. You feel like you’re always on edge, playing to the safe side and can’t really feel like you’re in attack mode at all. So it’s just, it’s tough. Mentally it’s just grinding. Felt like I just, when I was out of position I just kind of got myself back into position to either get up and down. You know, didn’t try and take on pins really unless I had a wedge. Even then I was still playing to the safe side. Was able to just hit some really good shots and made a couple like longer putts. Because sometimes that’s what you have to do to make birdie.

Yeah. 10, I just hit a little cut with the wind. I walked up there and I was like 210 out or something. Ended up hitting like an 8-iron in. Gave myself a good look at eagle.

Then the hole before that, 11, I hit it to like six inches. But I was trying to hit it 20 feet right of the pin and just kind of turned one over a little bit with the wind and it ended up perfect there. That was a good one.”

Scottie Scheffler (2022): “The greens like, it’s hard to putt on them because you don’t know if there’s going to be friction. There’s so little grass, so sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t. With the wind the way it is, if you’re putting even uphill putts, the wind is affecting them so much that it’s so difficult to putt the greens.”

“I mean, 15 and 16. 15 was brutal, just I got up and down from 150 yards out of the rough. 16’s an easy par-5, so there’s a little bit of shock when I have to lay up and try to make par from 65 yards versus going for the green in two. That was probably the most difficult just because I expected to have a really good look for birdie at the worst and all of a sudden I’m grinding for par. For me to stay in it mentally and keep grinding on that hole was huge.”

“Those lag putts at the end were pretty tough. It’s not really a comfortable position having to hit it to 50 feet and try and two-putt with the lead. But I just trusted myself and played conservative the last two holes, and pars were good enough.”

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.

Incoming Form of Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2010:

  • Kurt Kitayama: MC Riviera/23rd TPC Scottsdale/29th Pebble/MC Torrey.
  • Scottie Scheffler: 7th Riviera/1st TPC Scottsdale/20th Torrey/25th PGA West.
  • 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.

  • 2023 – Rahm PM -7/65 – 18/1
  • 2022 – McIlroy AM -7/65 – 25/1
  • 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:

  • 8 – Rory McIlroy.
  • 6 – Justin Thomas.
  • 5 – Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Sam Burns, Jason Day, Chris Kirk, Si Woo Kim.
  • 3 – Xander Schauffele.
  • 2 – Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Russell Henley, Mackenzie Hughes, Grayson Murray, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Nick Taylor.
  • 1 – Ludvig Aberg, Keegan Bradley, Wyndham Clark, Corey Conners, Nick Dunlap, Austin Eckroat, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im, Adam Hadwin, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim, Kurt Kitayama, Luke List, Hideki Matsuyama, Taylor Moore, Collin Morikawa, C.T. Pan, J.T. Poston, Seamus Power, Sepp Straka, Adam Svensson, Brendon Todd, Will Zalatoris.

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 7 years ago, which was the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the great man’s passing away. This is no standard domestic PGA Tour event and clearly has been heightened another notch with its Signature Event status.

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), English, Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Fowler, Hatton (3 times inc winner 2020), Im, Horschel, Hovland, Kisner, Kitayama, Laird (winner 2011), McDowell, McIlroy (winner 2018), Poulter, Rose (3 times), Scheffler (winner 2022), 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 top 50 in the World Rankings, going back to 2006. Our defending champion Kurt Kitayama was inside the world’s top 50, but was a massive 200/1.

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.

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 (from the past), PGA National, TPC Sawgrass and The Concession (WGC 2021) should also be embraced.

My Final Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips Are As Follows:

Jordan Spieth 2pts EW 20/1 (7Ew, 1/5) with William Hill

As we’ve seen over the years, Jordan Spieth goes well on “Jordon Spieth tracks”. What goes on prior to, after, or around those particular golf courses is pretty irrelevant, so his WD at the Genesis Invitational means little to me on the basis that Riviera Country Club has never been a “Jordon Spieth track.” Plus he was 5th after Round 1, highlighting that the 30 year-old is in great nick right now.

Kapalua, TPC Scottsdale, Copperhead, Augusta National, Harbour Town and Colonial Country Club are the courses Jordan gets on well with pretty much year-in, year-out and you can add Bay Hill to the list as well. “Golden Child” from 2 appearances here at Arnie’s Place has finished 4th (2021) and 4th (2023). 6 of his 8 rounds here have been under par and for those with more than a single appearance here at Bay Hill he ranks 1st for Strokes Gained Total across our Strokes Gained Analysis. It makes sense on the basis that this course tends to play tough.

Driving the ball brilliantly, it’s still early days in 2024 but Jordan ranks 3rd for Strokes Gained Total, 4th for Scoring Average and 2nd for Birdie Average so far. And he also ranked 1st (Kapalua) and 8th (TPC Scottsdale) for Strokes Gained Putting on Bermudagrass-base putting surfaces. RESULT: T30

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Sam Burns 2pts EW 20/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Sam Burns sits T1 across my 8-week Strokes Gained Current Form tracker alongside his best friend on Tour Scottie Scheffler. And unlike the World Number 1, Burns is pouring the putts in right now ranking 1st across my 8-week Strokes Gained Putting metric. Putting well here at Bay Hill is important year-in and year-out.

Sam, who hails from Louisiana, is seriously Bermudagrass green positive and always has been. 6th at the 2017 Barbasol Championship, played that year on Champion Bermudagrass greens, in only his 4th PGA Tour appearance at the age of 21 placed a stake in the ground. As did 8th at the 2018 Honda Classic where he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods and beat him, and 12th on his next PGA Tour outing at the Valspar Championship. 2018 on the Korn Ferry Tour saw him win at the Savannah Championship, played in Georgia on Bermudagrass greens. Since then, 4 of his 5 wins have been on Bermudagrass putting surfaces, with the other coming at Colonial Country Club, which is Bermudagrass from tee to green. State-wise, Burns has won twice in Florida and Texas, plus once in Mississippi and Georgia across his professional career.

Bay Hill has also seen flashes of high quality play from Sam. 9th here in 2022 he was also 11th after 36 holes in 2018 and 9th after 54 holes in 2020. He’s undoubtedly got unfinished business here at Arnie’s Place. RESULT: T30

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Cameron Young 1.5pts EW 33/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I’ll stick with Cameron Young for a second consecutive week on a course I think is pretty perfect. Cameron is undoubtedly Major Championship material. Not many players finish 3rd at the PGA Championship and 2nd at the Open Championship in their rookie season (2022), and Cameron went on to land 7th at The Masters and 8th at the Hoylake-hosted Open Championship last year. 4 top-8 Major Championship finishes in his last 7 Major appearances tells us all we need to know about the 26 year-old from Scarborough, New York.

From a Florida perspective, 13th (2022) and 10th (2023) on his first 2 visits here to Bay Hill, Cameron, as I documented last week, played great golf as a junior on the Champions Course at PGA National, and as a professional he’s now finished 16th and 4th in his only 2 visits.  In this field at Bay Hill in our Strokes Gained Rankings he sits 2nd for Off the Tee, 3rd for Tee to Green and 7th for Strokes Gained Total.

3rd on the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens at the Emirates Golf Club in January behind one Rory McIlroy, Cam arrives here in strong form having finished a career best 8th at TPC Scottsdale, 16th at the Genesis Invitational and 4th (again on TifEagle Bermudagrass greens) at the Cognizant Classic. RESULT: T36

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Harris English 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Harris English must be looking forward to the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week. 14th at 2024 opener The Sentry, 10th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, 17th at the WM Phoenix Open and 7th last time out at the Signature-level Genesis Invitational, Harris is playing some very nice stuff of late and he loves sterner, classical, tougher tests in general.

He has also performed well here at Bay Hill over the years. 14th way back in 2014, 2015 saw him 2nd after 36 holes and 8th after 54 holes, before falling away to the mid-pack on Sunday. Our cards had been marked though. Over this last 3 visits here, Harris has finished 9th (2020 where he was 4th after 54 holes), 26th (2022) and 2nd (2023), so his liking for the course is undoubted.

Within the top 40 in the Official World Golf Rankings at 37th, Harris is a 4-time winner on the PGA Tour, with 2 of those being on Bermudagrass greens at Southwind (2013) and Kapalua (2021).

Driving the ball beautifully – 13th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee at Riviera last time out – I like the chances of the 34 year-old Georgia Bulldog, who has finished 2nd at Bay Hill, 3rd at Quail Hollow, 8th at the LACC hosted U.S. Open, and 7th at Riviera Country Club across the past 12 months. RESULT: T21

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Erik van Rooyen 1pt EW 90/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Erik van Rooyen hasn’t done too much wrong recently, yet finds himself still outside the President’s Cup International squad top 12. Put simply, if he wants to make Mike Weir’s squad he has to keep playing well. Up 28 places to 59th in the OWGR, “EVR” has a place booked at The Masters due to his win in the autumn in Mexico, so can undoubtedly keep his foot to the floor and grab as many points as possible whilst at the peak of his powers. And 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 2021. A winner of the opposite 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 in 2022. Big tournaments – big finishes – he’s more than capable to contend when motivated!

And as we know the 34 year old from Johannesburg is playing some decent enough stuff. 7 PGA Tour events in 2024 have seen him finish 2nd (last week at PGA National), 8th (week before at Vidanta), with a further 3 top-25 finishes including Signature events at The Sentry and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. RESULT: T25

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