Golf trophies come in all shapes and sizes but in years gone by the Arnold Palmer Invitational carried with it a very special prize, an embrace from the tournament host. Sadly, ‘the King’ passed away on the eve of last year’s Ryder Cup so this year’s renewal at Bay Hill Club and Lodge will serve as an emotionally charged memorial for the seven-time major champion.
Although some of the biggest names in golf are in the field this week, it’s the absentees who have had most of the press. Billy Horschel chastised his peers who have chosen to skip this week but in truth, some players just don’t get on with Bay Hill.
Palmer barely left Bay Hill alone after buying it in 1976. He was always looking for ways to improve the layout and oversaw huge renovations in 2010. Those changes took the par back up to 72 and increased the yardage to 7,419. Yet more changes were made in 2014 with a large number of trees being cut, fairways widened throughout the course and new sand poured into every single bunker. The most recent change saw the greens relaid to Emerald Bermuda grass for a truer roll.
Bay Hill is now a genuine all round test of golf. Jason Day displayed some wonderful touch on and around the greens when winning last year. The winner must display similar skills this year whilst also outscoring the majority of the field on the par fives. Finally, an ability to cope with the Florida winds will be a boost as the weather forecast suggests it’ll be gusty over the weekend.
Stenson’s Scheduled This for a Reason
Henrik Stenson announced that the WGC Match Play will not be part of his schedule ahead of the Masters. The Open champion knows what’s best for his game ahead of 2017’s first major and he clearly sees value in competing at Bay Hill.
The big Swede opened up with a 64 last week but just couldn’t find top gear over the weekend. Still he finished in a tie for seventh showing that his game is in good shape. Stenson has placed second and third in his last two starts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and can go even better this year at 9/1 with Bet365.
Johnson’s Course Form Makes Him Great Value
Zach Johnson is certainly not one of those PGA Tour players who finds it tough to get the hang of Bay Hill. The two time major champion has placed inside the top 11 places an impressive six times in this event and will be confident about putting his course knowledge to good use this week. Johnson has to have a better chance than his odds of 66/1 with BetVictor suggest.
Fitzpatrick To Turn Up the Volume
It’s been a fairly quiet start to the season for Matt Fitzpatrick. The young Englishman ended last season with a bang when winning the DP World Tour Championship but he’s only played four times since. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag with a missed cut and a tie for fifth amongst his results and he looks well worth a bet to finish in the top 10 at 6/1 with Coral.