Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview
The reputable tournaments are coming in thick and fast as the PGA Tour remain in the Sunshine State for the Arnold Palmer invitational.
Since 2007, the Palmer name has been utilised in the tournament’s title and it has seen an influx of important figures walk its fairways.
Victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational secures a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour, which matches the reward for winning a World Golf Championship or the Memorial Tournament – so there are plenty of additional benefits packed into this prestigious event.
Bryson DeChambeau, the reigning champion, has announced that he will not be partaking in the tournament due to his ongoing injury issues, but he will be targeting a return at next week’s Players Championship.
The Previous Edition
Last year’s tournament saw Bryson DeChambeau record his eighth and latest PGA Tour title as he narrowly edged out Lee Westwood – who would have won his first event on American soil since 2010.
This competition doesn’t typically allow the players to go low, with the winning score last year being 11-under-par and three strokes clear of third place.
DeChambeau opened with 67, which was only bettered by two other players: Corey Conners and Rory McIlroy, who both shot 66.
That would be the sole highlight for the Northern Irishman, who finished with three scores of 71-72-76 to end a troublesome week after such a peerless opening.
Westwood didn’t place himself in contention until the conclusion of the third round, where he shot 65 that included an eagle on the par5 16th.
DeChambeau could not quite match his 65, producing 68 himself, which enabled the Englishman to open a one-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s finale.
Only three players carded a score under-par throughout Sunday, and one of them was the eventual champion DeChambeau.
Ultimately, his immense power facilitated his scoring on the par 5s, where he played them at two-under for the day – although Westwood equalled that feat.
The 48-year-old lost out on the title due to a couple lapses of concentration, bogeying the 3rd, 7th and 14th holes.
Ironically, the final pairing would emulate itself the following week at The Players Championship, although neither would secure victory after a sub-standard concluding outing.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge is a sensational facility, and it comprises of three 9-hole loops, where the Champion and Challenger nines combine to create the 18 for the official tournament.
This year will mark the 44th occasion that Bay Hill has been utilised on the PGA Tour, so it’s safe to say this iconic venue is dipped in rich history.
Bay Hill has required more approach shots from over 200 yards than any other PGA Tour venue since 2016, which highlights its intimidating length.
It isn’t solely about distance, however, as many players opt to club down considering the expansive water hazards that are dotted all over the course.
PGA National is certainly not a layout that encourages high scores, as previously demonstrated by the past few years that the tour has visited.
The same can be said for Bay Hill, thanks to a redesign that was spearheaded by The King himself – resulting in a sterner defence.
During 2020, where Tyrell Hatton secured his maiden PGA Tour victory with a winning score of four-under, only four players shot under-par that week and it was ranked the toughest playing course on tour that year, with an average score of 2-over-par.
Water is a theme at Bay Hill and if the players thought the grind would conclude on the 18th tee, then they are severely mistaken, as one final carry over water will be required for the eventual champion.
Due to the volatile nature of the final hole, there have been 11 winners with a margin of victory as narrow as one-stroke since 2000 – although a playoff has not occurred since 1999.
With 31 of the world’s top 50 in the field this week, we can expect an exhibition from the finest golfers on the planet.
If we couple in Bay Hill’s unpredictable nature, then we are guaranteed an exhilarating week in Orlando.
Paul Casey will be featuring in only his second PGA Tour event of the calendar year, but he arrives in fine form – currently occupying 27th spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.
The Englishman has strung together five consecutive top 25 finishes and he finished within the top 10 of last year’s event.
Max Homa will be making his third appearance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he has improved his positioning from each year – T24 and T10 – can he break the top 5 or even secure another victory?
Sungjae Im suffered a strange week at PGA National, carding three double bogeys on his way to missing the cut.
He likes Bay Hill, however, as his previous finishes read T3-3rd-T21, and he’ll be looking to go two better than his first two appearances at Palmer’s palace.
Keith Mitchell is someone who should pique your interest, as he recently celebrated his 30th birthday and looks to be transitioning nicely into his prime.
He has recorded three top 10s in his last six starts – with his lowest finish T21 – and he has recorded two top 10s at Bay Hill – T6 (2019) and T5 (2020).
Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick has been quiet over the course of the last year, but this is an event that he typically always delivers at.
He has placed within the confines of the top 10 from his last three starts, with the highlight being his runner-up finish at the 2019 edition.
Remarkably, Jon Rahm has entered his sixth season on the PGA Tour, but this will be his first appearance at Bay Hill.
It will be impossible to look past the Spaniard, who’s ranked 1st for Greens in Regulation and 3rd for driving distance this season on tour.
Finally, this is the ultimate arena for McIlroy, who has a win (2018) and a string of excellent performances to recall on.
He has secured four top 10 finishes out of five official starts this season, so his form is starting to move in an upward trajectory.
With DeChambeau pulling out of the field, the opportunity of a successful defence taking place has been removed – Matt Every was the last golfer to achieve this feat in 2015.
Can we see a new name etched into history or will the usual suspects dominate once again?