The Tour makes the short drive from Tampa to Orlando for this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational (API). It will be the first run of the annual event since the passing of the golf legend, and the week is full of emotion and stories of The King’s lengthy list of accolades, generosity and lasting impact on the sport.
Twelve of the world’s top 25 will be in attendance this week, and the field will make up one of the strongest non-major/WGC fields of the PGA Tour season. Leading the way are world number two and defending champion Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama. Full field and tee times
Quite a Day
In wire-to-wire fashion, Jason Day was able to capture the first win at Bay Hill, squashing the popular belief that the superstar can’t play well in Florida. Day led the entire tournament until Sunday’s back nine, when Kevin Chappell was able to track him down and eventually take a one-shot lead on Day with just three holes remaining. Day turned the tides with a clutch birdie on the 17th while Chappell simultaneously stumbled with a bogey on 18. Needing a par to win, Day found the greenside bunker on the 18th and successfully made a tough up and down to secure his first win of 2016.
A look at Arnie’s home
This week, we went to a real expert for a look at Bay Hill. Arnold Palmer Design Company’s Senior Architect, Thad Layton, breaks down what to expect:
“In line with Mr. Palmer's philosophy that one "must play boldly to win", there are so many scenarios around the course where you need to hit it close to trouble to have a chance to score well. There is no hole at Bay Hill that better exemplifies this philosophy than the 6th; combining both strategic and heroic schools of design, this 555-yard par 5 boomerangs around a naturally circular spring fed lake, tempting the golfer to carry as much shoreline as possible to have a chance at reaching the green in two. In previous Arnold Palmer Invitationals, this hole has brought out the best (a double-eagle by Daniel Berger in 2015) and worst (an 18 by John Daly in 1998) in the world's best. On windy days, it also might be the only hole on Tour that can play downwind off the tee and into the wind on the approach. “
Storylines to watch
Focus on the good
Unfortunately, rather than celebrating who is playing at this week’s Arnold Palmer, many members of the media are focusing on who isn’t there. Among the notable absentees are Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas. Despite their absence, this year’s event will be the strongest field at the API since 2013. While it would have been great for everyone to make it out to this year’s event, the blame lies in the schedule, not the players. With the WGC - Match Play next week (a guaranteed check and world ranking points) followed by the Shell Houston Open and the Masters, players were forced to choose. All of the aforementioned players who are being criticized for skipping are committed to playing the Shell Houston Open, a site that mimics Augusta’s setup to prepare players for the Masters. If those players were to add Arnold Palmer to their schedule, the season’s first major championship would have been their fourth consecutive event in a row. Not ideal.
A golfer’s career and legacy are defined by major championships. Players choosing a path that best add to their legacy is something, I believe, Arnold would agree with.
Day’s defense system
Mired by injuries, illnesses and general symptoms of a hypochondriac, Jason Day’s 2016 finish and his start to 2017 have been forgettable. When Day is healthy and sharp from playing regular competitive golf, he has a dominant gear that only the likes of Spieth, Rory and Dustin Johnson have shown. What makes Day so great is that he has the length of Rory and Dustin and the putting ability of Spieth, a deadly combination that has allowed him to lap the competition on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, over the past six months, he has been off the course much more than on, but it looks as though he has finally recovered from his 5th bout of flu-like symptoms in the past calendar year and is ready to begin prep for the Masters.
A sleeper no more
Young Belgian star Thomas Pieters turned heads and impressed with his stellar play during his first Ryder Cup going 4-1-0. Pieters will now begin his preparation for his first Masters appearance and is flying under the radar, likely because of fellow European Jon Rahm’s sensational play. There is a lot to like about Pieters at Augusta. He is in top form, having recorded top-five finishes at Riviera and the WGC Mexico, and his game is a great fit for Augusta. He ranked eighth in driving distance on the European Tour in 2016 and is currently first in strokes gained: approach on the PGA Tour, statistics that bode well for a golf course with wide fairways that commands precise approach shots. I expect his strong play to continue this week, and his odds continue to drop as we get closer to Augusta.
With the API hosted at Bay Hill for so many years, there are a ton of players who have faired well at one point in their career. To help sort out your Draftkings lineups, one and done league, and a longshot to look at, here are Paulie’s Picks.
Worth your while...
The PGA Tour has put together a couple of great pieces of content for the API that are worth your while. Up first, Mike McAllister’s excellent interactive piece documenting the life and career of Arnold Palmer.
Next, Sean Martin’s Q&A with PGA Tour player and grandson of Arnold Palmer, Sam Saunders.
The LPGA hits the mainland
After opening its season in Southeast Asia and Australia, the LPGA makes its stateside debut at the Founders Cup in Phoenix. The field is headlined by world number one Lydia Ko, number two Ariya Jutanugarn and world number four In Gee Chun.
Coverage on the Golf Channel:
Thursday and Friday: 6 pm - 9 pm EST
Saturday and Sunday: 7 pm to 9 pm EST
The city of Brotherly Love
After getting hit with a few inches of snow this week in Chicago, I rehashed some warmer memories from the summer. Take a tour of a couple courses in one of America’s golf mecca’s, Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Cricket Club’s-Wissahickon Course
Manufacturer’s Golf and Country Club
Applebrook Golf Club
Rolling Green Golf Club
We are doing an Instagram giveaway, check it out here.
The pages of Arnie’s Augusta yardage book.
Muirfield votes to allow female members and is back in the Open rota.
Mississippi and Ben Wolcott win the Lamkin Grips Classic.
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