4th - 7th March
Colin Morikawa managed to maintain his composure and conquer Concession in last week’s opening leg of the Florida Swing.
We now turn to one of the most iconic non-Majors on the tour.
Originally called the Florida Citrus Open and first staged in in 1966, this event was won by the late Arnold Palmer in 1966. It has become established as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and this will be the 43rd renewal at Bay Hill.
This iconic venue is traditionally far tougher than the target golf courses in most events: last year’s winning score of -4 bears testament to that.
This parkland test requires accurate ball striking and solid putting. There is plenty of water on show and heavy bunkering. If the wind blows it will be hard to find these large Bermuda greens; early suggestions seem to indicate there will be much less wind this week.
International players have thrived here in recent times while familiarity could also prove advantageous: Tiger Woods has won here a massive eight times!
Former champion Rory McIlroy had a decent showing last week and he loves this course. His course form figures over the past four years read 4-1-6-5. But I’m still slightly reticent to back him at this point in time, especially at 15/2.
DeChambeau aggravated me last week. I backed him and he went and shot an opening 77. But to make things worse, he went on to shoot the week low round of 64 on Friday. He has finished runner-up here previously and will be looking for some more consistency.
Viktor Hovland is one of the hottest gofers in the world at present: in six starts since winning in Mexico he has only finished outside the top six once.
Defending champion Tyrell Hatton has also been in great form while the likes of Paul Casey and Patrick Reed have also recently tasted success.
This should be a captivating week of golf for all the purists out there.
2020: Tyrell Hatton (-4)
2019: Francesco Molinari (-12)
2018: Rory McIlroy (-18)
2017: Marc Leishman (-11)
2016: Jason Day (-17)
Rory McIlroy 15/2
Viktor Hovland 11/1
Bryson DeChambeau 12/1
Tyrell Hatton 16/1
Patrick Reed 20/1
Francesco Molinari - 25/1
The 2018 champion has excellent form in this event. Alongside that victory he has three further top 10’s in his last six starts.
His pinpoint tee-to-green game is perfectly suited to finding these greens.
The Italian's recent form is what makes it even more appealing. He has three top 10’s in his last four starts and currently ranks 27th for SG: Tee-to-Green and 6th for SG: Around the Green.
Molinari's latest result was a T8 at the Genesis, where he putted very well.
It seems like all the elements that made him such a force two years ago was slowly coming together again.
Henrik Stenson - 125/1
This is a long-shot. Stenson’s 44 career rounds here are the eight-most in the field.
His average of 2.00 strokes gained per round tops that group and puts him 6th in the field for anyone who has played a minimum of ten rounds.
Sure, he has missed the cut in two of the last four years, But he still has five top 10 finishes since 2013. That includes a 4th place finish in 2018.
Stenson's recent form doesn’t inspire confidence; he missed the cut in his last two starts.
But 125/1 looks a steal for a man of his stature and pedigree at this course.
Tyrell Hatton - 16/1
At 16/1, I’m loving the sound of Hatton retaining the crown (completing my trio of international picks for this event. Oh and, by the way, no American has won this tournament since 2015).
Hatton finished 4th on his Bay Hill debut in 2017, already showing his potential on this layout.
He started the year with another impressive victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship and followed that up with a 6th place on debut in a high quality Saudi International field.
The Englishman played well last week, ultimately settling for 22nd at the mysterious Concession.
Hatton has shown the capacity to defend a title before (he defended the Dunhill Links Championship in 2017).
His long game is key here and he just needs to elevate his chipping from last week.
Hatton has the chance to once again show that he is amongst the elite golfers in the world right now.