The PGA Tour heads to Orlando, FL this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. This tournament will be a bit more emotional than most as it is the first time in the tournament’s history that The King won’t be handing out the trophy to the winner on Sunday. The golfing world lost a tremendous ambassador in Arnold Palmer and golfers will be paying their respects all week. The field is strong but not as strong as some might like it to be due to a few top golfers not making the trip. With the grueling WGC Match Play next week and the Masters only three weeks away, golfers like Spieth, DJ, and Phil have decided to skip this year’s event. Still, the field is excellent and we should see some great golf this week at a wonderful course. The field is a bit smaller than usual as only 120 golfers are teeing it up with the cut still being Top 70 and ties. Looking at last year’s results nearly 15% of all DraftKings lineups got 6/6 through in GPPs and even more in cash games, which is higher than what we normally see week in and week out.
There were some major changes to the course in 2009 so looking at course history and trends from only 2010 thru 2016 is a good idea. The last two years the course has played easier because in 2015 there were problems with the greens so they rolled very slow and weren’t as firm as usual. Because of the worm infestation of the greens in 2015, they redid all the putting surfaces for the 2016 tournament which would make you think that they would be more difficult to putt on but the lack of wind and the silky smooth TifEagle Bermuda greens made the course play as only the 28th hardest course out of 50 last year. I think the course shows it’s teeth more this year as there is a bit of wind in the forecast (especially on the weekend) and no rain which will make the course play firm and fast just the way Arnie wanted it. Also there were subtle changes to the course recently which could make the course a bit more difficult. They trimmed the rough around hazards so golfers no longer have the thick rough as a backstop to stop balls from going into the water and bunkers. Now let’s gets to the meat of the course.
Bay Hill is a 7,419 yard par 72 course with four par 3s and four par 5s. It has a good mixture of holes where bombing it off the tee will sometimes be an advantage and sometimes placing it in the right spot with a three wood or hybrid will be the right play. It is still a less than driver course but the par 5s are reachable in two by most and length off the tee will be helpful for those holes. Off the tee golfers will face wide tree lined fairways with strategically placed bunkers on almost every tee shot and water in play on some holes. Many doglegs and the thick rough will make golfers focus more on accuracy than distance. Like last week the average driving distance at Bay Hill is in the bottom ten on Tour each year. Even though the fairways are above average in width, there are many slopes and undulations so sometimes a good looking drive off the tee can still find the thick rough. On approach shots golfers will see greens that are elevated on some holes, surrounded by bunkers and thick rough, are average in size and speed (12 on stimpmeter), and have many slopes and runoff areas. Looking at last year’s tournament I noticed that the rough around the greens is much thicker than they are around the fairways making hitting the greens a premium. Water will come into play on wayward approach shots and if the wind does pick up, watch out for plenty of drives and approaches in the drink.
Key Stats For The Course
***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P) and Birdie or Better % (BoB%) which are key stats every week.
Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G):
Even though the course has played easier the last two years I expect it to go back to the norm when it was routinely one of the 15 most difficult courses on Tour. As you have probably read on this write up the last few weeks, I always look at SG:T2G heavily on difficult courses. Since 2010 20/24 golfers that finished Top 3 here with recordable stats were inside the Top 75 in SG:T2G for the year the finished Top 3.