Welcome back, folks! After a great week at the Valspar, it’s time to hop over to Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Last week we mentioned the new green surfaces at Copperhead and boy were they running slow! Many golfers struggled to adjust. Even over the weekend, golfer’s were still struggling to hit their putts hard enough. Any golfers that teed it up last week may be at an advantage as this week’s course also sports new TifEagle bermudagrass greens.
Last year was really an anomaly for Bay Hill, so course history buffs should put less emphasis on 2015. The greens were worm-damaged and their was no way for the turf crew to get them rolling to the speeds these TOUR pros are used to. Approach shots were landing softly and putts weren’t rolling eight feet by, like past editions. Bay Hill is usually one of the hardest non-major venues on TOUR, and I expect it to return to his usual toughness this year.
New greens usually lead to bouncy green surfaces which means low GIR percentages. We saw the Doral field average 57.6 percent the first year after they renovated the greens. Last week in Palm Harbor we saw a 55.3 GIR percent from the field. That is LOWWWW. That gives an advantage to great scramblers.
Head over to the API Fantasy Golfanac for more information on the course and tournament history as well.
Players to Watch
Henrik Stenson… Another steady week for Stenson. Anyone that knocks the Swede for not being in contention last week, they shouldn’t. That is exactly why you take Stenson, because he always hangs around and bags a top 30, whether he has his best stuff or not. Now we head to a home game for Stenson, which means fire him up again and use him in OAD if you haven’t burned him yet.
Graeme McDowell… Also a home game for G-Mac. The legnth of Bay Hill is not ideal for G-Mac but his local knowledge sorta offsets that. It makes him a boom-or-bust option as his course history shows (three top 10s but also three MCs in eight starts).
Rory McIlroy… This is a less-than-driver course, but it’s also a venue that requires great long-iron-play. Rory will gain plenty of strokes from outside 200 yards this week to offset the holes that require him to club down off the tee. A T11 in his debut last year and I’m expecting at least a repeat this week.
Jason Day… Will fly in under the radar this week due to poor relative form and poor course history. The Aussie can win anywhere when he has a good week. That makes him a great GPP play this week.
Zach Johnson… Talk about under-the-radar. ZJ is still searching for his lost form. You can blame it on his switch to PXG, but when it comes around, the winning upside is always there. He’s not that far off, but missed cuts will lead the field to other options. Another good GPP play.
Matt Every… The Florida Gator is the two-time defending champ here. Don’t get carried away though. He doesn’t really have the long-iron game to consistently perform well here. He gained 6.446 strokes:putting on his way to victory in 2014 and last year we saw easier-to-hit fairways and greens which made it easier for guys that normally lack the ability to land greens consistently from 200 yards out. With the new greens installed since last year, he will need another 6+ SGP week if he wants a three-peat. Very, very unlikely.
Paul Casey… Speaking of the fresh greens, if they really are tough-to-hit like many new greens are, then Casey could really benefit. His track record here is spotty to say the leasy but he had this to say about the course in 2014, “I’ve always loved tough golf courses. And this is one of those. It’s set up absolutely perfectly. Although it is very, very difficult, it does allow you to shoot some numbers, as we saw today.” Got to like that confidence despite the poor success here in the past.
Byeung-Hun An… Benny was a mess at Doral, swallowing too many big numbers to survive with a strong finish. Most of his mistakes came down to a few holes where he managed triple bogeys. With less water in play at Bay Hill, An could perform like many (including me) expected him to at Doral. It doesn’t hurt that he’s played here in AJGA events as well. In the 2008 Boys Jr Championship, he was in 4th place entering the final round before ballooning to 81 in his last navigation. He finished 35th the year before. Almost exactly what Morgan Hoffmann finished in 2007, and we’ve seen how well he’s taken to this event thus far.
Thomas Pieters… I’ve heard rumblings for Maverick McNealy, Bryson DeChambeau, and Ryan Ruffels already, but none for Pieters. This young gun could be the low-owned diamond in the rough by week’s end. He finished in third place last week at the True Thailand Classic, so potential jetlag is certainly an issue.
Francesco Molinari… He’s been hovering around field average way too much for someone of his talents. Returning to a favorable venue this week (3-for-3 with two top 20s), this is the perfect site to get back into the top 25. He’s a steal over on DraftKings, so don’t overlook him.
Jason Kokrak… After a missed cut in his 2012 debut, he’s returned with a 4th-place finish in 2014 and T6 last year. Safe to say he likes the way Bay Hill sets up. The only thing holding him back has been fourth-round mediocrity. He’s never the safest play, but he is still on the short list of golfers ready to grab their first PGA TOUR title.
Hideki Matsuyama… Love this layout for Matsu-robot. One of the best long-iron players in the game. Bingo.
API Cheatsheet… Head over to Daily Fantasy Solutions and grab this week’s DraftKings cheatsheet for FREE! Yup, the cheatsheet will be made available for free this week, so come check that out this week! It will go live mid-to-late Tuesday.
My Top 25 for the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational
1. Rory Mcilroy
2. Henrik Stenson
3. Adam Scott
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Hideki Matsuyama
6. Jason Day
7. Justin Rose
8. Francesco Molinari
9. Charles Howell III
10. Paul Casey
11. Matt Jones
12. Gary Woodland
13. Jason Kokrak
14. George McNeill
15. Zach Johnson
16. Ryan Moore
17. Smylie Kaufman
18. Brandt Snedeker
19. Byeong-Hun An
20. Marc Leishman
21. Ian Poulter
22. Kevin Kisner
23. Will Wilcox
24. Graeme Mcdowell
25. Brendan Steele