The Arnold Palmer Invitational takes on special meaning this year without the King to preside over his beloved tournament. The King, Arnold Palmer, passed away in September, and the undeniable mark he left on the game of golf and this tournament will be sorely felt this year. Lots of players have returned to Bay Hill to pay their tributes this week adding to a high-quality field.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge is a 7,419 yard, par 72 rustic course in Orlando, Florida. It’s been a regular stop on the PGA Tour since 1979 and over time has changed drastically since Palmer took over the ownership of it and made it his own. Widely known for its closing stretch of three holes and hole number 6 where John Daly once recorded an 18. The closing three holes should bring the bulk of the drama, though pure ball strikers should come to the fore.
Australian Jason Day battled his swing all day in the final round here last year but still did enough to beat Kevin Chappell down the last. It took a sensational up and down from the green side bunker and a final round 70 to win by one. Day was out of the blocks early with a 66-65 opening two rounds but slowed over the weekend with matching 70s.
Rory McIlroy $8
McIlroy’s been short of golf this season, choosing his tournaments carefully, but he’s always supported this event. Returned from an injury in Mexico and finished tied for 7th. Strong chance.
Jason Day $15
The defending champion has also been out of action recently with illness and injury. It shouldn’t affect him too much as he’s always bounced back strongly when returning to competition. Won’t repeat wire to wire, but might come into his own during the weekend.
Henrik Stenson $9
An amazingly consistent player that is in form and awesome at Bay Hill (T8-T5-2nd-T3 since 2013). Ran out of steam when he looked a chance last week, but leading ball striking stats all over the show.
Tommy Fleetwood $51
Solo second at the WGC in Mexico (his first start on TOUR this year) followed a win in Dubai earlier in the year. A good chance here on account of his tremendous scrambling ability.
Francesco Molinari $46
We tipped him a couple of weeks ago and he let us down but has an amazing Bay Hill record that we can’t ignore. Top 20s in seven of his last eight starts (since October) and in each of the last three editions of the API.
Thomas Pieters $34
The Ryder Cup star has shown promise this year as he dedicates more time to the US. Was last here in 2016 (of those that made the cut). A concern over his putting on Bermuda, but was tied for second at the Honda Classic a while back.
*Odds from Sportsbet.
Fleetwood, Francisco and Fowler (who we didn’t feature but is obviously an option) are all chances, but we like Rory to win.