Buckle up, the PGA Tour is about to get nuts. As if it wasn’t already crazy enough, this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational kicks off a six-week stretch that begins with a monster field at Bay Hill, includes a WGC and the Players Championship and ends with the Masters at Augusta National.
First things first though. Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: Arnold Palmer Invitational | When: Mar. 7-10
Where: Bay Hill Club and Lodge — Bay Hill, Florida
Ranking the field (odds)
Field strength — A: Tiger Woods pulling out lessens this field from an A+ to an A, but it’s still pretty strong. Not as strong as the Players will be next week, but certainly better than the Honda Classic and close to as good as Riviera a few weeks ago.
Three things to know
1. Phil in, Tiger out: More on Big Cat in a minute, but it’s maybe just as interesting to me that Phil Mickelson is playing this event for the first time since 2013. I suppose that’s because he wants a nice warm up before the Players Championship next week, but I think the rest would do him more good than the playing.
2. Seven golfers have won this tournament twice: And it is quite a list. Tiger Woods tops it with eight (!) victories, and here are the other six. Only Every and Woods have ever gone back to back.
- Jerry Heard
- Gary Koch
- Tom Kite
- Loren Roberts
- Ernie Els
- Matt Every
3. One of the great hole outs in PGA Tour history happened here: Robert Gamez beat Greg Norman in 1990 with an eagle hole-out on the 18th hole at what was then called the Nestle Invitational.
“When it was in the air, I thought ‘this is going to be close,'” Gamez told the New York Times. “When the ball went in, I was relieved the round was over, that I didn’t have to make a putt for birdie.”
One story I’m following
My Oklahoma State guy Viktor Hovland is one of two collegiate amateurs in the field this week. He’s the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and will play in the Masters in six weeks. He’s missed two cuts in his (very) brief career on the PGA Tour, but ams playing well and potentially winning (USC’s Justin Suh is the other am in the field) always intrigues me.
Tiger Woods has withdrawn from this event, citing a neck strain that he’s had for a few weeks. This is mildly concerning (and maybe majorly concerning), but I want to let it play out through the Players Championship and beyond. Woods is an eight-time winner of this tournament.
- 2018: Rory McIlroy
- 2017: Marc Leishman
- 2016: Jason Day
- 2015: Matt Every
- 2014: Matt Every
Arnold Palmer Invitational picks
Winner: Top 10 all time in strokes gained at this tournament, and he’s coming off an underrated west coast swing in which he posted a pair of top-five finishes in both of his starts.
Top 10: Rinse and repeat on McIlroy. You could argue that he’s the best player in the world right now and not have a ton of pushback. T4 in 2017 preceded his win last year.
Sleeper: The Barn Rat! Justin Ray noted this, but he’s been keeping pace with names like Tiger and Rory in terms of scoring at Bay Hill. That makes his 100-1 odds seem even crazier.