Wow was last week ever a close one. I hope you enjoyed watching our 100/1 Webb Simpson pick on Sunday as he battled with Gary Woodland for the Championship. I think his caddy should have handed him a 3 wood on the 18th but hindsight is always 20/20. Nevertheless we push on to find our next diamond in the rough at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This week the best players in the world will be teeing it up at the beautiful and historic Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Last year’s champion Ernie Els will be defending his title against a plethora of young talents and the world’s best.
Bay Hill is a Par 72 7400 yard beast of a course. Historically one of the more difficult stops on the PGA tour, Bay Hill will force the players to be at their best this week. Arnold Palmer owns the beautiful course and it is exactly the design he loves. Players will have the opportunity to blast their drivers to large and welcoming fairways. Length will be a key this week but the players will also have to be hitting greens in regulation. Arnold Palmer has bunkers placed perfectly to eat up golf balls off drives and on the player’s approaches. With 103 bunkers around the course you will be hard pressed to find a player who does not spend some time in the beach this week.
The Course record is shared by Greg Norman (1984) and Andy Bean (1981) who both posted blistering 62’s. The course has been lengthened by 300 yards since then but the players also hit the ball much further now. If you are looking for a hole in one to take place this week be sure to watch the 2nd and the 17th. Over the years, 9 out of the 13 recorded hole in ones have come on these two holes.
The 18th hole is by far the most difficult at Bay Hill. For someone to take the title this week they will have to manoeuvre around this daunting Par 4. It will be playing 458 yards this week and every player will be faced with some nerves on their approach. The fairway is large, straight, and wide open for the players to hit. A large water hazard protects the green and is on the right side of the fairway. Three bunkers to the back of the kidney shaped green will eat up plenty of golf balls this week. The players who do find these bunkers are then faced with a downhill chip shot with water just past the edge of the green. Expect to see some interesting scores on this difficult hole.
We have 3 of the world’s top 10 golfers in the field this week (Graeme McDowell 4th, Tiger Woods 5th, and Phil Mickelson 6th). Tiger loves Bay Hill as he has tasted victory in 6 of his 14 starts at this venue. Could this be his week finally? (I don’t think so, though I feel he will be on the leader board). Along with the top players in the world, this week’s field will have 14 players who have won majors in it.
Last year Ernie Els defeated Kevin Na and Edoardo Molinari by two shots to take the championship. His final score was -11, a total that should be fairly accurate this week based on the projected weather conditions (sunny with light/moderate winds for the week, with a slight chance of rain on Sunday).
Last week another first time winner on the PGA Tour occurred when Gary Woodland lifted the trophy. The new breed of golfer has flexed its muscle (literally and figuratively) so far this year. Players are hitting the ball a mile it seems yet they have above average short games. Look for the long bombers on Tour to be at the top of the leader board this week at Bay Hill.
STEVES SIX PACK PICKS FOR ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL
Justin Rose (34/1) – Rosey posted a T5 last week at the Transitions and I look for him to continue his solid play. Rose seems to thrive on difficult courses and Bay Hill fits into that category. Rose is one of the best bunker players on Tour converting almost 65% to sit in 11th in that category. He also has a 93.33% Greens in Regulation from inside 125 yards (2nd on Tour). Rose is 6th on Tour in overall Greens in Regulation and he will use this to his advantage this week. Look for him to utilize his excellent iron play and his new putter will do the rest.
Sean O’Hair (75/1) – Sean O’Hair has not played great golf in 2011. Bay Hill however will bring back some excellent memories for Sean. A 2nd, 3rd and 21st finish all in the past 3 years at Arnold’s event speaks for itself. O’Hair does not drive the ball a mile like some of the other players; instead he relies on his excellent long iron play. Look for Sean to continue his excellent play at Bay Hill and bring us a nice 75/1 long shot.
Martin Laird (38/1) – Martin has been playing excellent golf as of late. T10 a few weeks ago and then T5 last week have put Laird on the map. Upon reading and studying for this tournament many people like Laird this week and for good reason. He bombs the ball off the tee, is a solid iron player and is 17th on Tour in putting. Look for Laird to put everything together this week and conquer Bay Hill.
Bill Haas (60/1) – Haas at this price? Really? I understand he missed the cut last week at the Transitions but Bill has been one of the best players on Tour this year. Haas sits just behind Rose in Greens in Regulation Percentage at 72.43 % (7th on Tour). Haas is solid in just about every category except bunker play. This could be his downfall this week as bunker shots are going to happen to everyone. Hopefully his accuracy can minimize this issue though. Look for Bill to get out of the gates quickly with solid Thursday and Friday scores.
Bubba Watson (40/1) – The long bomber himself Bubba Watson! Ranks 1st on Tour in driving distance which leads to him ranking 1st on Tour in Greens in Regulation. When you combine these two categories Bubba sets up perfectly for this track. Look for him to take advantage of the Par 5s and be in contention come Sunday. And with the wide fairways you will see some major swings come from Bubba’s driver.
Jeff Overton (95/1) – Jeff is going to win on Tour. He was good enough to make it to the Ryder Cup last year without ever winning on Tour. He did not play in this event last year but I feel his game sets up nicely for Bay Hill. He does a lot of things well (driving, accuracy and putting) and at 95/1 is worth a shot. Jeff would love to make it back to back weeks where first time winners take the titles on the PGA.
Good luck to all our golfers and start getting excited for The Masters!
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