Power Rankings: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCardtext sizeMarch 18, 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist
And just like that, the Florida Swing comes to a conclusion this week. The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard sits last in the lineup, but think of it more as an anchor.
Since Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando was reborn as a par 72 in 2010, it's fair to say that the intended objectives have been fulfilled. For one, aggregate scoring hasn't deviated even though spectators and television viewers have witnessed more par breakers. Bay Hill averaged 73.176 in 2012, third-highest among 20 par 72s used in non-majors. Its length (7,419 yards) and wind serve as perennial challenges, but primarily Bermuda greens that can run up to 12 on the Stimpmeter offer nuance that requires experience. Of the 33 rookies to compete in this event over the last four years, only Bud Cauley (T4, 2012) has posted a top 10.
Another clear benefit for everyone involved is the fact that Tiger Woods is the defending champion. He won four straight from 2000-2003 before picking off the last two of the three editions when Bay Hill played as a par 70 (2008, 2009). Woods joins Ernie Els (2010) and Martin Laird (2011) as winners since Bay Hill was beefed up for 2010.
Bay Hill's greens-in-regulation split of 63.04 percent last year was a six-year high, but it checked in at 52.65 percent in scrambling, lowest-ever since data was recorded in earnest beginning in 1992. If you wanted to point a finger at where Bay Hill has changed the most since it reverted to a par 72, it would angle in the direction of proximity to the hole. In the last three years, it's ranked inside the top six of all courses; last year's measurement of 38'5" ranked sixth. It hadn't ranked higher than 25th-longest since it placed T8 in 2002 at 38'8". But, by 2006, it registered the fifth-shortest average (33'3").
As its proximity split would imply, one-putting isn't easy. Bay Hill was sixth-most difficult on TOUR a year ago at 35.39 percent. It also finished third in putts per greens in regulation at 1.830. Indeed, there is little give on the track that ranked third in par breakers on par 3s (9.59%), fourth on par 4s (11.94%) and 15th on par 5s (38.28%) a year ago.
Rain cannot be ruled out at any time during the tournament, and the threat will grow into the weekend. Winds will freshen along with it. Seasonable highs around 80 degrees are forecast.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among recent winners at Bay Hill, please look for an entry in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
Power Rankings: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard Rank Player Comment Tiger WOODS There's only one King at Bay Hill, but Woods' dominance is unparalleled. Thanks to seven victories, his all-time earnings are nearly two-and-a-half times that of Vijay Singh's in second place. Also rested after a win at the WGC-Cadillac. Sergio GARCIA Continues to shine. His T7 at Copperhead was his 13th consecutive top 25 worldwide. He ranked third last week in total driving, T6 in greens hit and eighth in strokes gained-putting. Six top-10s in 11 appearances at Bay Hill. Graeme McDOWELL Runner-up at Bay Hill in 2012. Co-led the field in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. Took last week off following a T9 at The Honda Classic and a T3 at the WGC-Cadillac. Currently fifth on TOUR in adjusted scoring. Justin ROSE Arrives with 12 consecutive top-25s in tow, including a T8 at the WGC-Cadillac. Shared third place at Bay Hill in 2011 and tied for 15th last year. If he logged enough rounds to qualify for official rankings, he'd sit second in adjust scoring. Jim FURYK Since 2010, he's finished T11 twice and T9 once at Bay Hill. Led the field in proximity to hole at Copperhead last week en route to a season-best T7. Ranks third on TOUR in fairways hit, fifth in proximity and 19th in adjusted scoring. Bubba WATSON Dating back 20 months, he's recorded 29 top-25s in 37 starts, including a T18 at the WGC-Cadillac two weeks ago. The stretch also features a T4 at Bay Hill last year when he led the field in distance off the tee and ranked T5 in GIR. Ian POULTER After a 4-2 week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, he faded to a T28 at the WGC-Cadillac with a closing 75, but it still counts as his best finish in that event in four years. Chased a T12 at Bay Hill in 2011 with a solo third last year. Webb SIMPSON Has one top-30 in six starts at Bay Hill (T11, 2009) but he's finished inside the top 20 in his last four starts this season. T17 at Copperhead where he closed with a bogey-free 68. Ranks 17th on TOUR in both GIR and adjusted scoring. Phil MICKELSON The one-time winner at Bay Hill (1997) hasn't cracked the top 20 in any of his last five trips, but three went for top 25s. Tied for third two weeks ago at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral. Ranks 20th in GIR and 13th in adjusted scoring. Keegan BRADLEY Began the Florida Swing with a share of fourth place at The Honda Classic and a solo seventh at the WGC-Cadillac. Five top 25s in eight starts on the season. Sits 12th in adjusted scoring and 18th in the all-around ranking. Lee WESTWOOD In his first go-around as a Florida resident, tied for ninth at The Honda Classic and placed T25 at the WGC-Cadillac. Returns to Bay Hill after a four-year hiatus (T17, 2008), but he's 9-for-10 in the event with six top 25s. Jason DUFNER Playing in all four Florida stops. Coming off consecutive top-25s. Placed career-best T15 (in five appearances) at Bay Hill last year, ranking T5 in total driving an seventh in strokes gained-putting. Currently 24th on TOUR in greens hit. Ernie ELS Ready to give it a go despite a sore right hip. He played with it at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral where he finished T28 and ranked 12th in strokes gained-putting. The two-time winner at Bay Hill (1998, 2010) tied for fourth last year. Hunter MAHAN Took a week off after finishing T25 at the WGC-Cadillac, his sixth straight top-25. Hasn't missed a cut in his last five trips to Bay Hill but he's logged progressively worse results since a T6 in 2008. Ranks 11th on TOUR in greens hit. Boo WEEKLEY It comes as no surprise that he leads the PGA TOUR in ball-striking. Also a lofty 41st in adjusted scoring, in line with his stronger years on TOUR. Runner-up at last week's Tampa Bay Championship. Three top-25s in six starts at Bay Hill.