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|