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      Power Rankings: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    • Reigning FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson had his best career finish at Bay Hill in 2013. (Ehrmann/Getty Images) Reigning FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson had his best career finish at Bay Hill in 2013. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    Editor's note: This article was published prior to Tiger Woods' withdrawal from the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

    It was only five years ago that Bay Hill ranked as the most difficult in relation to par of all courses hosting a non-major. In its last of only three editions as a par 70, it scored +2.190 strokes to par in 2009. Now a par 72 for the fifth consecutive year, the site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard may land no higher than third-most difficult on just the Florida Swing if it plays as projected this week.

    With Trump National Doral (WGC-Cadillac Championship) and Copperhead (Valspar Championship) already in the books at +1.852 and +1.433, respectively, Bay Hill serves as an unlikely opportunity for scoring as compared to recent history. (Par-70 PGA National checked in at a relatively tame +0.408.) The beauty is that the aggregate scoring has risen with overall par. Last year's field averaged +0.928 strokes to par, third-highest among 18 par 72s in non-majors. Since Ernie Els won the 2010 event at 11-under 277 and Martin Laird hoisted the hardware in 2011 at just 8-under 280, two-time defending champion Tiger Woods has posted consecutive 13-under 275s.

    Because the Arnold Palmer Invitational is, well, an invitational and host to just 120 golfers, experience rises if for no other reason than a considerable amount of the qualifying criteria opens doors for touring pros that have competed in it at least once before. Since 1980, the only golfer to win in his debut was Robert Gamez in 1990, and he needed a hole-out for eagle on the 72nd hole to clip Greg Norman by one. It was Gamez' second eagle of the round, the first coming at the par-5 sixth. He played the par 5s in 12-under for the week. It's a priority that remains relevant today.

    Woods navigated his way to victory here the last two years using different routes. He co-led the field in both greens in regulation and scrambling in 2012, but ranked a respective T34 and T32 last year. He was fourth in strokes gained-putting two years ago before leading the field in 2013. So, while strong putting is a common thread, he also led the field in par-5 scoring in both triumphs. (He also finished first in par-4 scoring in 2012.) Proficiency on par 5s throughout his career is hardly a secret, but it demands the review given he's an eight-time champion at Bay Hill.

    Early-week moisture will have cleared out in time for Thursday's opening round. Downright perfect conditions cannot be ruled out. High temperatures will clear 80 degrees. They will be accompanied by passing clouds and light winds throughout the tournament.

    POWER RANKINGS: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    RANK

    PLAYER

    COMMENT

    1 Bubba Watson Bubba Watson

    T2-Win-T2 in last three stroke-play starts. TOUR leader in distance, scrambling from rough and bogey avoidance. T4 at Bay Hill in 2012.

    T2-Win-T2 in last three stroke-play starts. TOUR leader in distance, scrambling from rough and bogey avoidance. T4 at Bay Hill in 2012.

    2 Justin Rose Justin Rose

    Declared himself "fit" and tied for eighth at Copperhead. Sparkling record at Bay Hill includes a T3 in 2011 and solo second last year.

    Declared himself "fit" and tied for eighth at Copperhead. Sparkling record at Bay Hill includes a T3 in 2011 and solo second last year.

    3 Henrik Stenson Henrik Stenson

    He's 5-for-5 at Bay Hill with a career-best T8 last year. Rested following a T16 at Doral where he led the field in par breakers.

    He's 5-for-5 at Bay Hill with a career-best T8 last year. Rested following a T16 at Doral where he led the field in par breakers.

    4 Graeme McDowell Graeme McDowell

    Four top 10s includes a T9 in his last start at Doral. Sixth in strokes gained-putting; third in adjusted scoring. Solo second here in 2012.

    Four top 10s includes a T9 in his last start at Doral. Sixth in strokes gained-putting; third in adjusted scoring. Solo second here in 2012.

    5 Hunter Mahan Hunter Mahan

    All four top 45s this season are top 10s, including a T9 at Doral where he shared 36-hole lead. Four top 25s in last six starts at Bay Hill.

    All four top 45s this season are top 10s, including a T9 at Doral where he shared 36-hole lead. Four top 25s in last six starts at Bay Hill.

    6 Ryan Moore Ryan Moore

    Ninth in FedExCup points with a win and another three top 10s. T12 at Bay Hill in 2011; T4 in 2012. Fourth in GIR; 14th in bogey avoidance.

    Ninth in FedExCup points with a win and another three top 10s. T12 at Bay Hill in 2011; T4 in 2012. Fourth in GIR; 14th in bogey avoidance.

    7 Zach Johnson Zach Johnson

    He's 9-for-10 at Bay Hill with four top 11s. Fourth in fairways hit, eighth in GIR, fifth in adjusted scoring and third in bogey avoidance.

    He's 9-for-10 at Bay Hill with four top 11s. Fourth in fairways hit, eighth in GIR, fifth in adjusted scoring and third in bogey avoidance.

    8 Adam Scott Adam Scott

    First appearance since 2009. A T25 at Doral was his worst finish anywhere in nine starts. If eligible, would lead TOUR in par-5 scoring.

    First appearance since 2009. A T25 at Doral was his worst finish anywhere in nine starts. If eligible, would lead TOUR in par-5 scoring.

    9 Tiger Woods Tiger Woods

    Needs no introduction here, but there's no middle ground between scores. Hinges on how his back feels. Wins in four of last five trips.

    Needs no introduction here, but there's no middle ground between scores. Hinges on how his back feels. Wins in four of last five trips.

    10 Gary Woodland Gary Woodland

    No top 25s in three tries here, but T8 at Copperhead for his third top 10 of 2013-14. Tops on TOUR in total driving; 24th in GIR.

    No top 25s in three tries here, but T8 at Copperhead for his third top 10 of 2013-14. Tops on TOUR in total driving; 24th in GIR.

    11 Kevin Na Kevin Na

    Riding converging trends. Close call at Copperhead conjoins with T4 in last start at Bay Hill (2012). T2 in 2010. Ninth in bogey avoidance.

    Riding converging trends. Close call at Copperhead conjoins with T4 in last start at Bay Hill (2012). T2 in 2010. Ninth in bogey avoidance.

    12 Keegan Bradley Keegan Bradley

    Still stuck on one top 10 (CIMB Classic), but has five more top 25s. Shared third at Bay Hill last year. Sits 36th in adjusted scoring.

    Still stuck on one top 10 (CIMB Classic), but has five more top 25s. Shared third at Bay Hill last year. Sits 36th in adjusted scoring.

    13 Patrick Reed Patrick Reed

    Took the week off following his first win in a WGC. Two wins in last six starts. Five more top 25s on the season. Seventh in the all-around.

    Took the week off following his first win in a WGC. Two wins in last six starts. Five more top 25s on the season. Seventh in the all-around.

    14 Will MacKenzie Will MacKenzie

    T4 at Copperhead is season-best among eight top 15s. Fifteenth in strokes gained-putting, sixth in adjusted scoring, fourth in all-round.

    T4 at Copperhead is season-best among eight top 15s. Fifteenth in strokes gained-putting, sixth in adjusted scoring, fourth in all-round.

    15 John Senden John Senden

    Fresh off victory at Copperhead. T29 in total driving, 30th in GIR & 10th in strokes gained-putting. Top 30s in last four tries at Bay Hill.

    Fresh off victory at Copperhead. T29 in total driving, 30th in GIR & 10th in strokes gained-putting. Top 30s in last four tries at Bay Hill.

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