As of midday Monday, 77 of the 120 golfers scheduled to play this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard competed in last week’s Valspar Championship. When they arrive and take a divot or roll a putt at Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge, they may wonder if they actually made the trip from Palm Harbor to Orlando.
Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course and Bay Hill are, of course, two vastly different layouts, but both have debuted Celebration Bermuda fairways and TifEagle Bermuda greens during the current fortnight. While those grasses make sense in Florida, that the same turfs are fresh to the PGA TOUR in consecutive weeks is rare if not unprecedented.
Prior to the 2015 edition of the API, five acres of rough at 7,419-yard Bay Hill were modified to fairway. As you’d expect, the planet’s best players pounced, averaging 70.28 percent in driving accuracy, a nine-year high in the tournament. While finding the short grass isn’t a prerequisite for success most weeks, that precision yielded the highest greens-in-regulation split officially recorded in tournament history at 68.41 percent. Conversion percentage on those opportunities (29.32) and scrambling (59.86 percent) were also at their highest clips since 2002. The product was an uncharacteristically unproblematic Bay Hill that averaged 71.121, or 0.879 strokes under par. Among all stand-alone hosts last season, it was the third-easiest par 72.
Matt Every chased his one-stroke title in 2014 with another last year, but he came to rest six strokes lower at 19-under 269 in his title defense. That shares the lowest aggregate since Payne Stewart’s tournament record of 20-under 264 in 1987. (Par at Bay Hill has changed multiple times since it first hosted in 1979.)
With his second triumph, Every earned the first three-year TOUR exemption awarded the winner of the API. The champ is also exempt into THE PLAYERS for three years. While he improved on his fairways hit over his breakthrough title two years ago, he proved again that hitting greens and sinking putts is the ticket for success at Bay Hill. He ranked inside the top 10 in GIR and average distance of putts made en route to both victories. And even though Bay Hill has four par 5s, he prevailed despite ranking T15 and T16, respectively.
A reasonable threat for rain and thunderstorms populate the forecast throughout the tournament. The risk increases into the weekend when high temperatures are expected to drop from the mid-80s into the upper 70s. Winds should be no worse than moderate, but likely to freshen as the inclement weather encroaches.
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's event. Look for the following features later this week:
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider, Comfort Zone
THURSDAY: Most-picked players