As we celebrate the life and legacy of Arnold Palmer in the first edition of his eponymous PGA TOUR event at Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge since his death last September, it should never be forgotten that when it came to his experience inside the ropes, the primary objective was to have fun even as it went hand in hand with the competition.
Aside from a three-year blip at the tail end of the last decade when it played as a difficult par 70, a contemporary Bay Hill (par 36-36=72) has proven to be a rewarding playground during the Arnold Palmer Invitational, now in its 39th edition on the course.
POWER RANKINGS: Arnold Palmer Invitational
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Rory McIlroy 2 Henrik Stenson 3 Justin Rose 4 Rickie Fowler 5 Hideki Matsuyama 6 Jason Day 7 Brandt Snedeker 8 Zach Johnson 9 Francesco Molinari 10 Tyrrell Hatton 11 Paul Casey 12 Tommy Fleetwood 13 Wesley Bryan 14 Thomas Pieters 15 Louis Oosthuizen
Valspar Championship winner Adam Hadwin, Martin Kaymer, Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel are some of the notables who will be included in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
One of Palmer's more appealing characteristics was that he was never set in his ways. He was always on the cutting edge no matter what the venture. This trait was transcended time and again at Bay Hill where he and his staff rarely sat still.
It was prior to the 2015 contest when the entire course was regrassed with Celebration Bermuda on the fairways and TifEagle Bermuda on the greens. (Yes, just like last week's stop at Copperhead.) After the first field capitalized, last year's doubled down with a scoring average of 71.485. Fairways remained easy to find and scoring set a recorded high (since 2002) of 31.48 percent in birdies or better after hitting greens in regulation, although its GIR percentage of 60.98 was a seven-year low. Still, with scrambling, one-putt percentage and three-putt avoidance all ranking inside the top seven easiest of all courses in 2015-16, Bay Hill remained as enjoyable as ever.
Perhaps most statistically connective to the Palmer's impact is that 2016 champion Jason Day led the field in both success rate in going for the green in 16 tries (93.75 percent) and co-led in scoring during those attempts (13-under). Tuesday's Comfort Zone will dive into other pathways to succeed at Bay Hill.
Returners in this year's field of 120 will notice cosmetic and strategic modifications across the property – surprise, surprise – including the enlargement of many collection and chipping areas around the greens. The objective remains the same, however. Hit greens and sink putts, all the while with a smile and even a glisten in your eye. Throw in a thumbs-up if the moment calls for it.
Whoever wins this year's edition will join Day and Matt Every (2015) as recipients of a three-year membership exemption on the PGA TOUR. He'll also earn a three-year exemption in THE PLAYERS where Day also will be defending his title in two months.
Springtime weather in Orlando can be a hit-and-miss endeavor, but this week's forecast is so fantastic that you can't rule out Palmer himself collaborating with Mother Nature. Nothing but sunshine is expected all week. After a cool opening round, daytime highs will warm into the upper 70s on the weekend. With the trend will come fresher breezes. Simply the kind of quintessential outdoors that you associate with sipping a blend of iced tea and lemonade.
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 columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Comfort Zone, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.