Bee-yoo! Bee-yoo! Arnold Palmer alert! Arnold Palmer alert!
That line from "The Other Guys" is ironic because The King needs no introduction. His legend will last forever. It's a fact cemented further with Monday's announcement that the Rookie of the Year will now receive the Arnold Palmer Award.
Of course, as much it all started in golf, his cool was kept fresh throughout his life thanks in part to his dedication to keeping golf courses current. This is perhaps no more evident than at Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge. It hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard for the 41st time this week.
For the latest modifications to the track, expectations for those in the field and more, scroll past the ranking.
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen and The Honda Classic champion Keith Mitchell among other notables.
Bay Hill is a stock par 72, but it wasn't always. It debuted as a par 71 in 1979, transitioned to a par 72 in 1990 (when Robert Gamez holed out for eagle on the par-4 finisher to win; he'd go on to claim what is now the Arnold Palmer Award) and tightened to a par 70 from 2007-2009 before it reclaimed its par of today (following a significant renovation).
Palmer's penchant for tinkering served as the common thread for the fabric of his tournament's history. It's a theme carried on this year with new tee boxes on the par-5 fourth hole and par-4 ninth that have lengthened the course by an aggregate 35 yards to a tournament-record 7,454 yards.
In addition to other upgrades such as a new area to work on the short game and numerous spots of improved landscaping, modern irrigation has been introduced to water only the primary rough whenever preferred.
Speaking of which, the longest rough, which is overseeded, has been allow to grow as high as three-and-a-half inches. TifEagle bermudagrass greens, which are not overseeded, are average in size but prepped to run as fast as 13-and-a-half feet on the Stimpmeter. Of all publicized measurements, that's as slick as it gets on the PGA TOUR.
Rory McIlroy put on a clinic with his putter en route to a three-stroke victory here last year, but that's what he needed to do to prevail. He ranked just T45 in greens in regulation (at the field average). However, when he manufactured those scoring opportunities, he led the field in proximity to the hole and paid them off also by pacing it in strokes gained: putting, fewest putts and scrambling. Of 61 attempts inside 10 feet, he whiffed just twice.
While the primary rough separates the excessively wayward, hitting fairways isn't a prerequisite to contend. At T48, McIlroy felt short of the field average. Instead, distance off the tee is more valuable, especially when it concerns gettable par 5s, while the greens are as fair as the field would want.
Mother Nature should cooperate. After some rain, wind and cooling early in the week, a dry, calm and warming trend will take over. Sunshine is expected through Saturday while daytime highs will climb 10 degrees or so and into the low 80s by the weekend. The return of the threat of rain re-enters the picture on Sunday when the high could climb into the mid-80s. The impact of wind will be felt only with the energy.
As of midday Monday, the field stood at 123. That's three more than what's scheduled because Gamez, Ernie Els and Tim Herron are exempt as winners prior to 2000. They're considered add-ons and would not be replaced if any withdrew.
For the fifth consecutive year, the champion will receive three-year exemptions for PGA TOUR membership and into THE PLAYERS.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.