Quick look at Arnold Palmer Invitational
March 14, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods news conference before Arnold Palmer
ORLANDO, Fla. — When it comes to Tiger Woods and his comfort zone at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, a remarkable sense of symmetry surrounds his total of eight victories.
To wit, there have been eight different standings after Round 1 and eight different players who have been his runner-up: Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Michael Campbell, Stewart Cink, Bart Bryant, Sean O’Hair, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose.
Where the story has achieved a semblance of consistency is Woods’ blueprint for success at Bay Hill. In his eight wins, he has fired a solid sub-par second round (scoring average: 66.63) to roar inside the top 10, then assumed even greater control in Round 3 (scoring average: 68.36) to get into at least a share of first (seven times) or second.
That, in turn, has afforded Woods a position he relishes -- the chance to pretty much go head-to-head against a reduced list of competitors. The result has been vintage Woods as his final-round scoring average in the eight wins is 68.63, while the 12 players who have been second to Woods through 54 holes and the one who led him (O’Hair) have a fourth-round average of 72.31.
Uncanny stuff, especially when you consider that some high-octane names have been in position through 54 holes to outplay Woods here -- Love, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, to name a few.
Yet for all of that, Woods will be the first to polish some caution onto his story here. Mostly due to injuries, Woods hasn’t played in the last four tournaments at Bay Hill and the eight times when hasn’t won, he pretty much has been well back -- five times outside the top 20, just once inside the top 10.
“Just because I won here eight times doesn’t mean I’m going to win this week,” Woods said Tuesday, just three days after tying for second at the Valspar Championship. “I’ve got to do some serious homework (Wednesday) and really get to know and get the feel of how this golf course is playing this particular year.”
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
Playing for the first time in a month, he’ll be well-rested on a course that’s treated him well (2016 win).
Six top-10 finishes in his last nine worldwide starts for the new special temporary TOUR member.
Hard to believe: In his last eight starts on American soil, he has exactly zero top-10 finishes.
Want to make a birdie down the stretch at Bay Hill? Your best bet is the 511-yard par-5 16th. Last year, it was the only hole among the closing five holes at Bay Hill to play under par (4.393 stroke average). In fact, of the 900 holes on TOUR last season, it was the eighth easiest.
Bay Hill - No. 16
THE LANDING ZONE
The 458-yard par-4 18th isn’t the toughest closing hole in Florida – that belongs to the 18th at TPC Sawgrass – but it’s still one of the toughest on the PGA TOUR. A year ago, it ranked as the fourth toughest, playing to a stroke average of 0.283 over par as water on the right side challenges approach shots. Here’s a look at where all tee shots landed last year.
From PGA TOUR meteorologist Stewart Williams: “Below normal temperatures can be expected through Thursday as high pressure builds over the gulf and slowly moves east across Florida. Temperatures will be quite cool each morning, with lows in the low to mid 40s and highs generally in the upper 60s to low 70s each day. The high will shift east on Friday, producing more of a southerly flow. This will provide a quick warming trend with highs returning to the low 80s this weekend.”
For the latest weather news from Orlando, Florida, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECK“I thoroughly enjoyed being around him, being with him and we had so many great times -- none more so than last time I won here. We were over there, I'm cleaning out my locker, and he's over there having his ice tea thing and so he's just sitting there and, hey, grab a seat. Absolutely, yes, sir. So we sat down, we just started to BS and have a great time together and I'm going to miss those times, for sure.”
BY THE NUMBERS
122.5 – Average clubhead speed off the tee for Tiger Woods this season. That’s more that 4 mph faster than his average in 2013 when he won five events. His average driving distance of 303.4 yards is 10 yards longer than his 2013 average.
0.478 – Strokes above par average for the field at the opening three holes at Bay Hill last year. That was the highest average of any opening three holes on TOUR last season.
72.890 – The field stroke average last year at Bay Hill. The 0.890 strokes above par made it the fifth toughest course on the PGA TOUR last season.
3,008 – Balls in the water at Bay Hill since 2003. The par-5 sixth has accounted for 21 percent of those balls (636).
Australians enter on a two-year winning streak, with Jason Day winning in 2016 and Marc Leishman winning last year (when 10 Aussies were in the field). This week, there are six Aussies teeing it up – Day, Leishman, Stuart Appleby, Adam Scott, Cameron Smith and Curtis Luck.
Matt Every’s two career PGA TOUR wins have been at Bay Hill. If he wins this week, he would become the first player to post his first three TOUR wins at the same tournament since 1934, when Leonard Gallett won his third Wisconsin PGA event.
Bay Hill has some of the toughest par 3 holes on the PGA TOUR. When Tiger Woods won in 2013, he played the par 3s in 1 over – the worst par-3 performance of any Bay Hill champion in the last five years. On the flip side, Matt Every had the best performance at 3 under while winning his second consecutive Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2015.
University of California junior Collin Morikawa is in the field this week thanks to the Arnold Palmer Cup exemption. The 20 participants of the Arnold Palmer Cup – a Ryder Cup-style tournament featuring the top male university/college golfers – vote on the player who best represents the “Arnold Palmer Legacy.”