With some of the best golfers on the globe set to tee it up at Arnie’s place this week, golf fans everywhere are rejoicing in one of the most exciting fortnight’s on the golfing calendar in advance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
You can feel the competitive spirit in the air at Bay Hill, a tribute to the late great Arnold Palmer who will forever be remembered as one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game. Players are desperate to achieve that Holy Grail and to go down in history as a winner at one of the greatest tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule.
Tiger Woods’ extraordinary run from 2000-2013 saw him win the event eight times, including four in a row from 2000-2003. Aside from Tiger, Matt Every is the only player to win the event multiple times since the turn of the millennium, showing that basically anyone has a chance to win this week.
With names such as Rory Mcilroy, Rickie Fowler, and Phil Mickelson lining up this week, there will be no shortage of fireworks as the best of the best battle in the hope of lifting the silverware come Sunday afternoon.
But what does it actually take to succeed at Arnie’s Place?
First and foremost, bogey avoidance is the most essential aspect at Bay Hill and particularly avoiding the water.
Across the past five years of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, no champion has suffered more than seven bogies across the entire tournament. In 2019 the eventual champion, Francesco Molinari only conceded five bogies and one double across the tournament despite the tough conditions in Florida, firing a final round 64 to finish the tournament at 12-under the card.
In comparison, Rafa Cabrera Bello fired a tournament-high 20 birdies for the week but suffered 11 bogies, including a 2nd round 75 to finish three shots behind Molinari. This highlights the need to avoid bogey at all costs, which places a high price on scrambling.
Similar statistics can be seen across both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the event.
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In 2017, Marc Leishman fired 11-under for the tournament whilst limiting himself to seven bogies for the entire tournament to secure a one-shot victory. No other player in the top-five managed to match this feat. Rory Mcilroy finished in 4th that week, suffering 10 bogies and two doubles whilst Charley Hoffman (who finished T-2nd) suffered 11 bogies across the tournament.
The need for bogey avoidance has never been greater than at Arnie’s Place and is a major key for success. Rory Mcilroy, Harris English, and Bryson DeChambeau all rank inside the top-five in bogey avoidance across the whole PGA Tour, so Bay Hill may set up well for these players.
The other key statistic in order to win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is putting.
The course at Bay Hill has surprisingly generous fairways and large green complexes, meaning it is slightly more forgiving in terms of Greens-in-Regulation due to the wider spaces approaching the putting surface.
However, this also means players are a chance to face difficult putts with the pace and undulations of the putting surfaces in Florida this week. They are also expected to reach 13+ on the Stimpmeter which means they will be some of the slickest greens the players will face on tour this year.
In 2019, Molinari ranked inside the top-two in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week. The Italian was brilliant in all aspects of his game during the week but excelled on the greens, leading to a final round 64 that helped him overcome a five shot deficit heading into Sunday.
Rory McIlroy was another winner in 2018 that benefitted from a strong putting performance. The Irishman remarkably only needed 100 putts for the entire week, converting on all 54 putts he attempted from inside seven feet across the four-day tournament. Mcilroy gained over 10 strokes on the Greens in 2018, which marked a career-high for him.
The need for consistent and reliable putting from short-range and the occasional long-range conversion will be potentially the decisive factor in crowning a winner at Bay Hill this week.
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Between Strokes Gained: Putting and Bogey avoidance, whoever can successfully navigate their way around Arnie’s Place and top these categories is set for a great finish this week at Bay Hill.