03/18/2015

I owe it to Arnold Palmer and I owe it to myself to jump on and make a few picks heading into this week at the Bay Hill Invitational. One of the best stops of the spring season (aside from the Mecca of venues in a few weeks), so I figured, even though this week’s portion will be brief, to give some picks.

Remember, no Tiger again this year, so we will have to look somewhere other than the 8-time champion.

Let’s head into the Bay Hill preview with some guys I like this week.

*Last year, I had this: 2014 Bay Hill Preview (look at the first pick) and then this happened (oh, yeah…)*

Driving Series

Two from the Fairway

1. Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter Wins WGC-HSBC

So he’s got zero PGA Tour stroke-play wins–I know. It’s starting to become one of the only things that gets mentioned about Poulter anymore on live telecasts. The monkey is growing and growing and growing. But I really like Poulter to give himself another chance this week.

An awful final round last year (76) dropped him to a 20th place finish, but before that, he was relevant. He’s playing well right now and his confidence in his ability to make birdies right now will translate.

The outspoken Englishmen will be talking to the media again this week after a strong week of play.

2. Jason Day

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He’s one of those guys (among about 6 or so others), that you can pencil in for strong play practically every, single, time they tee it up.

He’s already notched a victory this year, at Torrey Pines in a playoff, and he’s coming off some quality rest (sat out Valspar last week).

Since 2009, he’s only played this event twice, neither of them finishing in stellar performances (45th and 25th). Before Doral, Day was on a streak of top-20 finishes. Time for Day get back to the play that has vaulted him to the top-5 in the world.

There isn’t a course in the world that exposes Day’s wholesome game and when looking at filling your roster this week, he’s a guy to consider using a spot on…(unless you want to save this stud for later in the year).

One from the Rough (sleeper)

Jason Kokrak

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It’s hard to say a man who can hit it 340-yards is considered a “player from the rough,” but I have Kokrak as a player to definitely consider taking in pools this year, especially when looking to make a pick that maybe not many others are on.

This year for Kokrak has been ‘eh, uh, ooo, eh, eh,’ every week, with nothing overly impressive posted–until, wait, last week? A top-10 at the Valspar Championship bodes about as well for the 147th-ranked player in the world as does his solo 4th here in 2014

He’s a top-15 guy in driving distance on the PGA Tour, but his overall driving statistics are seldom elite. But last week in Tampa, he did find 64% of his fairways (up nearly 10% on his 2015 total: 55.80%).

Bay Hill’s par-4 are phenomenal and here Kokrak sits inside the top-30 on Tour in par-4 scoring (at 4.00 even clip). But it’s scoring on Bay Hill’s par-5s which prove essenital. Kokrak is scoring 4.55 on the 5s, good for top-20 in the game today. Take that average over 72 holes and say he manages himself through the others, and he’ll be in that double digit under par spot for the week. From there–it all depends how the field compares.

Also–his squad (the Xavier Musketeers, his alma mater) is in the NCAA tournament this year, so he’s got some added excitement heading in the heinousness of March.

Kokrak to compete this week. I’m feeling this one.

The Man with the Trophy

Henrik Stenson

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Henrik is one of the top ranked players in the world right now, but his wins on the PGA Tour (a mere, 4) don’t speak to top-talent dominance. But his run at the FedEx Cup has parlayed itself into more great play, as his only two starts this year have finished in top-5s on Tour.

A win for Stenson would give him some momentum into what may be the best season of his career to capture an elusive major championship. He was a top-5 here last year at ‘Arnie’s Place’ so when looking for a guy in form with past results at the venue, Stenson is an ideal choice.

And I really like Stenson as a pick to hoist the trophy this week.

Remember ;):