I wish more than anything that I could intro this preview with “joining us this morning from Bay Hill, Mr. Arnold Palmer,” and then I would be able to post a 30-minute interview with “The King” himself talking about the course, the event and the 2016 season. Then we could take about my game, Arnold Palmer’s and he would invite me to his home in Orlando for a few days of visiting and golf.
Sorry, none of that happened…
Instead, we’ll churn through the information together for what has now become the “Matt Every Invitational.” With the scores last year, all you need to do is sub Steve Stricker in for Matt Every and you’d think we were at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, IL. Birdies, birdies, birdies, wowzzer.
Anways, a more difficult Bay Hill this year should bring the scores back down and increase the difficulty of this stalwart Tour venue.
An invitational, Arnie’s event is one of only 5 tournaments all year that offers invites and only the top-70 players from last year’s money list are guaranteed invitations. The field will only be 120 players this year, with the winner’s earning a three-year exemption (instead of the typical two) with a win this week.
Let’s take a look at the event!
Last Year’s API Top-10
I included the top-11 to make sure that I included Rory’s solid finish in there. Here’s video of Rory hitting awesome shots from Bay Hill last March. Allow yourself a few minutes to watch and enjoy:
After last year’s API, I had 6 observations from the event.
Full 2016 Field at the Bay Hill
Click here for a full field list of the guys pegging it up at Arnie’s place.
Last Week’s 2016 Valspar Picks
Jordan Spieth (Contender) T18
Webb Simpson (Contender) MC
Harris English (Contender) MC
Louis Oosthuizen (Sleeper) T7
Henrik Stenson (Winner) T11
Three top-20s and two missed cuts. Feast or famine, I guess.
Past 5 Winners at Bay Hill
- 2015: Matt Every
- 2014: Matt Every
- 2013: Tiger Woods
- 2012: Tiger Woods
- 2011: Martin Laird
Yes, these are two different events. Every, man.
Course Overview: Bay Hill
Now after Matt Every’s second win, it seems like the folks at Bay Hill decided to try and “Every-proof” the Orlando resort course. Now I’m joking about ever “Every-proofing” any golf course, do know that they re-vamped the course for the 2016 event.
The Bay Hill website is a great resource for you to take a look at each hole in depth.
For a Florida course, water comes into play a surprisingly, little amount. Only 8 of the 18 holes offer the threat of a water hazard. The changes will be interesting to gauge the scoring changes to the course. An overview from their site:
— George Savaricas (@GeorgeSavaricas) March 15, 2016
— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 16, 2016
I also love the bunker on 17 at Bay Hill! Cool look having the sand go straight into the pond, don't see it to often pic.twitter.com/UJD74b5K9I
— Zac Blair (@z_blair) March 14, 2016
— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) March 13, 2016
This Week’s Picks
Three from the Fairway (Contenders)
1. Adam Scott
He’s the no-brainer, number one contender this week at the API. No one in the world is playing better golf (his last three starts: 2, 1, 1). He’s played this venue fabulously in the past. He’s one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the world and Bay Hill rewards great play off the tee.
Adam Scott. The no-brainer this week. I’ll wear the lumps if he flounders this week. I can honestly say I have him at 3:1 odds for a top-10 finish, is that too aggressive?
2. Billy Horschel
Random thought before I dive in: It’s going to be an interesting day when Billy Horschel starts asking the media to call him Bill Horschel. He’ll always be Billy.
But anyways, I like Billy to compete this week at the API.
A player who grew up nearby and remembers attending the tournament as a child, we can’t underestimate the value that plays for PGA Tour players. Sometimes they put too much pressure on themselves, but other times, it pushes them to the next level in their games. We saw it with Lee McCoy last week.
Back to Horschel though. He took the week off at the Valspar after a shaky weekend in Doral going 75-75. But at the Honda and the Farmers both, he has top-10s. That enough for me to consider that he at least has his game somewhat together.
Also, Trackman had Billy working on his wedge game last week. Not that this is particularly newsworthy, and maybe Billy has an agreement for the promotion of the product, but players wouldn’t post videos of their range work if they weren’t feeling good about it, am I right? Horschel even got some Tebow time last week.
— Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) March 12, 2016
He’s a good driver of the ball historically. I like his game as a fit for Bay Hill, despite a less than stellar track record. He makes cuts here though, and his back-to-back T43 will be improved upon this year.
3. Charles Howell III
I haven’t spent much time over the years covering CHIII although it’s always crazy to go back over the past 10+ years and see the amount of cuts this guy has made without making much noise in the winner’s circle. It’s crazy.
For CHIII, the comfort level should be very high. He’s played this event for 12 consecutive years and has racked up the solid finishes. Since 2003, he’s had 6 top-25s here and only one MC. With his play last week at the Valspar (finishing T5) where he was in the top-50 in both all-around driving and ball striking, I think Howell will place another nice finish this week.
Nothing amazing, as usual with Howell, but a top-25 again this year.
— Parsons Xtreme Golf (@pxg) March 13, 2016
More Contenders to Consider
- Henrik Stenson (three straight top-10s here, great play as of late)
- Ryan Moore (top-10s in his last two starts)
Two from the Rough (Sleepers)
In his only start in his career at Arnie’s tournament, the short hitting Blair finished a surprising T21 last year. He’s missed three straight cuts on Tour, and without offering too much in the way of statistical backing, I just like this tweet from Blair this week.
I’m taking him at his word.
As odd as it sounds my game feels really close. Just need a couple little things to fall in place. #patience
— Zac Blair (@z_blair) March 14, 2016
2. Keegan Bradley
This pick DEFINITELY belongs in the sleeper category, but I’m going with him in my 3 hole for contenders. Why? That’s a great, great question.
Let’s start with the fact that over the past three years, Keegan has cashed in well over $1 million in earnings at Bay Hill, all without winning. He has two top-5s and a scoring average below 70 at the API over his last three. Factor that into last week’s utter debacle (with a Friday 79), and I see the spirited New Englander getting some revenge on his golf game.
Let’s go back to last week. After 18 holes, Keegan was leading the event. At one point, he was leading the event by three strokes. Now I know the Copperhead course is hard, but to go from leading by 3 to missing the cut only a few holes later is a shocking turn of events. Although he’s struggling to make cuts this year, Keegan has sprinkled in some good rounds.
I’m going to take the good vibes from this course, his great play last Thursday and some serious emotion to plug Keegan into my roster, even if it’s only as a bench player for the early parts of the week.
He said it himself, he really drives the ball well here.
Also, some extra stuff to chew on:
— Golfweek (@golfweek) March 14, 2016
The Man With the Trophy
This guy, for some reason, is jumping off my charts this week. I like Scott Brown for his second career victory this week at Bay Hill, validation for his week a few years back in Puerto Rico.
“I’m a really good driver of the ball,” said Brown during a PGA Tour spotlight a few years ago. Bay Hill is a great venue to be a great driver of the ball. Ranking 21st in total driving in 2016 so far, Brown carries back-to-back top-10 finishes into Bay Hill this week. He was in contention on Sunday in Tampa.
Despite missing the cut here in 2014, Scott was a top-15 finisher in his only other start here in 2013.
Somehow, amazingly, he’s not yet in the field for the Masters.
Charles Howell III and Scott Brown. Augusta natives. Not in the Masters. On the leaderboard.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) March 11, 2016
With only 4,000 followers on Twitter, he could be the lowest endorsed player on Twitter that I’ve ever gone with for the victory. But by the end of the week, I’m predicting 10,000 followers for Mr. Brown. His approach to the game is worth taking a look at for any amateur golfer.
So why is he going to win this week?
Like I mentioned before, he’s an excellent driver of the ball. He’s been in the top-15 here before, at a course which rewards good driving. His last three starts, he’s been in positive for strokes gained: putting. Last week, his number exceeded +1.600. Add it all up and throw in a hunch, and I like Scott Brown for the win this week.
Here, get to know him.
His approach to the game is incredibly interesting: