It should be an emotional PGA Tour stop this week in Orlando at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, staged at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Palmer, the most beloved golfer in American history and a seven-time major championship winner, died last year in Pittsburgh at the age of 87 so this will be the first time the event has been staged without Palmer. He had a home in Orlando and owned Bay Hill; this tournament benefits both the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. A giant statue of the King was unveiled at the course this week, and his presence will surely be everywhere. Sports Interaction golf odds have Rory McIlroy as the early favourite.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview
Pretty much every big name in golf used to play this tournament to honour Palmer. However, many are skipping this year because most top players don’t like playing four weeks in a row. Last year, the Tour moved the WGC-Match Play to the week after the Arnold Palmer Invitational. All of the world’s best will compete there and many like to play the week before a major. So that would be the Houston Open from March 30-April 2. The Masters follows the Houston Open. Unfortunately, then, Arnie’s tournament is suffering a bit with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, among a few others, taking the week off.
Bay Hill is a par 72 that measures 7, 419 yards. The 72-hole record is 264 set by the late Payne Stewart in 1987, and the course record of 62 has been shot three times, last by Scott in 2014.
What will Canadian Adam Hadwin do for an encore? The 29-year-old Abbotsford, British Columbia product got his first PGA Tour victory last week at the Valspar Championship about 100 miles west of Orlando in the Tampa Bay area. Hadwin had a two-shot lead with three holes to play on Sunday and made things interesting by driving into the water on No. 16. However, Hadwin parred the final two holes at Copperhead for a one-shot victory over Patrick Cantlay.
That win did a few things for Hadwin: He went from 15th to fourth in the FedExCup standings, qualified for his first Masters and became just the second player ever to win on the PGA Tour, the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada and the Web.com Tour. Hadwin, who became the first Canadian to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour earlier this year, also has qualified for the Match Play but won’t be in attendance. He’s getting married that week. Hadwin will be skipping the honeymoon for now, though, to get ready for the Masters. He is +6000 to win this week. Hadwin debuted at this tournament last year with a 36th-place finish.
Fellow Canadian Graham DeLaet is +7500. He was 22nd last week and missed the cut in 2015 the last time he played at Bay Hill. Mackenzie Hughes is +20000. It’s his tournament debut. David Hearn is +22500. He was 18th last week and 20th at Bay Hill last year. No player from Canada has won this tournament.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Favourites
At No. 3, McIlroy is the highest-ranked player in the field and he’s the +715 Arnold Palmer Invitational favourite. He returned from a rib injury suffered in mid-January with a seventh-place finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship two weeks ago and took last week off. He has a best finish of 11th (2015) at this tournament.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson is +900 to win. I liked him for a Top 10 last week at +100 and he complied with a tie for seventh. He hasn’t finished worse than eighth in his past four trips to Bay Hill but hasn’t won yet. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Aussie Jason Day are +1400. Matsuyama was sixth here last year. Day is the defending champion as he got up-and-down on the 72nd hole to win by a shot over Kevin Chappell. Day finished at 17-under 271. The last player to repeat here was Matt Every in 2014-15.
The player who has dominated this tournament with eight wins, Tiger Woods, remains sidelined with back troubles.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Odds And Prediction
Not a fan of Hadwin this week off that breakthrough victory. He may still be celebrating. I do like both Stenson and McIlroy for Top-10 finishes. My winner is Justin Rose at +2000. He was ninth here last year, his fourth Top 10 at Bay Hill since 2011.