Things Are Heating Up at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational

From L to R: Yes, Yes, Arnold Palmer, Yes Please and Yes

God I miss Arnie.  He was like golf’s awesome Grandpa.  Grew the game internationally probably more than any other player in Tour history and from the tens of thousands of stories you hear from people who spent time with him it sounded like he only really cared about having a good time and making sure everyone around him was enjoying themselves.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is played every year in March at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, outside Orlando, which was owned by AP since 1974.  The tournament began in 1979 as a replacement for the now defunct Florida Citrus Open.

One reason this tournament gets buzz (other than Arnie’s name being attached) is because Tiger Woods absolutely owns this place.  Other than Torrey Pines and Augusta, he probably plays his best golf at Bay Hill.  In a move of absolute savagery, Tiger won this tournament four years in a row from 2000 – 2003 and has won the tournament a total of eight times in his career.  Absolutely insane.

The “Invitational” in the tournament name actually does mean something.  There are five invitationals on the PGA Tour calendar, this one being the first of the season and followed by The RBC Heritage, the Dean & Deluca Invitational, the Memorial Tournament (Jack Niklaus’ invitational), and the Quicken Loans National.  The main difference between invitationals and regular Tour tournaments is a smaller field.  Also, by eliminating any prerequisites to qualify for the tournament, they can guarantee that big names will be among the field because they can simply invite them.  Duh.

Bay Hill Club and Lodge is a par-72 (36 on the front and 36 on the back) and plays 7,419 yards.  Unlike last week’s tournament, Bay Hill is a more traditional Florida golf course.  It’s relatively flat and has water in play on a lot of holes.  Like a lot of them.  The course is protected from the long hitters on Tour by fairway bunkers that extend into the fairways which limit players’ distance needed off the tee.  Bay Hill also has many green-side bunkers and run-off areas are utilized to protect the course’s small and firm greens.  A player’s short game is paramount at Bay Hill and for those that play Daily Fantasy, short game statistics are going to be your best indicators for success this weekend.

The real story is the last 3 holes of the course, the stretch of holes are built and designed to ensure momentum swings, train wrecks, and lead changes.  16th is the only real birdie hole being a par-5 and only playing a little over 500 yards (511).  It is actually ranked as the 8th easiest hole, just need to be careful of the out of bounds on the left off the tee, that the players will face all season, kind of nuts.  The 17th is a long par-3, well long for me and other average players.  Its measured at 211 yards so for the guys on Tour it’s probably a flush 7-iron.  Maybe an eight if the wind is at their backs.  It played last year as the third most difficult hole on the golf course.  The green is basically Fort Knox.  Protected by bunkers front, left, and long as well as water that wraps around the front and right side of the green which itself is narrow but deep.  The difference between a front pin placement and a back pin placement could be up to a 3 club difference.

Such an awesome finishing hole

The 18th hole is a par-4 that plays 458 yards and last year it played as the hardest hole on the golf course.  Exactly what you want as a fan hoping for an exciting finish and exactly what you don’t want to see if you’re a player tied for the lead or in a position with life changing money on the line.  Pressure city.  The second shot on 18 is possibly the toughest approach shot players will face all season.  The green is extremely narrow and is also protected by a lake on the front side and three very deep bunkers on the back side (lol, back side….).  The fairway slopes downhill from the tee to the green which means hitting a nice high and soft shot to hold the green very difficult.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, and the entire left side of the hold is flagged as out-of-bounds.  No biggie players should just set up to miss it right, oh whoops there’s the thickest and toughest rough on the course over there.

See why it is such an absolutely amazing closing stretch of holes?

With all the madness going on right now in the NCAA basketball tournament (16 UMBC just beat 1 Virginia) I know that most people won’t be able to watch the whole coverage.  DVR the tournament and see if you can’t squeeze in some viewing time to watch the field come through 16, 17, and 18.  Here’s the leaderboard through 36 holes.

Notables in the Field

Justin Rose – fresh off of shitting his pants on Sunday of the Valspar and ruining my chances of going 3 for 3 when picking winners, Rose will be looking to bounce back and Bay Hill is just as good as any for him to get back on track.

Jason Day – Jason Day-ier will be looking to go Rocket Ballz-ier all overe everybody’s asses down in Orlando.  He hasn’t exactly been playing a full schedule at this point in the season and we’ll see if he’s rested or rusted.

Rory McIlroy – the most popular golfer not named Tiger Woods will be looking to step out from Tiger’s Return’s shadow and get back into the Winner’s Circle where he belongs.

Marc Leishman –  Marc Leishman is the defending champion and by golf law, that is all you are required to know about Marc Leishman.

Hideki Matsuyama – making his first start since he was sidelined back in early February with a wrist injury.  He going to make sooooooooo many a birdie.  Here’s him dunking a sand shot from today:

Here he is hitting out of a lake.  Pretty cool stuff right?

Henrik Stenson – has played very well at Bay Hill in the past and on Thursday he fucked around and shot an eight under, 66.

Only because I hate his guts, here’s Tiger rim jobbing a birdie putt on the 18th today:

Sick eagle by a complete unit, Kevin Kisner.  Really hope he’s playing in the outing at Arcola before the first Fed Ex Cup playoff round at Ridgewood Country Club this August.  I think we’d get along and also crush ten thousand beers together.

And finally here’s Kevin Streelman hitting out of a lake.

We’ll see how the weekend shakes out but it’s looking like another star studded leaderboard and exciting finish.

Before I sign off I have a little rant to get off my chest.  What in the fuck is going on with the weather??  I’m not going to make some played out joke about how Global Warming was supposed to make winters more mild because I, unlike POTUS, understand that there is a difference between weather and climate.  I don’t know what that difference is but I know there’s a difference.  It’s March 16th and not only is there still snow on the ground but the high temperature for the next 10 days are forecasted to stay below 50 degrees.  How am I supposed to loop with that going on Doug?  Fucking horse shit.  I keep ticking off these tournaments from my calendar thinking that I’m getting closer and closer to going back to the course for work but at this rate it will be mostly sunny with a high of 44 until the second week of May.  Very frustrating.  That is the end of my rant.

Lastly, I’m picking Rickie Fowler to win this week.  He was really close to Arnie before he passed and is actually an honorary co-host along with Nancy Lopez and I think Marc Leishman, not totally sure but I’m closing in on 1,350 words so I will NOT be looking it up.

Congrats to UMBC on upsetting #1 Virginia tonight in the first round of the NCAA Men’s tournament.  Nothing brings the East side and West side of Baltimore together like a good basketball game.  Obligatory The Wire gif…

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