2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview, Picks & Analysis
Scottie Scheffler returns to Bay Hill to defend his title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, hoping to continue the form that saw him win four times by the middle of last April and rise to the top of the world rankings.
Bay Hill is a proper golf course and this is an event that attracts a strong field, with very few of the world’s leading golfers choosing to sit it out. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of the PGA Tour’s elevated status tournaments, boasting a massive prize fund as the players begin the countdown to Augusta.
You only have to look at the list of previous winners and their 72-hole scores to know just how tough a challenge this course represents. Scheffler claimed the title in 2022 with a winning total of 283, one shot better than Tyrrell Hatton in 2020. Rory McIlroy won in 2018 with a score of 270, 18 under par, but the rough wasn’t as thick back then as it is going to be this week.
Patience and straight driving are the key to success at Bay Hill. Last year the scoring average was 75.48, and only 10 players finished the tournament under par.
Billy Horschel was the last player with a shot at catching Scheffler with a 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole that never really had a chance. Horschel shot 75 and tied for second along with Hatton (69) and Viktor Hovland (74).
Hovland was tied for the lead until catching a plugged lie in the front bunker on the 17th and having to two-putt from 50 feet on the fringe for bogey. Needing a birdie on the last hole to catch Scheffler, with whom he was paired, the Norwegian missed from 18 feet.
Hatton managed seven birdies on a course that was baked and brittle, with greens running about 14 on the Stimpmeter - that is seriously quick.
He finished more than an hour ahead of the leaders, and it looked as though it might be enough to at least force a playoff. But it was not to be.
It is a major surprise that Hatton does so well here because the one thing he is seriously short of is patience. But certain courses just suit the eye of some golfers, and that is clearly the case for the Englishman, who enjoyed a consistent season in 2022 without setting the world on fire.
Last year, the world’s leading golfers lined up to complain about how difficult Bay Hill was.
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
It was interesting to note that were no complaints from McIlroy after an opening round of 65, seven under par. And he still wasn’t moaning too much when he followed it with a 72 in the second round.
But after a pair of 76s at the weekend, McIlroy said the course was bordering on unplayable. Not for Lucas Herbert, it wasn’t - he managed a 68 in the final round. And Hatton, the world’s angriest golfer, also closed out with a 69 to finish second.
McIlroy was so frustrated that he broke a wedge in anger.
Former PGA champion Rich Beem told Sky viewers that if the PGA Tour insists on making Bay Hill so difficult that they may struggle to attract the world’s best golfers. Really? Isn’t this what golf is all about? I believe this is a golf course that is fit to stage a major and I look forward to seeing how they tackle it this week.
Bay Hill is a par 72 measuring 7,381 yards and is one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour. DeChambeau was an unlikely winner in 2021 because Bay Hill is a course that demands accuracy from the tee. The rough is thick and punishing and the greens are lightning fast.
It was won in 2015 by Matt Every, in 2016 by Jason Day, in 2017 by Marc Leishman, in 2018 by Rory McIlroy, in 2019 by Francesco Molinari, in 2020 by Tyrrell Hatton, in 2021 by Bryson DeChambeau and last year by Scottie Scheffler.
Will Zalatoris would be the first to admit that he is not a great putter but he simply adores tough golf courses. And there is not a better iron player in the game. Bay Hill should be made for him. He played quite superbly at the Genesis Invitational. And this is also a golf course that always brings out the very best in Tyrrell Hatton. The Englishman is a former winner and went close again in 2022. He loves Bay Hill.
Will Zalatoris. The tougher the course the better he seems to play
Cameron Young. A quality player
Tyrrell Hatton. Adores Bay Hill
Five to Follow:
Will Zalatoris. Second win is overdue
Cameron Young. Wonderful ball striker
Tyrrell Hatton. Hugely entertaining
Justin Thomas. One of the best wedge players the game has ever seen
Scottie Scheffler. Defending champion
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Sahith Theegala. Looking to follow a wonderful rookie season
Adam Svensson. Keep your eye on him
Alex Noren. Loves a tough course
Keith Mitchell. Big hitter
Lucas Herbert. Enjoyed a good finish 12 months ago
Golfshake's Liam Moore describes his experience of attending the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2020
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