Expert Picks for Arnold Palmer Invitational
This week the PGA Tour turns back to one of its more storied and respected homes, turning bags loose on the links of Bay Hill; a venue serving as the home of one of the game's iconic figures – Arnold Palmer – for the bulk of his professional life. Located in Orlando, Florida, Bay Hill was originally constructed under the guidance of investors from Tennessee seeking a retreat from the grinds of life. Palmer was originally invited to play these holes with Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry and Dave Ragan as part of an exhibition event. He fell in love with the area, he fell in love with the course, and shortly after that event he pitched the desire to host a PGA event at Bay Hill. That was in the early 1960s and the Tour has been making annual visits since. Palmer purchased the entire club in 1976 and has served as the official host of this event ever since as well, marking this week as one of the most illustrious non-major tourneys you'll find on the Tour's schedule. The list of past champions is just as impressive. Hitting the early years of Bay Hill's history you'll find the list of former winners includes Tom Kite, Fuzzy Zoeller, Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, and Ben Crenshaw. More recent winners include Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els (who has won twice and serves as the current defending champ), Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh, and Tiger Woods (who has won this event six times, including four consecutive wins from 2000 to 2003, his last win coming in 2009). This year's field is another stellar offering, including some of the game's elite as well as a sizable contingent from the Tour's up-and-coming power set. The art of putting is an especially vital ingredient in any winner's effort, but the depth of history this event brings allows fantasy owners a substantial pool of experience to consider in evaluating roster targets. Golfers who hit long and follow with supreme efforts into the greens tend to shine (suggesting it's the proximity to the hole, and not necessary the success in getting down in it) tend to rule the day, and we expect more of the same this week.
We've reached a day where Tiger is rarely the top option for a fantasy roster, but there are venues where he remains as potent as the Tiger we've missed for so long. Six career wins on Bay Hill is impressive, but one was just two seasons ago.
Justin Rose [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #12
Rose was enjoying the taste of victory before he fell off the trail as it closed at the Transitions Championship last week. He's been playing well throughout this 2011 season, but this particular Bay Hill track was kind to Rose before the hot hand.
Retief Goosen [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #136 - Not Entered
Goosen tends to shine in the light of history but we are a bit worried this time around. He was on the short list due to his resume and Innisbrook last week and he failed to meet our hopes and desires. At Bay Hill his history is strong once again, and it may be stronger than the history we trusted last week.
Els is the defending champ and we'd like to think he still has the game to rise and defend his title at Bay Hill. He has shown flashes this season, but he has not been as reliable as hoped. Still, we have tons of history to show Els is going to swing well this week.
Molinari is the first golfer we post without significant history at Bay Hill, but several factors bring us to his doorstep for the 2011 chapter. He posted a surprisingly strong week here in 2010 and he's been playing well thus far in 2011, thus we like his chances.
Kevin Na [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #34
Na has been one of our prized targets through early 2011 and he has improved over the course of that challenge, including a solid outing at the Transitions Championship last week. That gives us hope for a push towards victory as we witness from Na at Bay Hill last season.
Phil Mickelson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #13
Mickelson has a trophy from Bay Hill already and he returns in 2011 with hopes of adding another. He's been good (but not great) thus far this season, but his abundant history on this set of links has us thinking he'll be in the mix on Sunday.
Jim Furyk [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #23
Furyk is a gamer no matter the course or event on the deck, and it would be fair to suggest he often deserves to be ranked higher. However, his Bay Hill history is not particularly tempting and thus we temper expectations for this week.
Ian Poulter [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #97
Poulter has not been a regular at Bay Hill throughout his career, but it certain appears these links would be to his liking. He has the length to keep up with the big boys and, if he can get his irons in order, he could certainly join the competition on Sunday.
Dustin Johnson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #2
Dustin Johnson surprised two weeks ago with a push for a stake in the fight in the fourth and final round, but he fell before that fight got started. Still, that was his best outing thus far this season and we would expect him to build from there.
Graeme McDowell [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #76
McDowell has been one of the more capable golfers on the planet over the last two seasons and we've seen him compete at a high level in the States already in 2011. He lacks any depth of history at Bay Hill, but his talents put him on the radar for this (and any other) week.
We've seen positive rounds from Mahan at Bay Hill in the not-so-distant past. We've seen positive rounds from Mahan during events already this season. We know he has the length, but we wonder if he has the irons to keep pace.