I’m really disappointed in myself for not considering Chris Kirk for my playbook at the Honda Classic.  He had two third place finishes in his last three starts and finished seventh last year at PGA National.  He is such a great story.  In May of 2019, he took a leave of absence from the PGA Tour to deal with his alcoholism.  He said in an interview with Golf Digest, "I thought I could control it, but after multiple relapses I have come to realize that I can't fix this on my own. I will be taking an indefinite leave from the PGA Tour to deal with these issues. I don't know when I will be back, but for now I need my full focus on being the man my family deserves."  We turn the clocks ahead nearly four years later and Kirk wins his fifth PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic.  While this was not one of the “Designated Events” on the schedule with a stellar field, but a win is a win.  That all changes this weekend as the PGA Tour heads a little over 150 miles north to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.    

I say it every year but it just feels different since the “King” left us seven years ago but it doesn't mean we can't celebrate the man. I know the players have talked about how it has felt empty without him roaming the grounds talking to the players and greeting all of his adoring fans.  Arnie was truly one of a kind and one of the most popular golfers in the history of the game. The working-class hero from Latrobe, Pennsylvania became a household name in 1958 when he won his first of four Masters Titles. The legend finished his professional career with seven majors including one U.S. Open and two British Opens.  He never did complete the career grand slam, finishing second in the PGA Championship three times.  I know you can find all this information on Wikipedia but I feel like it bears repeating every year as we honor him at his event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

This one of the “Designated Events” on the PGA Tour schedule which means we’ve got all the studs back out there together.  We will have a total of 120 golfers in the field this week.  I have a personal list of golf courses that are on my bucket list and this would definitely make the cut.  Bay Hill Golf & Lodge is a par 72 that reaches 7,419 yards.  The track went through a redesign in 2010 and another one to the greens in 2016 to help out with the muddy spots around the course.

This course is considered one of the toughest non-major courses on the PGA Tour, especially for a Par 72.  The scoring average has been more than a stroke over par.  One of the first things I take a look at for this course is the average fairways hit which usually lands around the 65 percent mark.  If you look at the players who have finished in the Top 10, they are usually around that mark for the week.  There are exceptions to every rule especially when you look at Tiger Woods (8-time winner of this event) history, he usually ranked at the bottom in fairways hit but he can't be compared to anyone else.  The rough around this course is punishing and the players need to avoid it.  The smart players will club down off the tee to keep it in the short grass.  

Driving distance is typically not a must-have but it’s nice if you can keep it in the fairway.  These players will have to attack these small but firm greens which means Strokes Gained: Approach once again becomes a vital stat.  These players will not be able to completely avoid the rough, so scrambling will be important as well.  You'll be able to tell rather quickly whether your golfer has his "A" game as the first three holes at Bay Hill are considered the toughest opening three holes on the Tour.

The weather looks to be great on Thursday but later in the day on Friday, the temperatures will drop and the winds will start to pick up.  You may want to target players teeing off Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.  We will see temperatures will get into the 70s with winds in the high teens and tip into the 20s.  They could see rain come into play on Saturday as well.  We should have a dry final round on Sunday.  

ONE & DONE PLAY: Tyrrell Hatton