Week two of the Florida Swing brings the PGA Tour to Bay Hill, a venue synonymous with one of golf's all-time greats. Words and stats supplied by Andy Swales...
From the tee, Bay Hill is certainly not the most feared course on the rota, with recent stats showing the venue becomes a lot more treacherous when approaching the green. Between 2016 and 2020, it was 9th (out of 29) for most fairways hit, but became 28th most difficult for greens located in regulation.
It's another big week on the PGA Tour, as the players travel to Orlando for the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Many of golf's most sought after titles take place at this time of year, with the Players Championship next on the agenda, followed by The Masters in a month's time.
And following on from last week's opening WGC event of 2021, the pros are teeing-up at Bay Hill, another high-ranking invitational event with a selective and limited-size field.
Bay Hill was designed by one of golf's most famous architects, Dick Wilson. Among his other high-profile creations are the Blue Monster course at Doral and the highly-acclaimed Laurel Valley in Pennsylvania.
On the tee
In what is a particularly busy period of golf for the game's leading pros, nine of the world's top 20 have made their way to Orlando for the second of four events on the PGA Tour's Florida Swing.
'Top seed' is world No 6 and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton, the UK's highest-ranked golfer right now.
In recent years, Bay Hill has ushered in plenty of overseas champions, including each of the last five.
Two of these are Rory McIlroy (2018) and Francesco Molinari (2019), both of whom had strong course histories anyway.
Check out the latest betting ahead of this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational
World No 8 McIlroy, who certainly seems to prefer the eastern states of America more than those in the west, has not finished lower than sixth in any of his last four visits to Bay Hill.
He tied for sixth in Florida on Sunday, and should head to Orlando feeling more confident than he did when he arrived in the Sunshine State.
Returning to form
When Covid-struck last year, Molinari opted to remain with his family in Italy for over seven months which meant the former world No 5 had dropped to 112 in the World Ranking by the end of 2020.
But he has started the New Year positively with three top-10 finishes from four outings on the PGA Tour.
He also tends to play his best golf at tough venues which require good course management skills - and Bay Hill is definitely one of these.
And with previous course form seemingly important around here, then world No 17 Korean Sung Jae Im and the ever-improving Jason Kokrak should be given serious consideration this week.
Check out the latest betting ahead of April's US Masters
From the tee, Bay Hill is certainly not the most feared course on the rota, with recent stats showing the venue becomes a lot more treacherous when approaching the green.
Between 2016 and 2020, it was 9th (out of 29) for most fairways hit, but became 28th most difficult for greens located in regulation.
Bay Hill background
Opening for business 60 years ago, Bay Hill is neither short of sand, nor lacking in water, and used to be a layout which favoured the big hitters.
The late Arnold Palmer, who purchased the venue in 1975, made a number of changes to the course 12 years ago with the aim of encouraging attacking golf.
During the four-month renovation, he increased the number of potential pin positions by more than 40, after redesigning all 18 putting surfaces.
Palmer, who died in 2016, was one of the most attacking golfers of his generation and the purpose of making these changes was to create more risk/reward opportunities.
During this upgrade he moved fairway bunkers further from tees, while extending greenside sand closer to the edges of putting surfaces.
He also made the sand more visible from tees and fairways, in order to encourage the bold and the brave.
Large water hazards come into play on nine holes, while there are a handful of dog legs too.
Regarding these alterations, Palmer explained: "I've introduced firm, fast playing conditions on slopes around greens that run away from the pins.
"This will take the ball further away from the intended target instead of stopping it, like the previous heavy rough did. With these new conditions we hope to add creativity to recovery shots."
And while these changes certainly heaped more pressure on players to hone their scrambling skills before arriving at Bay Hill, Palmer also added a little more yardage to the course which upped the total par from 71 to 72.
Six years ago, the Bermuda grass greens were re-surfaced once again, while a number of fairways were widened with the intention of making attacking golf look even more attractive.
Bay Hill joined the PGA Tour schedule in 1979, and has been part of the rota every year since.
In 2020, it was the final tournament to be completed before Tour officials announced a shutdown of top-level professional golf - for almost three months - because of the emerging Covid-19 crisis.
This parkland course is located around eight miles south-west of downtown Orlando, close to Florida's Butler Lake.
Course Comparisons (1.1.16 - 31.12.20)
Driving Accuracy (%)
73.88: Sea Island (RSM Classic) (1/29)
64.68: Bay Hill (Palmer Invitational) (9/29)
52.24: Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance) (29/29)
Greens in Regulation (%)
75.98: Sedgefield (Wyndham) (1/29)
59.95: Bay Hill (Palmer Invitational) (28/29)
58.99: Innisbrook (Valspar) (29/29)
1.664: PGA West (host) (American Express) (1/29)
1.767: Bay Hill (Palmer Invitational) (24/29)
2.668: Augusta National (Masters) (29/29)
Key: Above stats are for all 29 courses which staged four or more PGA Tour events between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2020. To qualify for a ranking (between 1 & 29), tournaments must have a minimum of 50 players competing over the final two rounds of the event. Averages do not include players who failed to complete at least 54 holes.
Bay Hill Data (2016-20)
DA: (T10 - 67.69%); (Cat10 - 76.40%)
GiR: (T10 - 63.94%); (Cat10 - 69.34%)
Putts: (T10 - 1.719); (Cat10 - 1.643)
Key: T10 (Average for Top-10 finishers); Cat10 (Average for Top-10 in Category)
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves
Last Nine Weeks / Bay Hill Form (2011-20)
|Sung Jae Im||28||17||32||12||56||5|
|Si Woo Kim||MC||MC||50||MC||1||25|
|Erik van Rooyen||37||MC||MC||56||MC|
|Byeong Hun An||35||53||75||8|
|Sung Jae Im||3||3|
|Si Woo Kim||MC||MC||MC||49||63|
|Erik van Rooyen|
|Byeong Hun An||56||10||14||49||36|