It's Time For The Arnold Palmer Invitational At Bay Hill Club & Lodge #DKPartner

David Cannon. Getty Images.

It's time for Arnie's tournament! Welcome to one of the Tour's most iconic stops - Bay Hill Club in Orlando, FL. 

This tournament has a lot of rich history. It holds invitational status and now "elevated event" status, much like the Genesis a couple weeks ago. That means a limited field of 69 golfers and yet again, a big ol purse of $20 million is up for grabs, including $3.6M to the winner. 

Speaking of Tiger, this is also a tournament that he's historically dominated at. There are a handful of tracks that were on his annual schedule that he just obliterated fields at. Torrey Pines, Firestone CC, Augusta National, Muirfield Village, and Bay Hill are all courses that Tiger won 5+ times at, with Bay Hill leading the way with 8 wins. Some of his most iconic celebrations came here, including his first win in 2009 after the reconstructive knee surgery to repair the injury he played through at the 2008 US Open:

This tournament always bring the heat down the stretch, despite not having ended in a playoff this century. 12 of the past 18 tournaments has come down to a single stroke and last year was no different.

Kurt Kitayama sprinted out to an early lead with a pair of sub 70 rounds, which aren't exactly easy to come by on this course. He held off a pretty vicious gang of major winners and Ryder Cup heroes to edge out the field for his first career PGA Tour win by a single stroke. 

It was a ballsy final round by Kitayama where he held a 2-stroke lead on the 9th tee, but hit a foul ball and made triple bogey to blow the tournament wide open. Five players were tied for the lead with 3 holes to play, and Kurt took the bull by the horns with a 15 foot birdie on the challenging par 3 17th. He missed the fairway on 18, chopped it up onto the green, and was left with a challenging 50 foot lag to two-putt for the win…

And he damn near jarred it.

Easily one of the funnier coins that have ever been thrown down.

Last year's leaderboard and recent winners… 

2023 Leaderboard 

Recent Winners 

The Course 

Bay Hill is a par 72 measuring 7,466 yards on the pro scorecard this week. It was designed by Dick Wilson in 1961, who designed a handful of other notorious Florida courses such as PGA National and TPC Blue Monster at Doral. Arnold Palmer purchased the club and lodge in 1974 and his family has owned it ever since, with this tournament starting in 1979. 

It's well known for the role the water hazards play, which is surprising when you hear that water is only in play on 9 of its holes. Many of them force the players to make decisions based on both club choice and line, especially the 3rd and 6th. The rough is typically pretty gnarly and I've heard that's especially true this week.

In terms of what skillset plays best here, there is not a course on Tour with a larger emphasis on Strokes Gained: Off The Tee. I would attribute that more to driving accuracy than distance, mainly due to that aforementioned water. Long iron play is also a premium, with the shortest of the par 3's clocking in at 196 yards and the other three measuring over 215 yards. The greens are bermuda and are typically lightning fast, which tends to favor the more skilled putters on Tour. 18 is one of the great finishing holes with the water right and the pin usually tucked on the right on Sunday.

Best Hole - 6th Hole, Par 5 555 yards (… or is it?) 

This is a whale of a hole where something interesting almost always happens. The lake that separates the 3rd and 6th holes is nearly a perfect circle. If the circle were to be a clock, the back tee box is at about 7 o'clock and the green is at 12, roughly a mere 350 yards away on a straight line. This creates a fascinating dilemma in terms of what line the players take off the tee. Obviously the further left your line, the more water and risk you take on. But if you take too conservative a line, you can easily hit through the fairway and leave yourself another risky dilemma based on your angle at the green for your 2nd shot. I can't really think of another hole on tour that is designed so simply while also being completely unique in the way it challenges the players. 

Of course, this hole was the center of attention in 2021 as Bryson took on a completely different line as the rest of the field

This was rumored to be happening all week leading up to the event, so I had to fly my ass down to Orlando and catch it for myself first hand: 

Of course, Bryson was injured in 2022 and joined LIV shortly after, so he will not be playing here again anytime soon. Maybe somebody will have the balls to try it again, maybe they won't. But he wasn't the first to give it a go, albeit unsuccessfully… if you had one guess as to who that was, who would it be? 

Who knows if anyone else has the balls to try it again. In 2021 I saw Rory (twice) and Jason Kokrak (now also LIV) each try to cut off more yardage on the weekend and end up overcooking draws into the drink. It's a shame we won't get to see Bryson go at it again but maybe somebody else has the stones.

Also, Emiliano Grillo gave us one of the greatest club tosses the world has ever seen on this hole back in 2017. 

The Weather 

TV Coverage 

The API is always an NBC and Golf Channel show. Fitting given Arnie heckin founded the Golf Channel. I don't know that people know and appreciate that like they should. Dude was a visionary. Check out this sweet promo they did back in '95 when he launched it 

The Trophy/Sweater 

Michael Reaves. Getty Images.

This is some good looking hardware. That's not just some little golfer on top. That's the King with his classic high helicopter follow through. I've always said I love trophies that capture the fabric of a given tournament and this does that in a big way. And speaking of fabric, starting in 2017 after Arnold's passing you also get one of his iconic red cardigan sweaters. I love everything about it. This is another high grade, I'm giving this ensemble an 8.6/10

The Board

Scottie Scheffler is the favorite at Draftkings (#DKPartner) as of 6:30 am on Thursday. I know I'm getting this out late, but you can always grab some of these live and the most of the big dogs don't tee off until about 10 am anyway.

Scottie's my official pick at +650 anyway. This is one he's always played well at and has even won. We can do the whole song and dance about this putting - and it'll probably bite him in the ass again. But at worst I think we can feel pretty confident that he'll be in the mix on the back 9 on Sunday and that's always a good place to be. Taking him Top 10 -140 too.

Other Plays 

Justin Thomas +2800 To Win/Top 10 +250

Jason Day +3500 To Win

Sahith Thegala +6500 To Win/Top 10 +500

Matt Fitzpatrick Top Great Britain/Ireland +360

Nick Taylor Top Canadian +450

Cam Young +2800 - FOMO pick for sure. Maybe this is the one.

That's what I got. Apologies for the late send, been a wild week in Banks world. Enjoy the Arnie Palmie.