Valspar

Basically an afterthought when the final round began; starting an hour 20 minutes before the final group and five shots back, Paul Casey went out there and fired the round of the day to literally WIN the event. Casey drained SEVEN birdies and parred his final five holes to post 10-under, a tall task around the Snake Pit, to get his first win on Tour since the 2009 Shell Houston Open.
The 40-year-old Englishman had 23 top-5 finishes on Tour since that win, and now that he’s decided to reclaim his European Tour membership, he’s a good bet to be on Thomas Bjorn’s European Ryder Cup team later this year.
Even Paul himself got a little caught up in the Tiger Mania though, saying on Saturday that if he isn’t able to win, he hopes Tiger can get it done. And upon beating him, Casey confirmed to the Media he will be looking into getting a framed photo of the leader board showing his name atop Tigers. I’d do the exact same thing.

TELEMMGLPICT000157160428_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqzZqOgOJXOqkE_ZaqGDwVPEdf_OiVYVGkvIKmDFjML5I

We all know what the REAL story was last weekend: TIGER

For Tiger to be in the thick of things THIS soon, I could not be more excited for the Masters

Sure the final day may not have gone perfectly, although he DID start with a Birdie to nab an early share of the lead, but Tiger was unable to dial in his approach shots like he did over the first three days, and couldn’t get a putt to drop. He made two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars for a final round 70, but dazzled the golfing world in the process. And there WERE moments.
Saturday… Those birdies, that chip in… MMM. But Sunday…The second I saw him walk to the Putting Green in that fitted, Blood Red Shirt… the adrenaline was pumpin. After that birdie on 1, I was standing in disbelief. And sure there may not have been anything MASSIVE until the 17th green, but, I do recall his tee shot on the par-3 8th to Ten feet, but he missed, maybe the only time I’ve ever seen Tiger start the early walk but the putt NOT go in. Then The Par-5 15th: That chip was inches from dropping in for birdie, INCHES. And then just when you thought he was out of it, two down with two to go and 45 feet for birdie on 17… He does THAT.

I still get chills thinking about it. That was incredible. We all had hope for ONE MORE miracle birdie putt, but the magic ran out on 18 when his putt came up just short. Still though, what a week.

promo345073425

These two stats really put things in perspective personally:

1st: Tiger is PUMPING the ball out there. On Saturday at the Par-5 14th Hole Tiger ripped one, registering a club head speed of 129.2 MPH. Sounds fast right?! Its the Fastest swing recorded by ANYONE on Tour this season. ANYONE! Tiger is over 40!
And one more ridiculous stat: Jordan Spieth, who was paired with Tiger the first two rounds, well, he missed the cut unfortunately. This marked the 19th time 24-year-old Jordan Spieth has failed to make it to the weekend as a Pro. Know how many missed cuts Tiger has in his CAREER?! Injuries and all?? 42 years old and all? 18 Total , 17 on the PGA Tour. Wow

There were tons of other storylines as well, but for the sake of space, check out the Podcast or Video for those (Link at Bottom of Page) For now, onto Bay Hill

Arnold Palmer Invitational

This week on the PGA Tour is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
Bay Hill of course, was Arnold Palmers winter home until his passing some 19 months ago, and anything involving Arnold will attract the best players in the game. This week is no different.
Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, 2016 winner Jason Day, Rory McIlroy honorary co-host Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama… The list goes on of guys returning to challenge reigning titleholder Marc Leishman.

Overall, Bay Hill welcomes five of the top 10 in the current world rankings and 12 of the top 25.
It has been Five years since Tiger last teed it up at Bay Hill, but he essentially owns the place, winning 8 times and recording 14 Top-25 finishes in 17 starts here. Ridiculous. So go ahead and make him the favourite.

Rickie Fowler, taking his co-hosting duties very seriously, showed off some new threads for the week in honor of Arnie. Peter Jacobsen and Nancy Lopez will share the hosting duties with Fowler.

As for the course, Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 7,419 yards, par 72 – became an item of Palmer’s affection upon playing an exhibition there in 1965. Palmer proclaimed it the “best course in Florida” and set about to purchase the club to make his winter base. The PGA TOUR arrived in 1979, when the old Florida Citrus Open moved across town to “Arnie’s Place.”

Bay Hill’s closing trio of holes often generates a dramatic finish, many of which have been by Tiger, but probably the most dramatic was the 7-iron hole out at No.18 by Robert Gamez to stun Greg Norman in 1990.

Last year it was Marc Leishman emerging victorious; it was his 2nd PGA TOUR win, nearly five years after the 2012 Travelers Championship. He also became the first Invitational winner after Mr Palmer’s passing.

Picks

Real Quick, my streak of Three straight winners ended last week. Here were the results:

Jordan Spieth – MC                        Adam Hadwin – 12th Place

Jason Dufner – MC                          Kevin Na – Withdrew

Charl Schwartzel – 49th Place      John Huh – MC

Alright this week:

Main Stuff I’m looking at THIS WEEK are: Recent history, Tournament History, Strokes Gained Approach, SG: Ball-Striking, Bogey Avoidance and Good Drive %.

Minor Stats factored in are: Average DraftKings Points, SG: Putting, SG: Short Game, Proximity 200+ Yards (Key Yardage this week)

Favourites

Tommy Fleetwood: Last Three Finishes 4th, 14th, 37th, Has Made ALL 13 Cuts this season, Has a top-ten at Bay Hill, 8th in the Field in Overall Stats/Form Ranking

Alex Noren: 33.85 Strokes Gained in last Five Weeks, Last 4 finishes: 14th, 3rd, 16th, 21st, Has Made ALL 10 Cuts this season, 1st OVERALL in Stats/Form ranking for the week, Individually 2nd in SG: Ball-Striking, 3rd Bogey Avoidance, 4th in SG: Approach

Tiger Woods:  It’s Tiger Woods at Bay Hill. But okay: 2nd and 12th Place last two finishes on Tour, 8x Winner here (Last start in 2013 was a Win), 14 top-25’s in 17 starts at Bay Hill (Yeah, really), and to top it off Tiger ranks 16th in the field in Current Stats/Form

Potential Contenders

Luke List: 31.29 Strokes Gained over last five weeks,  Last Four finishes on Tour: 16th, 2nd, 26th, 26th, Has Made 5 Straight Cuts, 10th Overall in Current Stats/Form, 2nd in the Field in Bogey Avoidance

Jason Kokrak: Last 4 Tour Finishes: 8th, 20th, 35th, 31st, Has Made 6 Straight Cuts, Three top-20 finishes at Bay Hill in last 4 starts (Including a 4th and a 6th), 13th Overall in Form/Stats, 4th in the Field in Good Drives

Bubba Watson: 29.58 Strokes Gained in last five weeks, Last two finishes on Tour: 9th and 1st, 4 straight Cuts Made, 15th Overall in Form/Stats Ranking, 5th in Field in Bogey Avoidance

Longshots

Kevin Chappell – 17.08 Strokes Gained over last five weeks, Last 4 finishes on Tour: 30th, 20th, 8th, 31st, Has Made 7 straight cuts, Has a 2nd and 14th place finish at Bay Hill, 14th Overall in Field Form/Stats ranking, 1st in Field in SG: Ball Striking

Sam Burns – 12th and 8th in last two finishes on Tour, has made 4 of 5 cuts this year, 1st in the field in SG: Putting, his WORST stat is 48th in the field in good drives – pretty crazy for a WORST stat to still be in the top half of the field.

Francesco Molinari – 8 of 9 cuts on the year, THRIVES at Bay Hill: 37.39 Strokes Gained over last 5 seasons at API, Finishes of 7th, 9th, 17th, 5th, 34th in last 5 trips here.

For a better look at my condensed field and the numbers behind them, here’s my spreadsheet for the week.

API Spread

And in case you missed it, this weeks Full Teeing Off Video

 

Thanks for reading! Good luck this week.

@RJMcCullough

Leave your thoughts here!