Yes, golf fans. The show will go on at Bay Hill without Tiger Woods. In my humble opinion, that's a good thing, as it allows us to focus on players with more than just a glimmer of hope of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This week in Orlando, we're putting the emphasis on putting/short game in trying to predict a winner. A look at recent Bay Hill winners reveals that navigating the greens has been the key to victory as of late. Matt Every finished third in strokes/gained putting en route to his first PGA Tour victory there last year. Woods led the field in the stat during his win in 2013 and was a very respectable fourth in strokes gained/putting during his 2012 victory. In 2009, Woods also led the field on the greens en route to victory, and in 2010, Ernie Els finished ninth in strokes gained/putting on the way to a two-shot victory.
Since 2009, all but one Bay Hill winner has finished top 10 in strokes gained/putting.
Another reason for emphasizing putting this week is the Golfweek report that Bay Hill's greens are currently “shaggy” and will get a makeover following this year's event. Putting will definitely be a challenge, but for a different reason than usual.
Here are this week's picks along with each of their putters. Also included are odds courtesy of golfodds.com.
Adam Scott 15/1
After switching to a standard-length putter at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Scott finished T4 and was 12th in strokes gained/putting. He led by seven strokes through 36 holes last year at Bay Hill—due in large part to a first-round 62 in which he needed only 23 putts—but wound up finishing third after a Sunday 76.
It's clear that Scott hasn't quite settled on a comfortable replacement for the long putter, despite his solid performance at Doral. There, he used an Odyssey White Ice Core #7, but was spotted practicing at Bay Hill with a Scotty Cameron X6 prototype (according to Golf WRX). But if his performance at Doral is any indication, he's gaining confidence with the short putter.
A photo posted by GolfWRX (@golfwrx) on
However, Scott isn't set on fully abandoning the long putter just yet.
Sean O'Hair 50/1
O'Hair's playoff loss last week at the Valspar Championship is his best finish since the 2012 Sony Open, but he's had past success at Bay Hill (T14 in 2007, T3 in 2008, second in 2009). He was second in strokes gained/putting at the Valspar last week and led the field in putting from distances of three, four, five, seven and eight feet.
O'Hair is currently using a TaylorMade Spider Blade 2.0.
Henrik Stenson 10/1
Stenson has two top-five finishes in two starts in 2015 (T4 at Doral, fourth at Valspar) and is second in strokes gained/putting. He led the Valspar field in scrambling and told GOLF.com Tuesday at Bay Hill that his lob wedge is currently his favorite club -- how's that for short game confidence? If his putting and chipping live up to current form, he'll be near the top come Sunday.
Stenson is currently putting with an Odyssey White Hot XG #7H.
Check back Monday to see who conquered Bay Hill, and how they did it.