Arnie's Tournament, Tiger's Back & Rory's Weekend Struggles
By Mark Morton on March 11, 2020
There are not many venues on the PGA Tour that are more familiar to golf fans then Bay Hill, where the presence of Arnold Palmer will always be felt. This tournament always has a strong field, partly because of the venue, but mostly due to the respect that the game's best players will always have for Arnie. True to form, the 2020 version of the API once again attracted many of the game's top ranked players and the weather and course setup provided a stern test that can't help but offer some insights into the 2020 major golf championship favorites.
Make no mistake, England's Tyrrell Hatton was no fluke winner. This was his 2nd win in his last 4 starts which also included a T6 at the WGC - Mexico Championship. And in 2019 Hatton he finished T6 at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush and T21 at the U.S. Open. So this guy can play and winning at the API often portends a decent-to-good finish at The Masters.
Recent API Winners and Masters Finish Same Year
I'm not sure if it's too repetitive to mention Rory McIlroy and his continued weekend struggles, but once again he was in contention going into Saturday and fell flat. He finished 73-76, including a front 9 score of 40 on Sunday. So how does one look at Rory's 7th straight top 5 finish and what it means for his 2020 majors? It's hard to say really. He could've won 4-5 times in the last 7 events yet he managed just a single win. Maybe the best is yet to come and he will break out and win 2-3 majors in 2020, or maybe his weekend struggles will only frustrate his chances. Is he one of the top favorites heading into this week's Players and Augusta in April? Yeah he surely is, but given his inability to close the deal I don't know if I would bet on him winning either of those events. He's clearly playing better than anyone else right now, but these weekend miscues have to exact a toll. We shall see.
Bryson DeChambeau continues to play well and find his way into contention, the API was his 3rd straight top 5. Marc Leishman moved back into the world top 15 with his second place finish at Bay Hill, but he's still hard to figure. His last 4 finishes (2nd, T42, T43, 1st) are feast or famine, so it will be interesting to see how he does at The Players as that might give us more info on his chances at Augusta where his record is eerily similar in that he finishes really well, or really poorly (he's missed 3/7 cuts at The Masters, but has also had 2 top 10s).
The most intriguing news items right now are the health of Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka. Tiger missed the API and later withdrew from The Players saying his back just isn't ready, which makes us wonder how many times he will be able to play before The Masters. If anyone in the history of the game deserves the benefit of the doubt, it's Tiger. Remember that in 2019, he skipped the API and wasn't much of a factor at The Players, then slipped on his 5th green jacket in April. But at least he was playing himself into form in some manner last year, it's hard to say how these current setbacks will affect his 2020 Masters. Koepka looks to be healthy after his recent knee surgery, but his play has been sketchy. He shot 81 on Saturday at Bay Hill, but did rebound with 71 on Sunday. He has a full schedule upcoming and looks intent on playing his way into shape and it will be hard to count him out come summer at the U.S. Open.
Check in next week for a review of the 2020 Players Championship!