Bay Hill preview: Whose game fits Arnie’s Place?

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Bay Hill preview: Whose game fits Arnie’s Place?

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is the fourth designated event of the PGA tour season. Forty four of the world’s top 50 players will tee it up at Bay Hill for the second leg of the Florida Swing. Jon Rahm is a well-deserved favourite, followed by Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, the top three in the OWGR. Behind them, the bookmakers place a group of blue chip players who are recent / proven winners: Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau.

The PGA ShotLink data from the last five editions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been run through Clippd’s algorithms and we can now see how Importance to Scoring breaks down for the course at Bay Hill. 

Importance to Scoring at Bay Hill

Clippd's Importance to Scoring insights show the parts of the game that have had the biggest impact on scoring for the entire field – both good and bad – over the last five years of this tournament. A higher percentage means a bigger impact on scoring. For the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Bay Hill course is usually set up like a US Open – scorable on Thursday and then progressively harder through the week. 

Clippd breaks this down still further below to identify the five specific skills that have the biggest impact. We use Clippd’s powerful new metrics, Player Quality and Shot Quality, to see whose game fits best.

Player Quality rolls up all the shots a player has hit to predict how well that golfer will play the next time they step up to hit a ball. Player Quality is represented as a whole number between 0 and 200, with 100 representing male tour average. 

We also look at Average Shot Quality over the last 20 rounds. Shot Quality measures how good a particular shot was, taking into account a variety of factors. It is also represented as a whole number between 0 and 200 with 100 representing the quality expected from a typical male tour player and 200 representing “statistical perfection”, such as a hole-in-one or a hole out from distance. So, who fits the bill at Bay Hill?

Mid and long-irons will be key

Clippd shows that over the last five years, by far the most important skill at Bay Hill CC has been Approach play from 180+ yards. This is at 18% for Importance, which is close to double the next most important skill on the list. Clippd shows that these players are in the best current form for APP 180+ yards:

Player Quality (100 is tour average): Jon Rahm 111, Adrian Meronk 109, Cameron Young 109, Sungjae Im 108, Collin Morikawa 108, Tony Finau 108, Justin Rose 108, Ryan Fox 108, Patrick Cantlay 107

Avg Shot Quality (last 20 rounds, 100 is tour average): Jon Rahm 111, Patrick Cantlay 111, Collin Morikawa 111, Tom Hoge 110, Sungjae Im 110. Others to note: Cameron Young 109, Rory McIlroy 108, Sepp Straka 107, Will  Zalatoris 106, Keegan Bradley 105, Corey Conners 104 

Who is chipping well from the thick stuff?

Bay Hill plays like a US Open venue, which now means thick rough around the greens. It is unusual to see ARG Rough rank this highly for Importance (10.4%), which points to the specific challenge posed by this particular expanse of Orlando real estate. Here’s a selection of players who are consistently getting it close from the thick stuff, and others to note:

Player Quality: Chris Kirk 121, KH Lee 116, Patrick Cantlay 116, Kevin Kisner 115, Hideki Matsuyama 114

Avg Shot Quality (last 20 rounds): Chris Kirk 131, Kevin Kisner 122, Russell Henley 121, KH Lee 120, Patrick Cantlay 116. Others to note: Jordan Spieth 114, Keegan Bradley 114, Scottie Scheffler 113, Collin Morikawa 112, Sahith Theegala 112, Billy Horschel 111, Corey Conners 110, Sepp Straka 110, Will Zalatoris 110

Driver of success

OTT Driver invariably appears in the most important skills for a PGA Tour venue. At Bay Hill, the driver is 10.1% for Importance.

Player Quality: Patrick Cantlay 117, Will Zalatoris 117, Cameron Young 116, Scottie Scheffler 115, Tyrell Hatton 115

Avg Shot Quality (last 20 rounds): Cameron Young 121, Patrick Cantlay 120, Scottie Scheffler 119, Will Zalatoris 118, Jon Rahm 117, Collin Morikawa 117. Others to note: Rory McIlroy 116, Corey Conners 114, Keegan Bradley 114

Tidying up and converting

The firm Bermuda greens at Bay Hill present a different challenge to Riviera, and many making their first appearance on this year’s Florida Swing will have to adapt to the change from poa annua to Bermuda grass. With thick collars and surrounding rough, contenders will be required to hole putt after putt at this length. These are some elite performers in this category today: 

Player Quality: Taylor Pendrith 108, Kevin Kisner 108, Max Homa 107, Viktor Hovland 107, Alex Noren 107

Avg Shot Quality (last 20 rounds): Kevin Kisner 108, Viktor Hovland 107, Sahith Theegala 106, Taylor Pendrith 106, Patrick Cantlay 105, Sepp Straka 105. Others to note: Jon  Rahm 104, Scottie Scheffler 104, Chris Kirk 103, Jordan Spieth 103

Making a splash

There are plenty of bunkers at ‘Arnie’s Place’, and with shaved surrounds to the hazards, ARG Sand comes in higher than usual for importance this week. Here are some of the leading escapologists in the field.

Player Quality: Chris Kirk 118, Scott Stallings 117, Shane Lowry 116, Justin Thomas 114, Tommy Fleetwood 114

Avg Shot Quality (last 20 rounds): Tommy Fleetwood 120, Justin Thomas 119, Will Gordon 116. Others to note: Chris Kirk 113, Billy Horschel 108, Jon Rahm 105, Patrick Cantlay 102, Sahith Theegala 102, Corey Conners 100, Scottie Scheffler 97, Rory McIlroy 97

Who does Clippd predict will thrive?

Course experience counts at Bay Hill, plus the new structure of the PGA Tour season means a large number of the top players competing this week are either playing in the event for the first time or the first time in a while. Those with strong records at the course include Rory McIlroy and Tyrell Hatton, and in recent years Chris Kirk, Max Homa, Corey Conners, Will Zalatoris and Keegan Bradley. However, when analysing the five key skills, which combined account for 57% of the skill set historically required to win at Bay Hill, Clippd identifies these five players:

1. Chris Kirk: He won last week, his game stacks up for the test and he likes Bermuda greens. His record at Bay Hill is also good. Player Quality: 104

2.Jon Rahm: No surprises here. Won at Riviera two weeks ago to go to World No.1 and he’s in incredible form. T17 last year. Player Quality: 105

3. Patrick Cantlay: Had a strong finish at Riv, shows great numbers across the board but has never played in this tournament. Player Quality: 106

4. Tony Finau: His numbers are good, he’s coming into form but last played Bay Hill in 2020 when he missed the cut. Player Quality: 106

5. Scottie Scheffler: The defending champion this week, in great form and his numbers stack up. Plus, he’s a winner already this year. Player Quality: 106