When the Arnold Palmer invitational comes around, you can usually expect to see a good, tight week of golf. Just once in the past 12 years has the tournament been won by more than two shots and we have seen some thrilling conclusions over recent years. I’m expecting more of the same this week, with a whole host of golfers in contention, including last year’s winner Jason Day.
The Australian won last year’s tournament by one shot over Kevin Chappell in what was a typically close finish. Day scored very well over the first two days, scoring 66 and 65 to take control of the field, before playing well enough to keep them at bay over the final two days. A repeat of that form would see him go very close again this week and you wouldn’t like to be against him given his past course form.
He comes into the tournament having played four times this season and looks set to increase his workload as the bigger prizes loom on the horizon. He’s impressed in two of his outings this season and his best finish so far was a fifth as the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He has, however, failed to make the cut once and clearly looks like a golfer who will improve as the season goes on.
One other player I am very interested in this week is Henrik Stenson, who came back last week from an illness which ruled him out of playing two weeks ago. Stenson came second behind Matt Every in 2015 and tied for third, three shots behind Jason Day last year so this is clearly an event that Stenson likes and wants to win.
His seventh place finish in the Valspar last week was very good considering the circumstances and he has been knocking on the door this season, finishing second in both of the other events he has taken part in. Stenson is a lovely player to watch, he looks on form and this week sees him return to a course he plays well on. He looks sure to go close to winning the Arnold Palmer.
Charl Schwartzel doesn’t win very often on America soil, in fact, he has just two PGA wins in the States in his career. However, he does know what it takes to win and has won on the European Tour more often so don’t let that put you off.
He finished last week very well in the Valspar, scoring 67 and 68 on the final two days to pull himself up into a sixth-placed finish. If Schwartzel can bring his form from those final two days to the Arnold Palmer then he would become a lively outsider for this event.
Another player who has come close to winning this tournament in the past is Graeme McDowell. The Irishman has struggled with his game for the past few seasons and that is reflected in his current ranking which puts him outside the top 50.
However, Graeme can play some serious golf and in the past has finished second in this tournament twice, along with a 10th place finish in 2014. He has finished 14th in his last two events and Graeme looks like a golfer on his way back to his best. With The Masters just around the corner and Graeme not yet in the tournament, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him continue his upward curve over the next few weeks, starting this week at this event.
If history is anything to go by then this weekend should be close, and full of exciting golf. A whole host of players arrive with a chance of claiming glory and that will only add to the excitement we are likely to witness on Sunday afternoon.