After last week’s relatively low-key Honda Classic on the PGA Tour, the fourth elevated event of the year takes place with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
That means, like the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the WM Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational, another field loaded with some of the best players in the world competes.
One of those is the defending champion, World No.2 Scottie Scheffler, who claimed his second of four victories of 2022 with a one-shot win over a chasing pack containing Billy Horschel, Tyrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland. It the tournament goes anything like the other event Scheffler has played in as champion this year, the WM Phoenix Open, he will be a happy man come Sunday evening considering his successful defence of the title at TPC Scottsdale.
If Scheffler does pull off the trick again, he will be the first player to successfully defend multiple tournaments in a season since Tiger Woods in 2007. The three players who finished runner-up last season are all back too, hoping to go one better this year. Of those, Hatton will surely fancy his chances considering he won the tournament three years ago.
So far, 2023, has been largely defined by one player – Jon Rahm. The Spaniard bagged his third win since the turn of the year at Riviera Country Club two weeks ago, when a nip-and-tuck final round with Max Homa finished with Rahm emerging on top after a two-shot win. While Homa was clearly despondent not to claim victory, his runner-up performance was enough to taking into the top 10 for the first time in his career. The World No.8 will be hoping to build on that in Florida this week.
As well as Scheffler and Hatton, four other former winners are in the field this week – 2011 champion Martin Laird, Jason Day, who won in 2016, Francesco Molinari, who claimed victory three years later and 2018 winner Rory McIlroy. Much of the focus will be on the performance of the Northern Irishman, who has slipped from first to third in the world rankings since the turn of the year despite winning the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour in January.
By his recent high standards, the two tournaments that have followed, In Arizona and at the Riviera Country Club, have been underwhelming for McIlroy, who finished tied for 32nd and tied for 29th in each respectively. He’ll be looking to recapture the form of five years ago with this week’s tournament. Based on his previous performances in the tournament, the omens are good. His…
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