Can stars shine at PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational?

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O.K., maybe we’re in the Bizarro World where up is down, black is white, right is left and great PGA Tour players are suddenly missing the cut.

How else can we explain the unexplainable like Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka both missing the cut in last week’s Honda Classic as two of the big favorites.

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We can’t. And what’s more frustrating is the fact these guys need to be hitting their stride as they get set for a run of major play in the coming months.

This week’s PGA Tour stop, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla., gives these top-ranked guys another shot at getting their acts together.

The problem is, the players in the next tier of greatness are closing the gap between those in the top-30 when it comes to world golf rankings. And the confidence of these up-and-comers closes that gap even more with every made putt, every made cut, every top-10 finish and every victory.

This week’s event also has a little more incentive for everyone in the field. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of the few regular-season events that give players three-year exemptions rather than two years with a victory. The Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods tournaments are also in that category while the majors and The Players Championship offer five-year exemptions.

But even with the added incentive of the extra year of exemption, we’re still back to the point of why the game’s top players have been stumbling and bumbling along in recent weeks.

Are they looking too far ahead? Are the course setups evening out the playing field? Or is it just plain ‘ol bad luck?

We’re going to go with the latter. It’s not often top players like Koepka and Fowler (along with others like Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley and Louis Oosthuizen) have bad tournaments during the same week and miss the cut.

We’re not going with any one of those who were sidelined early last week. We’re going to wait and give them a chance to get their heads and games straightened out.

We’re going to go back to the rising confidence in recent play as the main factor in this week’s top pick.

We like the fact Adam Scott helped us out with a victory a couple of weeks ago. We also like the fact that he’s 25-1. And, finally, we like the fact he knows to play events while the iron (or irons in this case) is hot.

He’s only played the Arnold Palmer event sporadically and his best finish is a third back in 2014. That’s been awhile. But prior to that third-place finish in 2014 he posted three top 10s heading into the event. This year, prior to this week, he’s won on the PGA Tour for the first time in a couple of years at the Genesis Invitational. That victory has him trending in the right direction.

And that’s what we want as The Players Championship approaches next week as well as the four majors in back-to-back-to-back-to-back months.

Have we convinced you? No? Well, you’re not alone. Even we’re not 100 percent sure of the pick. But the format we rely on is a little better than throwing darts at a dart board with the players’ pictures plastered on it, at least for now. But don’t tempt us. We’re open to change, especially if the rising stars keep rising and keeping passing the formerly rock-solid, world-beating players.

But we are going to keep one of those world-beaters, Rory McIlroy at 5-1, front and center. McIlroy was T-6 last year after winning the tournament in 2018. A few less loose irons and a few more made 10-footers and he could win again this week before he sets out to defend at The Players Championship.

That would help to put all of our Bizarro World thoughts to rest. Well, at least for another week.

About the Author

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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