With the year’s first major fast approaching, the cream of the PGA Tour has certainly been rising. Names like Rose, Woods, Reed, Mickelson, Stenson and more — including Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Rory McIlroy — have found their games rounding into form.
Before we get into breaking down last week’s action, I’d like to sincerely apologize — and note that, going forward, I must admit all the opinions expressed here are from a complete and total idiot.
Just a scant five days ago, I wrote of Rory McIlroy, “You all know it pains me greatly to put my boy Rors on the shelf, but that is the reality of the situation at the moment. With nothing promising in the bank this side of the pond in 2018, I’m saving his starts for the summer and fall — when he’s famous for heating up.”
Had I been privy to the fact that McIlroy spent a day prior to the AP Invitational with putting guru Brad Faxon, I might have changed my bet. Probably not, but maybe.
Either way, McIlroy put on an absolute clinic at Bay Hill — especially on Sunday, where his final-round 64 essentially stole the tournament for a bevy of other stars.
That said, there were plenty of players who fell somewhere between Rors and Smylie Kaufman — here’s a look at those who relished the opportunity to win Arnie’s tourney, and those who are happy to be leaving the sunshine state:
Rory McIlroy — All hail, Rory McIlroy! One thing I WILL take credit for here is that I have said aloud to anyone who’d listen that McIlroy hasn’t been off by much and that he was going to have a big, big year in 2018. Just two weeks from the Masters — the one tournament the young Irishman wants to win more than any other — McIlroy finally looked like the former World No. 1 he is. His Sunday 64 was punctuated with a back-9 31 lead to a three-shot victory — the 14th of his PGA Tour career.
Bryson DeChambeau — The guy who finished second? That’s be the self-proclaimed “golf scientist” Bryson DeChambeau. DeChambeau has shown flashes of brilliance all season long without ever really putting it all together. Last week at Bay Hill, he just about did. Save for that incredible 64 from McIlroy, DeChambeau would’ve been a remarkable story. For the SMU alum, the most important thing is that he’s found his form — just in time, too, with the Masters looming just 16 days away.
Henrik Stenson — It’s hard to put the solo-4th place finisher in a column called “bogeys” but I feel compelled to put Henrik Stenson these this week. Why? Well, after opening with rounds of 64 and 69, he was only able to muster matching 71’s on the weekend. Not bad, but not exactly what fantasy owners were hoping for from the Swede who slept on the 36 and 54-hole leads.
Tommy Fleetwood — English stud Tommy Fleetwood began the week on the short list of many fantasy experts — myself included. Unfortunately, Fleetwood struggled on Friday en route to a round of 76 — his only over-par round of the week. After making the cut on the number, Fleetwood bounced back nicely with rounds of 69 and 70 to finish in a tie for 26th. Fleetwood is still one of my favorites for the rest of 2018 and a player I’m watching closely with the Masters looming. If you’re wise, you’ll be watching, too.
Sam Saunders — Despite the fact that Sam Saunders has played some very solid golf in 2018, his biggest tournament is always going to be the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After all, the tournaments namesake was his grandfather. Saunders didn’t play terribly — shooting 77 on Thursday before righting the ship with a 69 on Friday. Unfortunately, he missed the cut by a single stroke and was relegated to host-like duties for the weekend.
Smylie Kaufman — I’m not one to kick a man when he’s down. Maybe skeptically question what in the hell is going on, but never to kick. For the second consecutive week, Smylie Kaufman finished DFL after rounds of 77 and 81 respectively. As much as I’d like to see Kaufman contend again soon, I’m not holding my breath. Until you see some signs of life, avoid like the plague.