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Power Rankings - Arnold Palmer Invitational

I'm going to take a typical golfer reaction to last week and blame everyone but myself for how my teams performed. I've noticed a marked decline in my points since I've restarted writing here and it has absolutely nothing to do with my terrible picks despite having the winner in my rankings for many of the weeks thus far. Death by analysis. Also, I've got entirely too much cultural theory and history clogging my mind that I can't see straight. Or I've got a working system that I just can't seem to pick the right players out of. Most likely that.

Risk and Reward

On any note, the Arnold Palmer Invitational features Bay Hill, a pretty unusual course with regard to fantasy golf. The track favors a dual-facet type of player, long ball-strikers. Tiger Woods proved this through his eight wins here, as he was typically one of the longest in the field and one of the best at getting the ball on the green. Although Tiger isn't playing this week (Woods is shooting for a return at The Masters), if you add in winners like Vijay Singh and Ernie Els, guys who were never quite the longest but even today aren't the shortest, and while there are some exceptions, that paradigm is very much borne out in the list below.

For those of you not familiar with my Power Rankings, I'll be listing the Top-15 with their Total Aggregate (TA), a number that combines recent performance with course history and some select other metrics, and the change (CHG) from the last tournament they participated in. Total Aggregate is out of 100, with a lower number indicating a better ranking. I've re-weighted course history some to try to find a better balance.
  1. Bubba Watson - TA: 12, CHG: (+1.6) - With no Patrick Reed or Jordan Spieth this week, you'll be hard pressed to find an American golfer playing better than Bubba right now. Granted, the same could have easily said about him last year, when his "allergies" forced him to withdraw. I know, I'm allergic to 82's as well. He's still without a finish worse than 14th on the PGA Tour this year, including a win at the HSBC Champions. Add in his recent track record here (T14 in 2013, T4 in 2012, and T24 in 2011), and he's as good as it gets here.
  2. Henrik Stenson - TA: 20.25, CHG: (-0.4) - Two fourth place finishes in his last two starts would be sufficient enough to start him, but consider that they were done on two vastly different courses, and it shows the range of skills Henrik Stenson has. Doral favors long-hitters and Innisbrook loves ball-strikers, both fare well at Bay Hill. 5th, 8th, and 15th in his last three starts here, Stenson is a perfect pick.
  3. J.B. Holmes - TA: 23.5, CHG: (+19.6) - There's just no way for me to use "Holmes" as anything other than J.B.'s surname without giving away, completely, just how hopelessly white I am. I'm sure my glass of red wine and affinity for folk rock don't help either. That aside, Holmes has been excellent in his last four starts, finishing no worse than T22 with a pair of second place finishes. He's perfect at Bay Hill, though not always spectacular, and has a Top 10 and Top 25 in his last two starts here.
  4. Brooks Koepka - TA: 25.83, CHG: (+5) - He's struggled some since his breakthrough win at the Farmers Insurance Open, but he appears to have turned it around at Doral where he finished 17th. He's, seemingly, where Patrick Reed was last year - definitely capable of winning but missing the consistency from start to start. This tournament - where he finished 26th last year - could be a signifier as to whether or not he's handling the learning curve faster than Mr. Reed.
  5. Shane Lowry -  TA: 26.38, CHG: (+1.6) - That you likely didn't notice he was playing this week says a lot about how underrated Shane Lowry has been this season. He doesn't do anything exceptional, but he does a lot of things above-average. His season finishes thus far, are included in that, with no finish worse that 34th, but a single Top 10 and a pair of Top 25s. He's yet to play Bay Hill, but he's managed to handle new tournaments just fine so far, since each has been a new one for him this season.
  6. Jason Day - TA: 28.25, CHG: (+1.8) - I know what you're thinking, "You've gone mad! Holmes, Koepka, and Lowry above Day?! Have you traded your senses for some great land near the North Pole?" and you'd be right. I bought land in the Arctic Circle and at our current rate it'll be a vacation destination by 2030. Day isn't here for much more than a pedestrian finish in his last start at the WGC-Cadillac and some flat finishes at Bay Hill, where he has a lone 25th place finish as his lone highlight in three starts. Still good, but only slightly less awesome than those above.
  7. Ian Poulter - TA: 29.88, CHG: (-0.6) - A few bad swings have kept him from winning both the Honda Classic and possibly the Valspar. The question for Poulter is this - what is it about stroke play events that causes you to lose focus? As formidable an opponent as he is in match play, he fades as soon as he contends in regular tournaments. If he's going to get his first PGA Tour stroke play win, it'll be this week at Bay Hill where he's finished no worse that 21st since 2011.
  8. Sean O'Hair - TA: 30.625, CHG: (+19.6) - I'm kicking myself over this one. I had him in my DraftKings lineups as a punt given his ridiculously low price of $4,000, and I tinkered, dropping him in favor 60th place Spencer Levin. Whoops. After his playoff loss last week, his value has more than doubled for DK games, but he may still be worth the asking price this week. Aside from a missed cut in 2011, he's been exceptional here, with a T40 in 2013 being the low watermark in a long list of Top 25s, Top 10s and Top 5s here.
  9. Kevin Na - TA: 31.75, CHG: (+7.6) - "Na"t this guy again! Every time he's here, you all have to suffer through one more terrible joke. I'm not sorry. He finished 14th here last year after a second place finish at Innisbrook en route to a career best earnings year despite not winning any events. Na got off to a slower start this year, but with two Top 10s in his last two starts, he seems poised to contend at an event where he's had success in the past. 
  10. Graeme McDowell - TA: 33.63, CHG: (-1.8) - How is this Irishman different than his conspicuously-absent-thus-far, world-number 1 compatriot? He's not only played here, but enjoyed a fair amount of success, including a T10 and a T2 in his last three starts at Bay Hill. His last few starts have been less than stellar, but his history here should resolve that.
  11. Rory McIlroy - TA: 34.625, CHG: (-1.4) - He's been clear that he doesn't currently have his A-Game. While that certainly doesn't mean much, considering his B-game is better than most A-games out there, it does mean he's not extremely confident. Walking into a track he's never played before adds another layer of uncertainty concerning the world's best golfer.
  12. Hunter Mahan - TA: 35.78, CHG: (-9.6) - A stronger field would have seen him quickly bumped off the list since his recent form has been closer to Ford than Ferrari. Still, he's not missed a cut in 14 starts, and owns a solid history here with four Top 25s. With a reduced cut number, he may be worth a flyer, but given his recent form, there may be better choices.
  13. Charles Howell III -  TA: 36.38, CHG: (+9.2) - Howell in the world has this guy not won in nearly eight years? He's yet to record his annual Top 3, and his T10 at a tight Innisbrook course should give him momentum going into Arnie's Place. Since 2001, he's played here every year, missing just two cuts while racking up almost half a dozen Top 25s. Never really a sleeper, but he's definitely worth a flyer.
  14. Camilo Villegas - TA: 36.88, CHG: (+3.2) - Now this is what I love about my aggregate system; I never would have looked twice at Villegas without it. Not that he's a bad player, but because there are so many more recognizable names in this field, I would have lost him in the shuffle. Enough self-aggrandizement and ten-cent words, he's playing well right now with four Top 30s in his last six starts. Put that in a blender with his T20 last year and T16 the year prior, and you'll get a tasty beverage.
  15. Daniel Berger - TA: 37, CHG: (0) - Don't write this kid off just yet. He took a break, came back and missed the cut on the number. Since his prior missed cut, he finished in the Top 25 once, Top 10 twice and lost a playoff. Not a bad stretch for a rookie. Even though he's never played here, his game sets up well for the course and he hasn't missed consecutive cuts since his first two events kicking off his PGA Tour career this season.

Thanks for reading!

Kyle Donovan