Our power rankings for the Arnold Palmer Invitational include several faces that are often reserved for sleeper status, as well as plenty of familiar names. The biggest question this week will, no doubt, center on what to do with Tiger Woods. From a power ranking standpoint, he’s an easy inclusion. His presence in a one-and-done lineup is very murky.
For the statistical purposes of player evaluations, I went with less over more this week. My scrutiny was limited to par 5 scoring average, SGP and Par Breakers. The normal doses of course history and current from were also sprinkled in.
Here we go:
- Bubba Watson – Earned high marks across the board, entering the week fresh off his runner-up at Doral and with a win at the Northern Trust Open in the very recent past. He’s finished inside the top 25 in his last three stops at Bay Hill, including a T4 in that span. Ranks inside the top 20 in all three of the aforementioned statistical categories.
- Justin Rose – Last year’s runner-up in the API, Rose had a realistic chance to close out a win at the Valspar last week until he couldn't make four-foot putts down the stretch. It isn’t just the runner-up at Bay Hill last year, it’s also the T15 and T3 preceding it. Shoulder concerns seem to be fading.
- Tiger Woods – I found it interesting that he has eight wins in 17 stops here, but just one other top 10. He’s truly been a feast-or-famine player by his standards at this event. The way Yahoo! breaks out this week, he stands to be an excellent compliment to Bubba Watson. His back issues are a yellow flag, but my guess is that his back will hurt in proportion to his position on the leaderboard. If he’s out of contention on the weekend at any time, he could burn you in a OAD due to a potential WD. If he’s in the hunt, he’s going to want to tough it out 2008 U.S. Open style.
- Graeme McDowell – Now an Orlando guy, GMac has twice finished runner-up here in his six starts. His T46 at Honda gave way to a T9 at Doral, so form appears steady at the very least. Should putting prove to be the decisive factor, he ranks sixth in SGP. For what it's worth, he was very optimistic on Twitter today in regards to his form. Of course, David Duval has been optimistic over the past few years as well and we see how that's turned out.
- Zach Johnson – Current form is a little cooler than we would like to see, but it isn't bad. He’s only missed the cut once in 10 tries, thrice cracking the top 10 and finishing as high as third in 2009. Not known for his length, he still ranks 12th in par 5 scoring average and fourth in Park Breakers.
- Kevin Na – Converging trends are way too strong to ignore, finishing T11, T2, T30 and T4 in his last four APIs and entering off T4 / MC / 2 run in his last three PGA TOUR starts. Ranks inside the top 25 in par 5 scoring average, SGP and Par Breakers. He lacks the class of his peers this high on this list in terms of pedigree, but any of the other top 10 would have been number one with those splits and trends.
- Adam Scott – See what I mean? Na is sandwiched between Masters champs and is the only non-major winner in the top seven. Back to Scott. He hasn’t been incredibly loyal to this event over the years, but has made four of six cuts including a T3 in 2004. He’s trying to begin his climb to peak form for his Augusta defense.
- Patrick Reed – He may be top five in his own mind, but comes in eighth in our rankings for his second API after a missed cut in 2013. Since I’ve been quiet on the topic thus far, I’ll say that any player with three PGA TOUR wins including a WGC in a seven-month span is probably playing like one of the five or ten best players in the world. His last six PGA TOUR starts have gone for a Win, T19, T13, T17, T24 and Win. Not surprisingly when considering those finishes, he ranks inside the top 25 in each of the three statistical categories we studied this week.
- Hunter Mahan – It’s not too complicated. Mahan’s finished T9 in his last two starts (the WGCs), so why not put him ninth this week? He’s 8/10 here, with just one top 10 but four top 25s. I was surprised to see that he ranked fourth in strokes gained-putting.
- Matt Every – In some ways, he deserves to be ranked higher than this. The one thing holding him back is course history, as he is three out of four with a T24 the best effort. He enters off a T6/T24/T8 run and ranks third, seventh and 11th in par 5 scoring average, strokes gained-putting and Par Breakers. He led the statistical segment of my research this week.
- Keegan Bradley – He has a missed cut in 2011 and a T3 last year, so the possibilities are seemingly endless. He’s been good this year, but doesn’t seemed to have hit his highest gear quite yet. Of all of those in the top 12 and the next 5, he has the worst statistical breakdown.
- Will MacKenzie – Dude is on fire. Had a T6 at Honda and a T4 at Valspar last week. He’s only one for three here, with a T44 the only paycheck, but everything else is a green light. He ranks inside the top 15 in each of our three stat categories.
Next 5: Chesson Hadley, Chris Kirk, George McNeill, Ryan Moore and John Senden
- Yes. I may have slighted Jamie Donaldson, but there just wasn't enough information to go on. His grade isn’t an “A” or a “D” but and “I” Incomplete.
- I did slight Henrik Stenson, but I've been very slow to warm up to him in 2014.
- Another guy that deserves an endorsement is Freddie Jacobson. He has three top 15s in six starts here and enters off back-to-back top 20s. His stats didn’t line up well, but his game has never been on paper.
- If you are looking for a deep sleeper, check out Arnie’s grandson. Sam Saunders sits 10th on the Web.com Tour money list after three starts and has finished as high as T30 in this event in the past.
- One housekeeping note, I’m not quite sure what tomorrow’s blog will look like. Along with my Golf Channel picks, my Yahoo! picks will now be published in a Rotoworld article alongside Rob Bolton, Ned Brown and Mike Glasscott. Because of the timing of when those picks must be submitted, I will be updating any changes on this space and Twitter, as late as Wednesday afternoon.
Best of luck to all!