Arnold Palmer Invitational First-Round Leader Tips: Sergio can start fast

Weather forecast for Thursday: It’s a sunny day at Bay Hill with temperatures quickly rising into the 70s and then peaking in the mid-80s by mid afternoon. Wind speeds are fairly modest at around 4-5mph although it could gust a little for the later starters. Historically, there’s an even split between a.m. and p.m. when looking at first-round leaders so I won’t be swayed by tee-times.

Get with Garcia

One thing to note when looking at recent first-round leaders here is the number of Europeans and Internationals taking Thursday honours.

Nine of the last 11 to have had a piece of the R1 lead are Corey Conners, Rory McIlroy, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Henrik Stenson, Emiliano Grillo, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jason Day, Adam Scott and Justin Rose.

That’s five Euros, two Aussies, a Canadian and an Argentine.

Coincidence? Perhaps not when we look at leaderboards from other Florida events.

So, this helps point me towards Sergio Garcia at 50/1.

The Spaniard has plenty of quick starts to his name in recent tournaments.

Between mid-October and early January, Sergio ended day one inside the top five in four straight events – the CJ Cup, Mayakoba, the DP World Tour Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic.

That’s one box ticked. The other would be some low first-rounds at Bay Hill.

Surprisingly, he hasn’t played the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 2013. However, go back through his record and he’s posted six top 10s at the Florida track and has ended Thursday’s play inside the top eight on four occasions.

There’s definitely enough there to play Garcia at 50s.

Pick Poulter to provide early birdies

Lee Westwood finished runner-up here last year so, as well as Garcia, I’ll also add in another veteran Ryder Cup star.

Ian Poulter had made his last 11 cuts at Bay Hill and never finished worse than tied 46th in that run.

“I like this course; it sets up well for me,” he said a few years ago.

The Englishman started 2022 with a top six in a classy field at the Abu Dhabi Championship and was solid enough when tied 30th in last week’s Honda Classic.

The Orlando resident was second after round one here in 2015 while he’s finished the opening lap inside the top 15 in both of the last two years.

As for recent starts, Poulter was fourth at close of the first day’s play in Abu Dhabi last month via a 66 while he opened with a 68 in Saudi.

Rai can fly early on

This is Aaron Rai‘s first start at Bay Hill but you can say that about all the PGA Tour courses he’s played since winning his card and it hasn’t stopped him making fast starts and having strong weeks.

The Englishman has a sixth at Torrey Pines and three other top 20s to his name so far which is a decent effort.

He’s been doing his best work in round one and has opened with 67 in four of his last six events, including last week’s Honda Classic.

Rai was fifth following Thursday’s action at PGA National and ninth after 18 holes at Torrey Pines. There’s plenty of reason to think he can make his mark on day one again at 80/1.

As for tee-times, Garcia goes out at 12:57, Poulter at 13:08 and Rai at 07:10.

Author: wpadmin

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