Well, that felt like deja vu. Another year at Arnie’s place is in the books, and much like last year, a final round 64 stole the show. Instead of Rory McIlroy though, it was Francesco Molinari who delivered the Sunday heroics. Much like his play during the British Open and Ryder Cup last summer, Francesco was nothing short of stellar on Sunday. He routinely hit laser like shots off the tee and into greens, and seemed to hole at least every other putt. While Sunday was a glorious one for the fans of meatball Molinari, it yet again left a lot to be desired for the legion of McIlroy fans. Rory once again couldn’t seem to dial up the shots needed to chase down the leader on Sunday, and quite frankly didn’t even give himself enough looks to do so. We’re not going to harp on Rors, as no matter how much this happens, it remains a matter of time.
Others in the hunt Sunday included Matty Fitz, Tommy Fleetwood, RCB, and Sungjae Im. Fitzy actually played very solid golf for his first time being in remote contention on the PGA Tour, and May have won if not for Francesco’s charge. Tommy and Rafa bounced back nicely from poor rounds earlier in the week to finish solidly, and how about Sungjae’s grit. This kid totally collapsed when in the lead just a week ago, and yet here he is putting himself back in the mix. No fear of failure from Mr. Im. Maybe a lesson to be learned for all of us! Because Molinari finished well before the leaders, there wasn’t the typical drama a Sunday 64 would provide otherwise, but it was still a quality tournament. Arnie’s week always brings out one of the strongest pre major fields of the year, and this was no exception. Before we head to the newly scheduled March Players Champsionship, let’s take a look at some takeaways from Bay Hill:
1) The Meatball is Cookin’: When Mike put out his Power Rankings last Tuesday, my first reply was something that had to do with Molinari being far too high. Yikes. I hadn’t think Francesco had shown enough to deserve such an esteemed ranking (#3), but he sure showed up. Following a solid finish in Mexico, he put it all together this week. Sometimes for the top players in the world, all it takes is a solid week to return to winning form. Molinari was solid all week, but obviously took it to another level Sunday. Not much negative you can say about a bogey free Sunday 64. Well done, meatball. Just don’t beat Tiger again in a major this year.
2) J–Day’s Back: Wow. One of the biggest storylines this week occurred very early on Thursday morning, when a seemingly healthy Jason Day withdrew after hitting the ball in the water on the par 5 16th. While unknown at first, it was later revealed that Day has a tear in a disk in his lower back, and was hoping the back would “loosen up” when he started playing. Interesting strategy, but you can’t blame the guy for trying to play. We wish Day all the best in getting healthy, and hope to see him back soon. A big issue this raises is about the lack of news the PGA Tour provides on player injuries. No other sport (sans Hockeys “upper” or “lower” body injury reports), comes close to the lack of knowledge fans get regarding golfers. Obviously this hits home because we have a one and done pool where plenty of people took Day. But even simple things like Patrick Reed playing a new ball for the first time last week (wouldn’t have chosen him) are crucial to fantasy golf participants and fans in general. No idea if a change is coming, but count me in on some more health and player information.
3. Return of the Ice Man?: Henrik Stenson has been awful for his year. No way around it. He’s missed almost all of the regular events he’s entered, and his ball striking has been no where near what we’re used to seeing. However, Stenson showed serious life this week. After an opening 77 that had everyone believing another MC was coming, he fired rounds of 66, 69, and 71. Really quality stuff from Henrik, and just in time for one of his favorite venues, TPC Sawgrass. It remains to be seen if that form carries over, but given his past success at the Players, be on the lookout for Henrik this week.
Honorable Mention: Sungjae’s bounce back, Fleetwood keeps knocking on that door
We’ll stick to 3 this week, as there wasn’t too much drama and we are all ready to move on to one of the biggest weeks of the year. The Players is here, and with it comes the best field in golf. There are a ton of storylines to look for this week, so be on the lookout for Mike’s Power Rankings today and Jack’s Storylines on Wednesday. Once you’re all prepared, then on PGA Tour Live, kick your feet up, ignore the boss, and watch the best golfers in the world battle it out at one of the best venues in the game. Til’ next week!