The PGA Tour well and truly got into its 2019 swing at Bay Hill, yet there was a real European Tour feel about the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Race to Dubai Champion Francesco Molinari (-12) topped the pile, ahead of 5-time European Tour winner Matthew Fitzpatrick (-10) in second, Tommy Fleetwood & Rafa Cabrera Bello (-9) in T3 and Matt Wallace & Rory McIlroy (-8) in T6.
More Molinari Magic
The Italian jumped 16 places on a hot March Sunday (a reminder that this was not, in fact, a European Tour event) in his typical bogey-free fashion. His 8-under 64 was the low-round of the tournament- trumping Cabrera Bello’s opening 65- but it came after a +1 Saturday 73 that saw him sitting on -4; five strokes off Fitzpatrick’s lead and 10 pairings off the final group of Fitzpatrick and McIlroy.
Despite not hitting his best until Sunday, Molinari did make a hole-in-one on the 7th during his opening round. This was followed by a second ace of the day on the same hole by Didier Points.
Five events played, five Top-6 finishes. Not bad from McIlroy, right? Well, the general consensus seems to be that this is the most disastrous run of form of any player in history. Now, there is obviously more to it than that. This marked his ninth consecutive appearance in the final pairing without a win and exactly one year since his last victory (in this very tournament), so there is a hump that needs getting over if he is to complete a career grand slam by slipping on the green jacket at Augusta next month. But five Top-sixes in a row at this level of the game? Give the guy some credit!
Tommy Fleetwood has looked primed to win a Major since his incredible closing 63 at last year’s U.S Open. The Englishman did his chances no harm with rounds of 69, 66 and 68 on Thursday, Friday and Sunday respectively showcasing himself at his brilliant best. A Saturday 76 cost him the title, but if he can learn to grind out less damaging scorecards during an off-day then he certainly has the ability to take a Major by the scruff of the neck.
There were 3 tickets to The Open at Royal Portrush up for grabs at Bay Hill. Last week’s winner, Keith Mitchell (T6), grabbed one spot with an 8-under on the final day, whilst two Koreans; Sungjae Im (T3) and Sung Kang (T6), wrapped up the others.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is pencilled in to return to action at The Players, along with Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm to round out the World Top 10. Tiger Woods also hopes to return from a minor neck strain which saw him withdraw from the API. Jason Day withdrew after six holes and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be fighting fit. Regardless, it will be the most prestigious field of 2019 so far and we’ve got the best players hitting their best form ahead of the so-called “Fifth Major”.
Francesco Molinari – What’s in the Bag?
Just before the tournament, Molinari signed an equipment deal with Callaway. The entire golfing world questioned why on Earth anybody would change their equipment following the season of a lifetime. Well, they shall question no more. One start, one win from Molinari the Callaway Staffer. Epic Flash woods, Mack Daddy 4 wedges and a Stroke Lab putter… the latest truly is the greatest for Molinari. This title adds to an impressive list of 2019 wins for Callaway’s new hardware; the most of any manufacturer.
Driver: Callaway Epic Flash Sub-Zero
Fairway Wood: Callaway Epic Flash Sub-Zero
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro 19
Hybrid: Callaway Apex
Wedge: Callaway Mack Daddy 4
Golf Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X
Written by Joe Carabini