Arnold Palmer Invitational offers Rory McIlroy a chance to win before the Masters but Jason Day needs a performance more than most

 
Sam Torrance
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World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship - Final Round
McIlroy made a bright return from injury in Mexico last time out (Source: Getty)

The first staging of the Arnold Palmer Invitational since the great man’s passing last year is sure to be a sad yet special occasion, as well as the fantastic week of golf at Bay Hill that we have come to expect.

As always there is a very strong field, with some of the leading contenders for next month’s Masters – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama – honing their preparations for Augusta.

Rory looked ready to fire on his return from a rib injury at the WGC event in Mexico earlier this month, where he led after 36 holes before finishing tied for seventh, and it would be no surprise to see him go even closer this week.

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His eyes will be firmly set on completing a career grand slam at the Masters, but he certainly wouldn’t shun a win here.

Day has more to prove, however, having seen Dustin Johnson take his world No1 ranking – and the limelight – over the last few weeks.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard - Final Round
Jason Day won at Bay Hill last year but has had a difficult start to 2017 (Source: Getty)

The Australian has not shown much this year, playing just four tournaments and pulling out of the WGC in Mexico due to illness. He is a wonderful player and the defending champion at Bay Hill, but he is overdue a performance.

I’ll also be keen to see how the next wave of English talent gets on at the event, with Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood all set to take part.

All three have shown form in recent months and look like they could be hitting their 10-15 year primes.

Home comforts for Chawrasia

SSP Chawrasia is a player I know well and he played beautifully to defend his Hero Indian Open title by seven shots on Sunday.

It saw him become the only man to win their first four European Tour titles in their home country. With form like that, I don’t know why he’d ever want to leave India.

GOLF-IND-OPEN
All four of Chawrasia's European Tour wins have come in his native India (Source: Getty)

Some players are like that; the great Jumbo Ozaki won nearly 100 tournaments but only two came outside of his native Japan, and those were in Australia and New Zealand.

It just shows how important it is for players to be comfortable with things like the food and the language. A happy heart makes for a happy mind – and better golf.

Scotland’s Scott Jamieson tied for third in New Delhi – an encouraging result after he let a chance to win in South Africa slip in disastrous fashion the previous week. Blips aside, when your game’s good, it’s good.

Hadwin's honeymoon dilemma

A fascinating finish unfolded at the Valspar Championship, meanwhile, where Adam Hadwin and Patrick Cantlay were tied heading up the last as they both searched for their maiden PGA Tour wins.

Canadian Hadwin had lost his lead when he found water and double-bogeyed the 16th but he stood up to a test of nerves to par the last two holes, and that proved enough for a one-shot victory.

Valspar Championship - Final Round
Hadwin's victory earned him a place at the Masters, which clashes with his honeymoon (Source: Getty)

I felt for Cantlay, who played some beautiful golf, while fellow American Wesley Bryan, who finished in a share of seventh place, also caught the eye. Bryan tied for fourth at his previous two events, so he looks like a player to watch.

It was Hadwin’s moment, though. As well as breaking his PGA Tour duck, he earned a first trip to the Masters which clashes with his honeymoon plans.

It leaves him with a big decision, but I’m sure his wife would be very happy with a week in Augusta.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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