Golf Glance: Molinari defends, Rory favored at Bay Hill

Field Level Media’s Golf Glance provides weekly news and storylines from each of the major North American golf tours.

PGA TOUR

LAST WEEK: The Honda Classic (Sungjae Im)

Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari. (Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

THIS WEEK: Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 5-8
Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla. (Par 72, 7,454 yards)
Purse: $9.3 million (Winner: $1.674 million)
Defending Champion: Francesco Molinari
FedEx Cup leader: Justin Thomas
TV: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel) 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC).

NOTES: Top-ranked Rory McIlroy has five top-five finishes in as many starts on the PGA Tour this season. He also won the 2018 event at Bay Hill. … Rickie Fowler and England’s Justin Rose have missed two of their past three cuts. … Matt Every won the event in 2014 and ’15, marking his only two Tour victories. … Arnold Palmer bought the Bay Hill property in the 1970s and the Tour event has been held there since 1979. … With the event holding elevated status, the winner will receive a three-year Tour exemption rather than the standard two. … Payne Stewart (264 in 1987) holds the tournament scoring record. … Phil Mickelson is in the field for the second consecutive year after playing it for the first time since 2013. … Molinari doesn’t have a top-20 finish since the Open Championship in July. … Australia’s Jason Day won the event wire-to-wire in 2016. He withdrew last year due to a back injury. … No. 3 Brooks Koepka is coming off a missed cut at The Honda Classic following a T43 at The Genesis Invitational.

BEST BETS: McIlroy (+500 at William Hill) is the heavy betting favorite. He finished T6 last year and has 11 top-10s in his past 13 worldwide starts, including a pair of victories. … England’s Tommy Fleetwood (+1400) is still seeking his first Tour victory but does have a win, a pair of runner-ups, a solo third and two other top-20 finishes in his past six worldwide starts. … Bryson DeChambeau (+1600) finished T46 at Bay Hill last year and has two top-fives in his most recent starts on Tour. … Australia’s Adam Scott (+2200) is ranked No. 7 in the world by winning two of his past three starts. … Im (+2500) is coming off his first win and finished T3 at Bay Hill last year.

NEXT WEEK: The Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

LPGA TOUR

LAST TOURNAMENT: ISPS Women’s Australian Open (Inbee Park)
THIS WEEK: OFF.
NEXT TOURNAMENT: Founders Cup, Phoenix, Ariz., March 19-22

Champions Tour

LAST WEEK: Cologuard Classic (Bernhard Langer)

Bernhard Langer
Bernhard Langer. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

THIS WEEK: Hoag Classic, March 6-8
Newport Beach Country Club, Newport Beach, Calif. (Par 71, 6,606 yards)
Purse: $1.8 million (Winner: $270,000)
Defending Champion: Kirk Triplett
Charles Schwab Cup leader: Langer
TV: Friday, 6-8 p.m. ET; Saturday-Sunday, 5:30-8 p.m. ET (All times Golf Channel)

NOTES: Langer is coming off his 41st career Champions victory and now has at least one win in 14 consecutive seasons. … The event has been held at the Newport Beach Country Club since 1996. … Triplett prevailed over Woody Austin in a two-hole playoff last year. … Vijay Singh is back in the field after the 2018 champion skipped his title defense to compete in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year. … Two-time event winner Fred Couples has three consecutive top-10s in as many starts this year and has finished in the top 10 in each of his seven previous starts in the Hoag Classic with a career scoring average of 67.0. … Retief Goosen will fly cross-country on Sunday to compete in The Players virtue of his win at the Senior Players last year.

NEXT TOURNAMENT: Rapiscan Systems Classic, Biloxi, Miss., March 27-29

–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media