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5 players to watch at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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Orlando is the next stop on the Florida swing, and it's Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill that will serve as this week's destination. Unfortunately, the King's not in the best of health -- he won't participate in next month's Masters ceremonial tee shot -- but he'll be on the minds of everyone in attendance.

And getting an opportunity to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational is a can't-miss occasion for many of the world's best. Unfortunately, eight-time winner Tiger Woods is still on the mend and Bubba Watson visited Palmer in person earlier to express his regrets.

Charl Schwartzel and Bill Haas, who faced off in last week's playoff at Innisbrook, also won't be there. Neither will Jordan Spieth.

That's OK. There's still an A-list of stars gathering to take on Bay Hill this week, including Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Zach Johnson.

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL: Pairings, tee times | Event fit for a King

Here are the five players to keep a close eye on this week:

5. Matt Every
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T24 at Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: Every has two career victories on the PGA Tour -- the last two visits to Bay Hill. Last year, Every birdied the final hole to complete a final-round rally and overtake Henrik Stenson to successfully defend his title.

But not much has gone right since. Every's missed three cuts this season and withdrawn twice in nine events. But for some reason, a return to central Florida seems to do wonders for the Daytona Beach native and University of Florida graduate.

4. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T9 at the Sony Open Hawaii
Reason to watch: There had never been an albatross at the Arnold Palmer Invitational since its inception in 1966, and suddenly Daniel Berger and Johnson did it in back-to-back rounds last season.

However, the Florida swing hasn't done much for Johnson's preparation for the Masters. He missed the cut at the Honda Classic and wound up with a final-round 80 at Doral. This could be a big week to get back on track.

3. Jason Day
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T10 at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Since winning the FedExCup Championship last fall, Jordan Spieth seems to have played anywhere and everywhere. Not so with Day, and perhaps that's why he believes Spieth may be suffering from a little bit of burnout.

Since his second child was born, Day's only played four times on the PGA Tour and only once on the Florida swing, finishing T23 at Doral. Rounding back into tournament form shouldn't be an issue, though.

The one cut Day missed this season, only a third of his drives found the fairway. That won't cut it this week, as Bay Hill is the perfect venue for someone who hits it long and straight, like Day did in winning last year's PGA Championship. The good news: Day picked up nearly a stroke a round at Doral with his putting.

2. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T3 at WGC-Cadillac Championship
Reason to watch: McIlroy hasn't been able to seal the deal in 2016. He stumbled to a final-round 75 at the Northern Trust Open and a 74 at the Cadillac Championship.

Why? The short holes are giving McIlroy fits. He's 7-over-par on par-3 holes this season, compared to -10 on par-4s and -32 on par-5s. He just hasn't shown the ability to make putts on a consistent basis this season. If that part of his game shows up, he could be in for a monster spring.

1. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Won Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship
Reason to watch: Can Scott make it three wins in a row? He took last week off after back-to-back victories. Oh, and don't forget losing by one stroke to Bubba Watson at the Northern Trust Open.

Scott's had success at Bay Hill before -- he led three rounds of the 2014 event before fading. What's been the difference? He's killing par-5s at an impressive rate. He was -10 at Doral, -6 at PGA National and -9 at Riviera on par-5s, which is just demoralizing for the rest of the field. Bay Hill sets up as another great venue for Scott as he continues to prepare for Augusta National in three weeks -- although he doesn't believe he should be considered the favorite there.

 

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