‘They almost skid’: Justin Thomas mystified by this Bay Hill feature

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas on Friday on the 6th green at Bay Hill.

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Justin Thomas admitted he was mystified. Bay Hill can do that to a person. It’s its specialty. 

There’s its water. And ensuing balls in the water. There are its tight targets. And ensuing balls in the rough. On and on. And the scores go up and up. Though Mickey and Minnie’s home is right down the street, Bay Hill is no Disney World. 

Arnold Palmer, its seven-major-winning longtime proprietor, wanted it no other way. The King would be content. 

“Yeah, it’s a beast of a golf course,” Will Zalatoris said Tuesday, two days before Bay Hill started its run as the host of the invitational named after Palmer

“We always joke about how the week gets harder and harder. We always, kind of by Sunday, everyone’s always kind of joking about how Arnie’s smiling from heaven watching the carnage.”

To that, Thomas wanted to add this:

Bay Hill’s greens were stumping him. 

The greens weren’t “crazy firm.” Balls didn’t bounce on them. 

But they were hard to spin chips on. Balls didn’t grab.   

“It’s hard to explain,” Thomas said. 

“It’s not like they’re taking — they kind of, like, lose their spin as they land. As I say that, I realize it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but it’s just, it’s not like an Open Championship-type firm, where the balls are bouncing kind of up to your head. They’re just kind of, like, they almost skid.”

Notably, he was talking after hitting putts a bit poorly during Thursday’s first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, ranking 44th in the 69-player field in Strokes Gained: Putting (-0.396) in a round of three-under 69. Friday, after a second-round score of 71, he was marginally gaining shots on the field in the putting metric. 

On day two, on hole two, Thomas had another Bay Hill story. 

Or a warning. 

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“I think it’s only going to get firmer and faster as the day goes on,” he said. 

“I could tell just literally on 2. I mean, usually in the morning with a little bit of moisture, chips will kind of skid, but I had one that was probably four, five yards short of the green after my tee shot, very basic chip, and the sound it made when it landed, I was like, I handed Bones [Jim “Bones” Mackay,” his caddie] my wedge and got my putter and I was like, ‘Did you hear that?’ And I’m like, this is, this could be tough today. But, yeah, it’s Bay Hill. It got very, very firm and fast on the weekend last year and it seems like it’s trending that way again.”


To note, Bay Hill, according to a PGA Tour release, plays on TifEagle Bermudagrass greens — and the Arnold Palmer event typically turns the dial on them toward devilish. Thomas was seeing that unfold. Others were, too. Shane Lowry said the greens were getting “crusty.” Interestingly, Rory McIlroy said on Friday the greens looked faster than they are, so add that to the perplexity.  

We’ll end things here with Zalatoris. 

And what he’s heard some players ask for at Bay Hill. 

“The thing about this place especially is, when you don’t have wind, it makes the greens a lot easier, especially when they get glassy,” he said. “They almost get to a point where guys — I’ve heard guys asking rules officials in the past about can they put some sort of stick-’em on the bottom of their putters, just because their putters are sliding around — which, no, they can’t do that. 

“But once they get that glassy, when you got those downhillers, you’re basically just trying to commit to a good putt and just hope it holds its line.”

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