Thickest In 20 Years - This Week's Bay Hill Rough Is Brutal

Bay Hill has introduced thick rough to the event this year but Rory McIlroy is not sure it's for the better

PGA Tour Live AP
(Image credit: PGA Tour Live)

Course conditions at Bay Hill are usually consistent, with a fast, dry and firm surface and a swirling wind; although there are reports that it is a little softer than usual this March. One change, which comes at the bewilderment of Rory McIlroy, is thick rough.

“Yeah, it's a different course setup this year” he said ahead of the event. “It's a departure from what they've done the last few years. The rough is thick off the fairways, but then what they've done is they've taken out a lot of these runoff areas off the greens where historically it's been you'd miss a green and run off and you'd still have the chip off short grass, for example, and now that's all been filled in with rough.”

The four-time Major champion added: “There’s just so many areas that there were runoffs and sort of tight areas, which I think lends itself to the better chippers of the golf ball, and that's been sort of taken away this year. I don't quite understand why they've done that, but it's definitely a different test than one in previous years.”

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is renowned as one of the biggest events on the PGA Tour schedule. Whilst it is without its defending champion in Bryson DeChambeau, it hasn’t stopped the likes of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland taking part. The field boasts a whopping 31 of the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rory McIlroy pegs it up as one of the tournament favourites having finished T11 or better in six of his seven visits to Bay Hill. Speaking ahead of the tournament, the Northern Irishman was excited at the prospect this week. “It’s one of these courses that I don’t feel like I have to do anything special to compete,” he said, before adding: “I can play within myself, you take care of the par fives here, you play conservatively the rest of the way especially how the course has been set up the past few years.”

Take a look at the video below to see just how thick the rough is this year:

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This week marks the return of Rory McIlroy as he begins his stretch to the Masters, the lone major standing between him and the Career Grand Slam. The Northern Irishman enters with a resurgence to form having amassed five top-10 finishes in his last eight competitive appearances. 

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.