This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
Arnold Palmer Invitational pres. by Mastercard Betting Preview
The PGA Tour heads to Orlando for the fourth designated event of the season — the Arnold Palmer Invitational pres. by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
The $20 million purse brings with it an even better field than we’ve seen in prior years, one that includes 19 of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and is headlined by tournament favorite and world No. 1, Jon Rahm, who checks in with 13-2 odds.
Last year, Scottie Scheffler — at 16-1 — picked up his second PGA Tour victory by one stroke over Tyrrell Hatton, Billy Horschel and Viktor Hovland.
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Par 72, 7,466 yards
Average Strokes Gained Rankings: Winners Over Past Five Years
- SG: Off-the-Tee: 23.0
- SG: Approach: 12.2
- SG: Around-the-Green: 30.8
- SG: Putting: 11.6
- SG: Tee-to-Green: 7.2
- Driving Distance: 16.4
- Driving Accuracy: 43.2
Players faced a difficult test at PGA National last week, but things are even more difficult at Bay Hill where the winning score has reached 10-under only once over the last three years. Iron play tends to play a key factor as the winner has ranked first or second in strokes-gained approach in two of the last three years. That’s not much of a surprise considering that approach shots tend to be longer here, especially with all four par-3s playing at least 200 yards. Bogey avoidance is also important as there is plenty of danger lurking with water coming in play on about half of the holes. The premium is also on distance over accuracy off-the-tee, as players will be forced to hit driver on about 11-of-14 par 4s/5s. Keep an eye on the weather as there is potential for the Thursday PM/Friday AM wave to have an advantage with windy and difficult conditions expected Friday afternoon.
The following players, with a minimum of eight rounds played, have the lowest scoring average at Bay Hill since 2018.
McIlroy has historically played some of his best golf at the event, making the trip in eight straight years with a win and a worst result of T-27. After winning his first two events of the season, he had mediocre results in Phoenix and at Riviera but mostly struggled with his putter and will like the switch back over to Bermuda greens. He’s the second choice at 9-1 to win. Another player that’s shown an affinity for Bay Hill is Im (35-1 odds), who has finished in the top-25 in all four of his starts with a pair of top-5s. He’s historically played well on tougher courses and during the Florida Swing, and is a good bounce back candidate after a couple of lackluster weeks in which he struggled on the greens.
These five golfers, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes on approach over their last 20 rounds.
Schauffele has been dialed in with his iron play this year – since withdrawing from the Tournament of Champions he’s finished no worse than 23rd in strokes-gained approach over his last four tournaments. He’s only played this event one time, finishing T24 in 2020 and is the fourth betting choice at 20-1 odds. It’s also never a surprise to see Morikawa’s name near the top of a list that involves iron play, where he ranks eighth in the category this season. He’s also been much more consistent than usual to start the year with three top-10s in four starts. Morikawa (20-1 odds) last teed it up here in 2020, when he led the field in strokes-gained approach en route to a T-9 result.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Bets: Outright Picks
Patrick Cantlay (20-1)
Coming off an outright win with Kirk last week, I’ll start this week with Cantlay, who is coming off a strong showing at Riviera in which he led the field in strokes-gained tee-to-green en route to a solo third finish. He’ll be making his debut at Bay Hill but there’s not much reason to think that he won’t be a good fit for the course considering he’s gaining shots in every category and has a great combination of distance and accuracy off-the-tee.
Tony Finau (20-1)
One thing that stands out to me about Finau is that he’s dramatically improved his putting since last summer, gaining strokes on the greens in 10 of his last 12 tournaments which has helped lead to three wins during that stretch. I like the value as the eighth choice on the board.
Shane Lowry (50-1)
I know Lowry has struggled at this event but that seems too overcorrected in this price as he’s shown he can play well in Florida with consecutive top-15s at TPC Sawgrass and PGA National. He started the season slow but has rounded into form the last two weeks, most recently leading the field in strokes-gained tee-to-green at the Honda.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Bets: Top-10 Wagers
Tommy Fleetwood (5-1)
Fleetwood has had a slow start to the year with a best finish of T20 at Riviera through four starts but with that comes value. This is one of his favorite PGA Tour stops of the year, where he has three top-10s in six appearances. Great chance for him to round back into form.
Gary Woodland (13-2)
Woodland’s combination of above average distance and accuracy off-the-tee makes him a good fit for Bay Hill, where he came up just two shots behind Scheffler last year. His ball-striking has been in excellent from this season, as he’s gaining 1.34 strokes per round off-the-tee and on approach combined.
Wyndham Clark (12-1)
Clark has started to develop into a much more consistent player as of late with eight made cuts in a row, including four top-20s over that stretch. He’s been solid from tee-to-green, where he ranks 36th on the season.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Bets: Head-to-Head Matchups
Hideki Matsuyama (-120) over Justin Rose
Rose has struggled at Bay Hill recently, last seeing the weekend in 2019, when he finished T63. On the other hand, Matsuyama is a perfect 8-for-8 in made cuts with consecutive top-20 finishes here. No question that Rose has been playing well lately, but I’ll still lean towards the player I view as the better golfer with a more consistent track record at the venue.
Keegan Bradley (-120) over Corey Conners
Both players have played well here in the past with consecutive top-15 finishes, with Bradley having four finishes of T11 or better over the last 10 years. He also nearly won at Torrey Pines against an elite field a few weeks ago, while Conners has yet to post a top-10 over eight starts this season.
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