The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club is a continuation of the Florida swing for the PGA Tour. After last week’s WGC-Workday Championship at the unforgiving Concession Golf Club, the players will have to tackle another tough course here in Bay Hill.
This is another invitational tournament, which means a smaller field than most with a stricter set of qualifications that must be met. This is one of five tournaments with such a distinction, including the Genesis Invitational that we had in California just recently. The field consists of 120 players this week and another strong group of golfers are on hand.
We’ll use the odds from MyBookie Sportsbook to put together a few picks to win the tournament and shed some light on the matchups and other options as well.
We’ll save the odds for last, but there are a few names noticeably absent from this week’s event. Rory McIlroy is the favorite at +1000, followed by Viktor Hovland and Bryson DeChambeau at +1200, defending champion Tyrrell Hatton at +1600, and then Patrick Reed and Sungjae Im at +2000.
This is not like the WGC field. There are some very good players spread across the +2500 to +5000 range, but we’re missing a lot of the girth at the top that pushed guys like Collin Morikawa down into the +4000 to +4500 range last week. Instead, we’ve got Matthew Fitzpatrick, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari, Billy Horschel, Tommy Fleetwood, Marc Leishman, Max Homa, Sam Burns, and Will Zalatoris in that range this week.
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and Jon Rahm are the three biggest names absent from this week, but we also don’t see guys like Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, Morikawa, Webb Simpson, and Patrick Cantlay on hand. Bay Hill is a really tough course that some players simply don’t enjoy.
The lengthy par 72 checks in between 7,400 and 7,500 yards depending on the setup and it is one of the most difficult courses on an annual basis. Windy conditions depressed the winning score last year when Tyrrell Hatton won at 4-under over Marc Leishman.
The list of winners at Bay Hill is fascinating. A lot of elite ball strikers have won, like Tiger Woods, Ty Hatton, Francesco Molinari, Rory, Leishman, and Day, but also guys like Matt Every and Martin Laird. More often than not, a really good player wins here.
Three holes played below par last year and one hole played exactly to par. Two of the holes that played under par were par 5s, so players absolutely need to take advantage of those. Par 4 scoring is really important here. Par is a good score and a birdie is a great score on most of them.
Yay or Neigh?
In our horse for course section, we look at how players have done recently at Bay Hill. Golf handicappers always quibble about whether or not course form or recent form is more important. We’ll let you know about both and you can decide for yourself.
Recent winners in the field this week are Hatton, Laird, Leishman, Rory, Molinari, and Every. Along with his win, Hatton was fourth in 2017. Laird hasn’t finished in the top 25 otherwise. Leishman was second last year and seventh in 2018 right after his win in 2017. He was also third back in 2011. Rory has four straight top-six finishes, including that win in 2018. Molinari has four top-10 finishes since 2014, with his win coming in 2019. Every won back-to-back in 2014-15 and has four missed cuts in five tries since.
Joel Dahmen was fifth last year. DeChambeau was fourth last year and second in 2018. Fitzpatrick was ninth last year, second two years ago, and 13th back in 2017. Tommy Fleetwood missed the cut last year, but was third, 26th, and 10th the three years prior. Lucas Glover also missed the cut last year after a couple of top 10s over the previous three years.
Charley Hoffman has three top-15 finishes in the last four years, including a second in 2017. Sungjae Im has finished third back-to-back times. Jason Kokrak has five top-20 finishes in the last seven years, including three top-10 finishes, with the most recent in 2019. Luke List has three top-20 finishes in a row. He did not play last year.
Kevin Na has three top-10 finishes here, but the most recent was 2015. Justin Rose has four, with his most recent in 2018. He missed the cut last year. Henrik Stenson is in terrible form and his best days seem to be behind him, but he had a run from 2013-18 with five top-eight finishes in six years.
Handicap & Picks
This is a really tough course for rolling the rock. These Bermuda greens are among the fastest on the Tour and that often presents problems for the players. Strokes gained Off the Tee are really important as well. This is a long course that is fairly wind and forgiving, but shot angles into the greens are very important. Proximity to the hole is a big help with these fast-paced greens, so the players that set themselves up for the best shots often do well.
Of the short prices, Patrick Reed at +2000 is the one I like the most. Reed is in pretty good form with a win at the Farmers Insurance Open and a top-10 last week at the WGC event. Reed is second in SG: Putting since the new season started. Reed has a well-rounded game. He’s not a big hitter, but he’s accurate enough and he’s done well with the irons and wedges. He’s also played well here with two top-15 finishes in his three starts. Reed is also third in birdie or better percentage on par 4s and that will be important this week.
At +3500, Molinari is also in some outstanding form with three top-10 finishes in his last four events. His prices have been dropping like a rock and this may be the last week that we get something of a decent price on him. He’s at least a good consideration for matchups.
Lastly, for a long shot look, Emiliano Grillo is +11000. Grillo would have missed the cut last year anyway, but was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. He’s in much better form this year with an 11th last week and another top-25 finish a few weeks ago. He’s played well here for the most part. He’s got that big, balloon number and is 13th in SG: OTT and fifth in GIR%. He’ll have to roll the rock better than he has, but everything else lines up.
Golf Channel and NBC will have your coverage throughout the week.
ODDS FOR THE 2021 ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL FROM MYBOOKIE
|SI WOO KIM||+10000|
|BYEONG HUN AN||+12500|
|ERIK VAN ROOYEN||+15000|
|CHARLES HOWELL III||+16000|
|HAROLD VARNER III||+16000|