Arnold Palmer Invitational – Orlando, FL
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge (7,419 yards, par 72)
$1,602,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
Now the second year since the passing of the beloved “King”, the Arnold Palmer Invitational will continue as a signature event in honor of the Hall of Famer. Such respect has brought in the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Rose, and honorary co-host Rickie Fowler to a unique course Arnold claimed as his favorite Florida course. Bay Hill plays tough mostly due to four long par-4s, but birdie opportunities present themselves on the reachable par-5s. The most famous holes around Bay Hill – and perhaps around the world - are the par-5 sixth hole that horseshoes strongly around a manmade pond and the devilish 440-yard par-4 closing hole that can see anything from birdie to triple bogey. Though Arnold isn’t physically present, his legend lives on in what should be another fantastic close to the Florida Swing.
Recent Past Champions
2017 – Marc Leishman
2016 – Jason Day
2015 – Matt Every
2014 – Matt Every
2013 – Tiger Woods
2012 – Tiger Woods
2011 – Martin Laird
2010 – Ernie Els
2009 – Tiger Woods
2008 – Tiger Woods
Key Stats to Winning this Week
• Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green
• Strokes Gained Putting
• Par-5 Scoring
As a longer track with some penalizing rough, it’s a must for players to drive the ball well, both long and straight. The length becomes a nice advantage on the reachable par-5 holes and longer par-4s that prove demanding over four rounds. However, the real key to winning at Bay Hill are precise mid-iron approaches and great putting. The stats prove out that 70-75% of the advantage winners have enjoyed over the field can be traced to those two factors. It’s no surprise that eight-time champ Tiger Woods has excelled in these two factors in his career, but other former champions in Jason Day, Marc Leishman, and Ernie Els have shined in these facets as well. With nearly perfect weather in the forecast this week, look for plenty of birdies and drama to unfold, especially with Tiger back in form at his old stomping grounds for the first time in five years.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jason Day, $12500 – Day enters rested after a win and runner-up his last two starts on TOUR. He paces the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and is plenty long enough to score on the par-5s this week. As a former winner at Bay Hill in 2016, Day represents the cream of the crop and a good value in this week’s action.
Justin Rose, $12200 – Local resident Rose enters as perhaps the hottest player in the world with three straight top-8 finishes on TOUR. When you pair that with his eight top-15’s at Bay Hill in 12 career starts, Rose becomes a foolproof option this week.
Tiger Woods, $11900 – Tiger’s resurgence the last two weeks has gotten golf plenty of good PR, but this week it may hit even higher levels at the storied Bay Hill, where Tiger has dramatically won on many occasions. Given Tiger’s great course management the last couple weeks, he appears to be in great shape to post a third straight top-10 finish.
Rory McIlroy, $11500 – McIlroy is one of the greatest drivers of all time, and Bay Hill rewards great driving with plenty of birdie opportunities. Though McIlroy has been off-kilter the past few weeks, his talent alone can turn it around quickly. His history is good with a pair of top-11s in three starts, so he could turn out to be a great option with lower ownership than normal on FanDuel.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Tyrrell Hatton, $10600 – Hatton put himself in the mix at the WGC-Mexico just two weeks ago and now returns to Bay Hill for his second trip after a top-5 last season. Hatton is great off the tee and wields a strong putter, so if he can hit a few irons within birdie range he’ll be a strong contender come Sunday.
Bubba Watson, $10400 – Bubba pounced back into form with a win at the Genesis Open to end the West Coast Swing, and now has the chance to close out the Florida Swing in style as well after back-to-back top-10s. Watson has enjoyed decent success at Bay Hill with his best finish a T4 in 2012, so look for another made cut and plenty of par-5 birdies for the unconventional bomber.
Luke List, $9200 – Not only has List put up top-26s his last five events, he was also the leader in proximity to the hole from > 200 yards away last season by a wide margin. Bay Hill clearly plays to his strengths and given his form he may just find himself with a second real shot at winning in three weeks.
Vijay Singh, $7000 – Yes, Vijay is 55 years young and has missed his last two cuts at Bay Hill, but the Fijian last week ended a winless drought at the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour. All things considered, Singh is still a great ball striker and represents a great risk-reward option at the lowest possible salary this week. If he makes the cut it’s a huge bonus, if he misses he at least opened plenty of cap room for more studs in your lineup.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
Well-rounded players who are solid off the tee with great irons excel at Bay Hill, but there’s also a chance a few elite putters find themselves in contention as well. As such, focus your efforts on securing great ball strikers who have shown flashes of good putting recently (*cough* Jason Day - Justin Rose - Tiger Woods *cough*) and blend in others who have proven history at the King’s place. The eventual winner is going to need to drive it well and score on the par-5s to have any chance, so make sure you fill your lineup with players who have a good chance of doing just that.