The Arnold Palmer Invitational is a tournament that’s been played at Bay Hill on the PGA since 1966. It started off as the Florida Citrus Open Invitational and has changed its name ten times. Since 2007, it’s been known as the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The course itself has elevated greens, similar to Concession in Florida. The course itself is full of water hazards, challenging bunkers, and plays very long. Similar to last week, accurate approach shots will be the most critical key to success here.
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Last week, we put out five picks total. We had Scheffler top ten. That won and it’s great. However, we lost on all four picks to win. Though Hovland was very close to winning it (2nd place), we netted a small loss for the week. It was certainly worth it, though.
We can’t help but think back to that quadruple-bogey from Friday that ultimately cost him the tournament. Still, it was impressive for him to bounce back. If we had hit, that would’ve been a nice +2100 to add to our season total. Instead, we went with a small loss on the week but still hold a good return on the year. On the season, we are at +8.35 units (following the net -.65 unit loss this week).
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) March 2, 2021
As for the WGC itself, The tournament turned a lot of great players to mush on a round to round basis, as anticipated. Unfortunately, a few of those were the guys we picked. Most notably, was Dustin Johnson, who just couldn’t get it going. Collin Morikawa made a huge push in the second round, with a 64 and followed it with a 67 the next day.
With a huge lead going into the final round, Hovland was within three strokes late in the day, but failed to capitalize down the stretch. For Morikawa, it was his first win of the year and third top ten. The win catapulted him from #81 to #14 on the FedEx Cup standings.
This week, the plan is a low to moderate-risk strategy. We are going with a longshot to finish in the top twenty and two to finish top ten. We are also going with two solid choices to win the tournament. Our goal is a conservative return this week.
Two chips, one putt – Three players to finish top 10 and 20
We have two to finish in the top ten and one in the top 20. The objective here is to get value for three guys with a strong pedigree on this course and similar courses.
Tyrell Hatton +175 to finish top ten
Hatton won this tournament last year, shooting a meager -4. The odds for him repeating aren’t great (+1800) but I much prefer to go with him finishing in the top ten instead. Hatton is just 29 and the last five players to win this tournament have not been American. With that in mind, the weather will play a factor, so the Bermuda grass the European players are used to (along with the weather) should play a big factor in the outcome.
Hatton hasn’t been especially active this year, playing only last weekend at the WGC (finishing 22nd). He has two top tens earlier this season and played fairly well last week. Hatton is number one in the world at sand save percentage this year (70%), which should serve him well this weekend.
Billy Horschel +275 to finish top ten
Horschel is the hometown pick this week. He’s from Florida and played collegiate golf at the University of Florida. He’s also the NBA Jam rules pick this week, notching four top tens in his last seven tournaments.
Last week, at a similar course at the WGC, Horschel finished second. Even though Horschel’s stats aren’t elite (or even close), he’s put together consistent scores on tough courses. He also checks the box as the guy whose odds are questionable high, given his ranking.
Horschel is 35th in the FedEx Cup standings and ranked 32nd currently. He’s also got the 12th best odds to win this tournament. This was the same setup for Max Homa and Maverick McNealy before their infamous elite finishes in those tournaments. Always keep your eyes peeled for the guys with curiously high odds.
Taylor Gooch +350 to finish top twenty
Taylor Gooch is a bit of a longshot here, but don’t rule him out because of it. Much the same as Horschel this week, Homa two weeks ago, and McNealy three weeks ago; Gooch is another guy with curiously high odds for a guy ranked so low.
Gooch has the 31st best odds to finish in the top 20. He’s ranked 86th overall and 50th in the FedEx Cup standings. Gooch is 40th in scoring average this year, 35th in going for the green percentage, and 35th in overall putting average.
Where we lean Gooch’s way this week is his recent performance at Genesis. In extremely windy conditions, Gooch played consistently over all four rounds, finishing 12th. Taylor Gooch may not be the most confident pick, but he’s one who fits the criteria for “curiously high odds”, and that’s paid off recently.
The Final Group – Two players we love to win it all
Patrick Reed +1800 to win
Reed winning this tournament would break the five-year drought for the US players in this event. However, we aren’t picking every guy on this list based on the same approach. It’s a little like stocks and diversifying your portfolio. If you take a single approach, it could be a big win but also a huge loss.
Reed is the choice to win this week based on his superior numbers and recent play. Reed has been top ten in his last two tournaments, winning at Farmers and finishing ninth at the WGC. Reed is in his prime and playing top-level golf. H
e’s 20th in eagles per hole, 2nd in birdie average, 15th in scoring average, and first in three of the five major putting categories (total putting, putting average). Reed’s recent play qualifies him as another NBA Jam candidate (aka: he’s on fire). Reed feels like the smart play this week from a conventional approach.
Rory McIlroy +850 to win
Originally, I was excited to go with Rory here. I selected him Monday, before the lines were released. After the lines were released, I was disappointed to see the oddsmakers had him atop the list, but I’m still sticking with him.
The value overall may not be there, but I’m going to explain why I’m still betting on him this weekend. For one, Rory won this tournament in 2018, finishing one off the course record at 18 under for the tournament. The second reason is Tiger Woods. Woods has won this tournament eight times, but won’t be a part of the field this year.
The third reason is form. McIlroy is coming off a sixth-place finish at the WGC and has finished 21st or better in seven of eight tournaments this season. He’s second in driving distance, third in birdie average, and 16th in scoring average this season. If Rory can get his putting down this weekend, he stands a good chance to hoist the trophy Sunday.