The Florida swing is off and running with one of the PGA Tour’s most notable stops on deck this week in Central Florida.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational goes down this weekend at Bay Hill Club and Lounge, and it has a lot of hype to live up to given the incredible recent run of golf we saw on the West Coast which continued at last weekend’s World Golf Championship event at The Concession.
It’s another good field, although the API has been hurt a little bit by scheduling tweaks that now puts Arnie’s tournament a week before The Players. Regardless, there are plenty of opportunities to cash in, especially if you like targeting ball-strikers, so here’s this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational betting preview.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Tyrrell Hatton (4-under)
THE COURSE — Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Yardage: 7,466 yards
Between 2012 and 2019, the average winning score at Bay Hill was 14.5-under. Hatton slipped on the red sweater a year ago after shooting 73 on Saturday and 74 on Sunday en route to a 4-under winning score for the weekend. So, what gives? It’s all about the wind. Similar to a lot of courses on the Florida swing, there are scoring chances at Bay Hill. However, if the wind gets going, all bets are off. It certainly can be frustrating, as evidenced by Hatton, who flipped off a water hazard in the final round shortly before winning the tournament.
Thursday and Friday look relatively tame, but wind gusts of up to 30 mph are in the long-term forecast for the weekend. Something to keep in mind.
Rory McIlroy +850
Viktor Hovland +1200
Bryson DeChambeau +1300
Tyrrell Hatton +1700
Patrick Reed +2100
Sungjae Im +2300
Paul Casey +2400
Hideki Matsuyama +2700
Matthew Fitzpatrick +2700
Jason Day +3000
Jordan Spieth +3000
— McIlroy has struggled to put it all together for a full tournament … and still has four top-10 finishes in nine starts since the Tour Championship. He’s very good at Bay Hill, too, finishing fifth, sixth, first and fourth the last four years, respectively. He’s great on Bermudagrass, too.
— DeChambeau also has enjoyed success at the API, with a pair of top-five finishes in four starts. Can he just blast his way to success this week, though? Driving accuracy typically has mattered at Bay Hill, but you kind of have to take a wait-and-see approach with Bryson. He did finish fourth here last year, however.
— Hovland is on a ridiculous run, dating back to his win at Mayakoba in early December. Including that win, he’s finished outside the top five just once in five tournaments.
Tyrrell Hatton, outright winner (+1700): We know he can do it, right? Back-to-back winners aren’t unusual at Bay Hill, either. Matt Every of all people won in 2014 and again in 2015 which followed a pair of back-to-back wins for Tiger Woods the two years prior to that. Hatton also is in fine form right now. He won in late January in Abu Dhabi before a sixth-place finish in Saudi Arabia two weeks later. He fired three rounds below par last week at The Concession, too, and the model unsurprisingly absolutely loves him after last year’s win.
Sam Burns, top 10 (+550): Despite not being able to close out a final-round lead at The Genesis, Burns should feel good about his game right now. He’s one of the better ball-strikers in the field, and when the irons get going, he contends. He gained nearly seven strokes on the field in approach at Riviera and finished third, while finishing seventh at Houston in November while gaining 6.5 strokes on approach. Only Patton Kizzire has gained more strokes putting than Burns on Bermuda greens over the last 50 rounds.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, top 10 (+240): Fitzpatrick is finding his game, gaining at least eight strokes on the field at both the Genesis and WGC, finishing fifth and 11th, respectively. He fits the model as an elite ball-striker, and he’s very good putting on Bermuda. He also has a ninth-place and second-place finish in each of his last two starts at Bay Hill.
Viktor Hovland: As mentioned, there might not be anyone hotter than him right now, at least among players who haven’t won. He definitely could break through this week, but chances are, he’ll be near the top of the leaderboard regardless.
Tyrrell Hatton: Our pick to win. Gotta roll with him here, too.
Francesco Molinari: We’re running out of time to get Molinari with any sort of value, amid his impressive turnaround. He’s gained at least seven strokes on the field in three of his last four tournaments, finishing in the top 10 in those starts. He’s also a past winner. In fact, while you’re at it, go make a Masters wager on him before the number jumps anymore.
Luke List: He’s a terrible putter, but he’s also finished no worse than 17th in three starts at the API. So he’s got something figured out … right?
Zach Johnson: He’s been sneaky good recently, but he just can’t buy a putt. Maybe getting back to Bay Hill, where he has four top-11 finishes and has gained at least four strokes putting the last two years, will help.
Tom Hoge: We need a lower-priced player to balance the top of the lineup, so we’ll go with Hoge. He’s finished in the top 30 in each of his API starts and is a good Bermuda putter.