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This event is one of great honor when all things are considered. Not only is it one of the elevated events this season, but it also remembers the late Arnold Palmer. Widely known for his .99 cent drinks at Speedways across the country, he is more narrowly known as one of the best golfers of all time. He boasted a notoriously smooth swing, and cool temperament that aided him in grabbing 62 PGA Tour wins, placing him 5th in all-time victories.
Now that we have paid our respects, let’s get into the gambling. Coming off of an atrocious Honda Invitational and a Vongtaveealap MELTDOWN in the LPGA, we are in dire need for a winner. Since this is an elevated event, all of the stars will be competing for a $20 million dollar purse. Among the favorites are Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and the hottest golfer in the game, Jon Rahm. Who is a fit for this course, and can we find some value in this stacked field? Let’s take a look at the profile of a golfer that will succeed at Bay Hill.
Bay Hill is located in Orlando Florida, and is another Florida track with bermudagrass. Most players grew up playing and practicing on bermudagrass, so this won’t play too much of a factor. Players that have previously played well at Bay Hill, have also played well at TPC Scottsdale, proving a correlation between the two tracks. This is handy for us when it comes to handicapping the Arnold Palmer Invite, because these same guys played at TPC Scottsdale a few weeks ago.
A player's performance around the green and approach don’t seem to matter here as much as their putting and execution off of the tee. That being said, the bombers have a huge advantage here. The average par 3 plays 210 yards, and if a player can get a 6 iron in their hand instead of a 4 or 5, there are strokes to be saved and birdies to be made.
A few players have played well here in the past, including Rory McIlroy and reigning champion Scottie Scheffler. It is worth noting that Lucas Herbert had a great showing last year, finishing T7 with 3.03 total strokes gained. Tyrell Hatton is another guy who has had success here in the past, winning in 2020 and T2 last season. If there was ever a time to fade Rahm it would be this week. Although he nails the ball. He actually performed -.53 strokes gained LESS than expected. Of course for Rahm this equated to a T17 finish, however he was expected to play better.
Rory McIlroy (+1000) - I am not a huge fan of Rory, but my money knows no loyalties. In the past 5 years he has had 4 top 10 finishes, and a win in 2018. As long as he can keep his drives in the fairway, he should be able to shorten up some of these holes and make some birdies. Dating back to August 2022, he has not posted a round with negative strokes gained off of the tee. His putter has been failing him, but if he can straighten that out McIlroy will be poised to have a big weekend.
Scottie Scheffler (+1100) - The reigning champion has never finished outside the top 20 at this event, it is clear he is comfortable here at Bay Hill. Dating back to November 2022 he has not finished outside of the top 20, his worst finish being T12 at the Genesis Invitational. He is clearly one of the hottest golfers in the game right now, and I will be riding his momentum into this week.
Tommy Fletwood (+8000) - Tommy has been up and down this season, but he has seen success at this track before, and at 80/1 it is worth a sprinkle to take Fleetwood to win this week.
SungJae Im (+4100) - Im was probably the biggest name that played in the Honda Classic last week, and he is back for the AP. In 4 starts, he has only finished outside the top 20 once, in 2021. This season in rounds where he has a positive stroke gained putting, he has finished in the top 20. It will depend on his putter, but 41/1 is worth a shot on a consistent player like Im.
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Other Outright Winners:
Tyrell Hatton (+3500)
Viktor Hovland (+3300)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (+4000)
Keith Mitchell (+6000)
Keegan Bradley (+7500)
Rickie Fowler (+8500)
Charley Hoffman (+40000)