The Arnold Palmer Invitational features a limited field of 120 golfers and another elevated field. 44 of the world’s top 50 players will be in attendance, and they will all have lots to play for, with a 20 million prize purse up for grabs. The last two PGA TOUR winners, Chris Kirk, and Jon Rahm, are both in the field. As is last year’s champion Scottie Scheffler, who himself won three starts ago in Phoenix.
Despite the slightly reduced field, the cut procedure remains the same this week, with the top-65 golfers and ties making it to the weekend. That means that for DFS play on DraftKings, getting those 6/6 lineups through will be somewhat easier, but nailing the top picks will become even more important if you want to challenge for a top finish in larger field GPPs. Winners at the API tend to be elite, and four of the last five winners of this event have won majors at some point in their careers. International players have also won this event in five of the past seven seasons.
Bay Hill—Orlando, FL.
Par 72, 7,466 yards
Bay Hill has hosted this event since its inception but has undergone major renovations at points during the last decade. The course used to play as a par 70 between 2007 and 2009 but reverted back to a par 72 in 2010 and remains that way today. After 2014, fairways were widened in spots, with some overgrown rough and trees removed, making driving conditions a touch easier for the players on certain holes. New Bermuda greens were also added.
Lately, Bay Hill has been set up to play as one of the toughest on the PGA TOUR, with the rough typically playing to “major championship” caliber and the wind providing extra defense. The venue played as the hardest course on the PGA TOUR in 2020 — even compared to the major championship venues — and yielded just a 74.106 scoring average. In two of the last three seasons, the winning score has failed to exceed 5-under par.
As mentioned above, Bay Hill features Bermuda greens and, as a traditional par 72, also features four par 5s, none of which play longer than 570 yards. As such, these holes will yield a lot of birdies or better, and most of the past winners here have tended to dominate these holes during the week. With wider fairways, strokes gained off the tee stats don’t tend to matter as much as you would think they would on a longer course. Top finishers at Bay Hill tend to gain far more on approach than any other category, and with plenty of tough approaches into water-protected greens, it’s easy to see why. Last season’s winner, Scottie Scheffler, actually lost strokes off the tee but led the field in approach stats.
What sets Bay Hill apart from some of the other Florida courses is the abundance of longer approaches. Thanks to some doglegs and forced layup holes, players tend to see most of their approach shots come from >200 yards or more, so long iron proximity is another stat to focus on when looking at the approach basket.
The venue has been a lightning rod for major championship-quality players of late, with four of the past five winners at Bay Hill now in possession of a major win. And maybe that stat shouldn’t come as a huge shock. This is a venue that requires a good all-around game, good mental composure, and the ability to hit precision approaches on nearly every hole — just so as to avoid your ball meeting an untimely watery grave.
2023 Weather Outlook: Thursday doesn’t look like it will be overly difficult, although gusts in the late AM and early PM are set to be constant at around 10-14mph. Friday and Saturday could be epic. Friday winds are set to be constant in the 12-20 mph range and build throughout the day. Gusts on Friday are expected to be between 25-30 mph. Saturday doesn’t look a ton better, although gusts are expected to die down in the 20-22mph range. As of now, Friday afternoon looks like it may be the draw to avoid, but keeping an eye on the forecast will be of utmost importance going into lock. There could be patches of horrendous wind this week, which is likely to keep the winning score under -10 once again.
Last Five Winners
2022 — Scottie Scheffler -5 (over three different players -4)
2021 — Bryson DeChambeau -11 (over Lee Westwood -10)
2020 — Tyrrell Hatton -4 (over Marc Leishman -3)
2019 — Francesco Molinari -12 (over Matthew Fitzpatrick -10)
2018 — Rory McIlroy -18 (over Bryson DeChambeau -15)
- Each of the past eight winners of this event had recorded a T17 or better finish at Bay Hill in a previous season before winning.
- Eleven of the past 12 winners of this event had all played the API at Bay Hill the year prior and made the cut (exception Scheffler 2022).
- Five of the past seven winners have been international players.
2022 Winner: Scottie Scheffler (6-under par)
2022 lead-in form (T7-win-T20-T25-T57)
- Winners and top finishers at Bay Hill gain more strokes on approach than any other category — for proximity focusing on >200-yard shots is key as well.
- 2022 winner Scottie Scheffler gained the most strokes on Approach of any of the past six winners but also had a great week on the greens.
- Despite Bay Hill being long and holding four par 5s, we can’t really describe it as a bombers course, as many of the longer holes still require players to place the ball off the tee and stress long iron approaches.
- Shorter hitters like Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari have both found wins at this venue, and last season Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel were both up near the leaders as well.
- Approaches from >200 yards are the most common of any at this venue, and GIR percentages are quite a bit lower here compared to the PGA TOUR average.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Rory McIlroy ($10,600; best finishes: win-2018, T4-2017): There’s clearly something about Bay Hill that suits Rory’s eye, as the Northern Irishman comes into this year’s version flashing finishes of T5, T6, and a victory at this venue over the past five seasons. He’s yet to miss the cut at Bay Hill over his last seven starts and finished T13 or better at Bay Hill the last five years.
2. Tyrrell Hatton ($8,300; best finish: win-2020, T2-2022): Hatton has come to Bay Hill six years running now and only finished outside the top 30 once. That run also includes two great finishes, including his stupendous, grind-it-out win in 2020 in what were brutal conditions. He’s sixth in SG: Total stats at this venue over the last six years and looked solid two starts ago in Phoenix, where he finished T6.
3. Tommy Fleetwood ($7,500; best finishes: T3-2019, T10-2017 + 2021): Fleetwood has played this venue in each of the last six seasons and posted top-10 finishes in three of those starts. He’s excelled the most when playing down in Florida and also has top-five finishes at the PLAYERS and Honda Classic. He finished T20 at Riviera in his last start and brings solid recent form to the table as well.
4. Sungjae Im ($8,900; best finishes: T3-2020 + 2019): Im has been a beast on the Florida swing for much of his young career. He’s picked up a win at another tough Florida venue in PGA National and has finished top-five at Bay Hill twice already in four career starts. He slumped a bit last week at the Honda, where he finished T42, but a better effort this week should also be expected from the exceedingly consistent South Korean.
5. Chris Kirk ($7,700; best finishes: T5-2022 + T8-2021): Kirk is fresh off his fifth career PGA TOUR win at the Honda, where he bested Eric Cole in a playoff. He’s been great at this week’s venue, too, posting top-10 finishes at Bay Hill in each of the past two seasons. The American is second in strokes gained total stats at this venue since 2017.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Hatton and Scheffler two proven winners
Scottie Scheffler ($10,900) has the prototypical game to target on a course with heavy water where hitting targets is important. The American is great with his irons from numerous distances and has beaten up tracks like Bay Hill and TPC Phoenix over his career. With him sitting $600 less than Jon Rahm ($11,500) this week — and Rahm having never won in the state of Florida — starting lineups with Scheffler up top has benefits. Tyrrell Hatton ($8,300) is another Bay Hill winner this week who just posted a T6 at the similarly-styled TPC Scottsdale and gained over 10.0 strokes ball-striking in the process. He’s undervalued at 8.3k and has the kind of elite ball striking you need to tackle Bay Hill. Other potential targets for this format include Viktor Hovland ($9,000 - see below), Gary Woodland ($7,400), Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,100), and Danny Willett ($6,800).
Tournaments: Zalatoris and Hideki can beat the wind
Zalatoris showed some great form his last time out at Riviera, where he posted a final round 64 and launched himself into a T4 position. Zalatoris finished T10 at this venue on his debut and won at another venue in TPC Southwind, where wind and water are often prevalent. Hideki Matsuyama ($8,200) is another player who has had success at TPC Southwind and looks mightily underpriced this week, given the kind of elite ball-striking he brings to the table. Matsuyama may be coming off a missed cut but ranks seventh in this field in strokes gained tee to green stats in extra windy conditions. A bad week on the greens at Riviera shouldn't dissuade you from using him this week in GPPs. Other potential targets for this format include Rickie Fowler ($7,500), Luke List ($7,300), Byeong Hun An ($7,000), and Davis Riley ($6,600).
1. Jon Rahm ($11,500, win-3rd-T7) – Rahm grabbed his third win of the season at Riviera. The Spaniard gained an insane 11.5 strokes on his approaches at the Genesis but has never finished better than T17 at Bay Hill.
2. Scottie Scheffler ($10,900, T12-win) – Scheffler won two starts ago in Phoenix and now gets to play another venue where he’s won before in Bay Hill. His putting has been positive the last two starts, and if that trend continues, he’ll be hard to beat.
3. Max Homa ($9,700, 2nd-T39-win) – Homa put up a valiant effort at Riviera, hanging with Jon Rahm until the final few holes. He’s fifth in strokes gained total stats over the last six events, but it’s worth noting that none of his six PGA wins have come in Florida.
4. Jason Day ($8,500, T9-T5-T7) – Day stayed hot at Riviera, grabbing a backdoor top 10 after a slow start. The Australian has been lighting it up with his putter of late and has now gained over 2.5 strokes on the greens alone over his last four starts.
5. Keith Mitchell ($8,000, T5-T42-T4) – Mitchell posted a top-five finish at the Genesis and has already grabbed two top-five finishes on the season. His only win on the PGA came in Florida at the Honda Classic, and he finished top 10 at Bay Hill in 2019 and 2020.
Honorable Mention: Chris Kirk ($7,700), Sahith Theegala ($7,900), Rickie Fowler ($7,700)
MY PICK: Viktor Hovland ($9,000)
Hovland has shown nice progression over his last two starts. The Norweigan showed improvement on approach at the Genesis, gaining over 3.0 strokes against the field in that category after being more mediocre in Phoenix. Hovland took a multiple-week break after the Sentry to test some new equipment, and it’s quite possible that the dividends from that venture are starting to bear fruit. He’s yet to contend in any of his four starts in 2023, but with the move to Florida, the advantage now moves in his favor. Hovland has landed top 10 finishes at three of the four major Florida venues already and also posted a runner-up finish at Concession (Bradenton, FL) back in 2021 when the WGC Mexico event was played there due to Covid.
While his around-the-green game is always a concern, it’s worth noting that top finishers at Bay Hill tend to gain most of their strokes on approach or on the greens, with around-the-green play mattering the least. Hovland has also managed to handle these Bay Hill green complexes quite well, gaining strokes around the greens at Bay Hill in the last two seasons — including last season when he finished runner-up. With his form bubbling and a very fair $9,000 price tag, he makes for a nice upper-tier value to build around in DFS and a great outright bet at +3000 or better on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
MY SLEEPER: Byeong Hun An ($7,000)
This will be the eighth time in his career that Byeong Hun An (Benny An) tees it up at Bay Hill. Over his career, the South Korean has found a lot of success in the state of Florida, grabbing numerous top 20 finishes at the adjacent Hona Classic event, along with a couple of decent showings at TPC Sawgrass. An has also experienced some solid success at Bay Hill and has now made the cut at this week’s tournament in each of his last six starts at the event. His best Bay Hill result came back in 2019 when he posted a T10, but the fact he’s had such a solid cut rate at this event (6/7 for his career), despite losing strokes on the greens every single season he’s played here, does give you hope that there’s better upside lurking if he ever flips positive with the putter.
An’s recent form also shows us the profile of a player trending well in the ball-striking department. He’s been positive on approach in five straight starts now and gained 3.9 strokes on approach alone last week at the Honda Classic. An was off for two weeks prior to the Honda, so he should come into Bay Hill ready to keep firing after getting in much-needed competitive practice on a tough and somewhat similar setup to this week. He’s got the kind of experience and recent approach form that we should crave this week among our lower-tier DFS picks, and at +20000 on DraftKings Sportsbook, he makes for a reasonable longshot bet who won’t require much investment for a shot at a big payday.
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