The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard features a limited field of 123 golfers and provides solid perks to its winners. Since it’s now on the schedule as the week before The PLAYERS, the API does have some big names skipping it this year. Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa will all be missing in action here, but we do have several stars like World No. 1 Jon Rahm and 2018 winner Rory McIlroy. Other past winners in the field this week include winners like Marc Leishman (2017), Jason Day (2016), and “the Butcher of Bay Hill” Matt Every, who won here in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015. Last year’s winner Bryson DeChambeau pulled out Monday morning due to injury before salaries were released on DraftKings.
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. DraftKings DFS players should note the reduced field also includes a lot of international players and quite a few younger players (Nicolai Hojgaard, John Pak) who have yet to post any consistent results on the actual PGA TOUR. International players have won this event in five of the past six seasons.
Bay Hill—Orlando, Fla.
Par 72, 7,466 yards
Bay Hill has hosted this event since its inception but has undergone major renovations over the lifespan of this event. 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, the setup at Bay Hill has been 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.
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. While players will be able to score on the par 5s, Bay Hill does carry some challenges along the way, including three par 3s which measure in at 215 yards or longer. Players will also be challenged by the longer par 4 finishing hole, one of the toughest in the sport that requires an accurate drive off the tee and a steady hand on the approach to a semi-island green.
There are birdie chances out there for players who are striking it well but also expect players who hit poor shots to be penalized. There are over 70 bunkers on the course and water is in play on half the holes, including in numerous spots off the tee. The venue has been a lightning rod for major championship-quality players of late, with four of the past six winners at Bay Hill already possessing a major win on their resume prior to winning this trophy. 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, including in pressure situations, numerous times per round.
2022 Weather: The weather this week looks like it will be on the warmer side, with highs scheduled to hit the mid-80s for all four days. Bay Hill has brought some crazy weather into play over the past couple of seasons and when the wind gets up at this venue, the scores plummet. Gusts are expected to pick up Friday, potentially as high as 20 mph, so that will be something to watch for as tee-off gets closer, and fading that Friday afternoon crew could be something to ponder for lineup construction. Regardless of how it plays out, we should see some sustained winds over the last three days, above 10 mph, so expect higher scores at this event once again this year.
Last Five Winners
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)
2017 — Marc Leishman -11 (over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman -10)
- Six of the past seven winners of this event had recorded a top-5 finish at Bay Hill in a previous year before winning (exception: Day in 2016, his best previous here was T17).
- The past 11 winners of this event had all played the API at Bay Hill the year prior and made the cut.
- Five of the past six winners have been international players
2021 Winner: Bryson DeChambeau (11-under par)
2021 lead-in form (T22-MC-7th-T34-T8)
- This event has seen several different styles of golfers compete. Bay Hill has had a very major championship-like feel to it in recent years — from a playability standpoint — so Strokes Gained: Approach and tee-to-green play are again are likely to be the best stats to lean on.
- 2020 winner Tyrrell Hatton gained the most strokes on Approach of any of the past five winners but also gained across the board in all the major areas.
- Last year, Bryson DeChambeau put on a ball-striking clinic, gaining +11.2 strokes ball-striking (OTT + APP) for the week, but also still gained strokes ATG and Putting.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bay Hill has played extremely tough the last five years or so and it’s rewarded those who can embrace the challenge of a venue that requires you to be sharp across all phases.
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 ($11,100; 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 four seasons. He’s yet to miss the cut at Bay Hill over his last six starts and leads the field in strokes gained total at this event since 2017.
2. Marc Leishman ($9,100; best finish: win-2017, 2nd-2020): Leishman won this event back in 2017 but has also posted finishes of T7 (2018) and runner-up (2020) at Bay Hill, a venue that clearly suits his strong all-around game. The Australian posted his first missed cut at this event since 2015 last season but has shown far better form in 2022 than he did in 2021. Expect a bounce-back at this event from the 2017 champion.
3. Tyrrell Hatton ($9,300; best finish: win-2020, T4-2017): Hatton has come to Bay Hill five 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 fifth in SG: Total stats at this venue over the last six years and has posted two top 10s over on the PGA European Tour to begin his year.
4. Tommy Fleetwood ($7,900; best finishes: T3-2019, T10-2017 + 2021): Fleetwood has played this venue in each of the last five seasons and posted top-10 finishes in three of those starts. He’s finished as high as T3 (2019) and has typically excelled the most when playing down in Florida. He’s coming off a disastrous start at the Honda, but will at least have a couple of rounds of Florida golf under his feet when he tees it up this week.
5. Sungjae Im ($9,900; 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 venue in PGA National and has finished top-five at Bay Hill twice already in three career starts. He slumped a bit to T21 last season but should be extra rested coming off a missed cut last week and certainly has shown good enough form this year already to challenge.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Rory and Casey a good International duo
If you’re playing 50/50s or heads-up contests this week, it’s hard to look past the record of Rory McIlroy ($11,100), which includes top-10 finishes in each of his last five starts at Bay Hill, plus top-six finishes in five of those top 10s. He’s also had some mammoth putting weeks on this course and heated up with that club in his last start. Paul Casey ($8,300) doesn’t carry the same kind of upside but he’s extremely reliable on these tougher courses for the most part given his excellent Approach game. Casey has gained strokes on approach in 19-straight PGA TOUR starts, is coming off a solid T15 finish at the Genesis and finished T10 at this event last season. Other potential targets for this format include Keegan Bradley ($7,300) and Lucas Glover ($7,200).
Tournaments: Target Sungjae for the quick bounce-back
PGA National can make players look silly and there’s more than one big name coming into this week off of a bad missed cut there. Sungjae Im ($9,900) has finished in the top 5 at Bay Hill in two of the past three seasons and is just three starts removed from posting a T6 at another tough venue in Torrey Pines. He’s gained over +1.0 strokes putting on these surfaces in each of the past three seasons and likely won’t have super high ownership, given the near $10K salary. Jason Day ($7,900) is another name to look at this week whose volatility makes him interesting for DFS purposes. Like Im, he’s excelled on the greens at Bay Hill and looks the healthiest he’s been for several years. Other GPP targets to consider this week include the likes of Sam Ryder ($6,700), Danny Willett ($6,400 - see below) and Danny Lee ($6,300).
GOLF WITHDRAW ALERT: Jason Day has withdrawn from the Arnold Palmer Invitational. pic.twitter.com/r9JnK8pKFL— DK Nation (@dklive) March 2, 2022
1. Scottie Scheffler ($10,600, T7-win) – Scheffler followed up his win in Phoenix with a solid week at Riviera where he grabbed a T7. He’s gained over +5.0 strokes on approach in two of his past three starts.
2. Cameron Young ($7,500, T16-T2) – Young kept his good season-opening form rolling last week with another top-20 finish. He’s made five cuts in a row and gained over +6.0 strokes ball-striking in each of his past two starts.
3. Sepp Straka ($7,300, win-T15) – Straka broke through last week for his first PGA TOUR win. The Austrian-born player has rattled off six straight made cuts and is riding a red-hot putter.
4. Keith Mitchell ($8,100, T9-T10) – The 2019 Honda winner, Mitchell is also staying hot. He’s posted top-12 finishes in five of his past six starts and is ranked third in long-term Off-the-Tee stats in this field.
5. Chris Kirk ($7,500, T7-T14) – The veteran was inside the top 10 all week at the Honda, but didn’t have enough firepower to hang in until the end. He’s finished top 15 in each of his past two starts.
Honorable Mention: Viktor Hovland ($10,800), Billy Horschel ($8.900)
MY PICK: Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,200)
Foreign players from all over the world have found this event very appealing for some reason. Five of the last six winners have been non-Americans and I do like the chances for Fitzpatrick to potentially make it six of the last seven this week. Fitzpatrick will be making his third start on the PGA TOUR in 2022 and he’s looked solid from the get-go. A T6 start at Pebble Beach was followed by a T10 at Phoenix, where he actually struck the ball better but likely suffered from a lack of experience on and around the greens to capitalize.
Experience won't be an issue for Fitz at Bay Hill, though, as the Englishman will be making his eighth career start there, which is easily his most of any venue on the PGA TOUR. That fact alone makes this a great place for him to grab his first PGA TOUR win and he also nails our top trends of the week — having finished runner-up at Bay Hill in 2019 (top-5 finish) + a made cut from last season (T10). Fitzpatrick has the game to challenge at these tougher, major-like venues and ranks a surprising 10th in long-term Strokes Gained Off the Tee metrics, while also possessing some of the heaviest pro-Bermuda putting splits in the field. It’s a field stacked with talented European players, but Fitzpatrick looks like the one to back for me this week and a player more than ready to break through for his first PGA TOUR win.
MY SLEEPER: Danny Willett ($6,400)
The mercurial Willett can be an easy player to forget about. The 2016 Masters champion hasn’t really adopted a full-time PGA TOUR schedule and when he does pop over from time to time, he’s not posted many consistent results. This is a player who has posted three wins on the PGA European Tour since his Masters victory, though, with his most recent coming late last Fall at the Alfred Dunhill Links event. Willett then showed up last week and rattled off what looked like an unassuming T48. It may not seem like much to go off but the Englishman was striping it all week, gaining +5.1 strokes ball-striking along with some of the best proximity stats in the field.
A good putting week likely would have seen him burst into the top 15 (and perhaps be much more popular this week) but instead he remains near the min-price on DraftKings for daily fantasy golf purposes. Willet’s played the Arnold Palmer Invitational each of the past three seasons and has made the cut two years running. The tough conditions certainly won't faze a player who won his only major at 5-under par and he makes for a serious live back in the outright odds at +20000 on DraftKings Sportsbook as well.
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