Wednesday, February 28, 2024

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks & Odds: Viktor Hovland Fits Bay Hill

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Click arrow to expand Arnold Palmer Invitational odds via PointsBet
Player Name Odds
Jon Rahm +650
Rory Mcilroy +900
Scottie Scheffler +900
Xander Schauffele +2000
Tony Finau +2000
Collin Morikawa +2000
Patrick Cantlay +2000
Max Homa +2200
Will Zalatoris +2200
Viktor Hovland +2800
Justin Thomas +2800
Jason Day +3000
Tyrrell Hatton +3000
Sungjae Im +3300
Matt Fitzpatrick +3500
Cameron Young +4000
Tom Kim +4500
Jordan Spieth +4500
Keith Mitchell +4500
Hideki Matsuyama +5000
Rickie Fowler +5500
Sam Burns +5500
Shane Lowry +5500
Keegan Bradley +6000
Justin Rose +7000
Tommy Fleetwood +7500
Corey Conners +7500
Brian Harman +8000
Gary Woodland +8000
Sahith Theegala +8000
Chris Kirk +8000
Taylor Montgomery +9000
Tom Hoge +9000
Seamus Power +9000
Aaron Wise +9000
Billy Horschel +11000
Alex Noren +11000
Adam Scott +11000
Si Woo Kim +12500
Russell Henley +12500
Min Woo Lee +12500
Adam Hadwin +12500
Justin Suh +15000
Patrick Rodgers +15000
Wyndham Clark +17500
Joel Dahmen +17500
Christiaan Bezuidenhout +17500
Taylor Pendrith +17500
Lucas Herbert +17500
Adrian Meronk +17500
J.J. Spaun +20000
Sepp Straka +20000
Sam Ryder +20000
Nick Taylor +20000
Beau Hossler +20000
K.H. Lee +25000
Davis Riley +25000
Joseph Bramlett +25000
Kurt Kitayama +25000
Will Gordon +25000
Brendon Todd +25000
Emiliano Grillo +25000
Hayden Buckley +25000
Andrew Putnam +25000
Taylor Moore +25000
Danny Willett +25000
Thomas Detry +25000
Alex Smalley +25000
Luke List +25000
Byeong Hun An +30000
Adam Svensson +30000
Eric Cole +30000
Ben Griffin +30000
Robby Shelton +30000
Ryan Fox +30000
Francesco Molinari +30000
Scott Stallings +30000
Lee Hodges +30000
Davis Thompson +30000
Mackenzie Hughes +30000
Garrick Higgo +30000
Nick Hardy +35000
S.H. Kim +35000
Padraig Harrington +35000
Charley Hoffman +35000
Harris English +35000
Webb Simpson +40000
Aaron Rai +40000
Greyson Sigg +40000
Zach Johnson +40000
David Lingmerth +40000
Kevin Kisner +40000
Ben Taylor +40000
Adam Schenk +40000
Matthew Nesmith +40000
Cam Davis +40000
Martin Laird +40000
Kevin Streelman +50000
Patton Kizzire +50000
David Lipsky +50000
Aaron Baddeley +50000
Ryan Palmer +50000
Peter Malnati +50000
Trey Mullinax +50000
Justin Lower +50000
Ludvig Aberg +50000
Stewart Cink +50000
Troy Merritt +50000
Ryan Brehm +60000
Callum Tarren +60000
Cole Hammer +60000
Lucas Glover +60000
Thriston Lawrence +60000
Pierceson Coody +70000
Chez Reavie +70000
Luke Donald +70000
Tyson Alexander +100000
Greg Koch +100000
Kamaiu Johnson +100000
Kyle Westmoreland +100000

The PGA TOUR continues its Florida Swing at Bay Hill Club & Lodge to play the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational this week. The event has been a mainstay on TOUR, appearing on the schedule every year since 1979. However, this year the tournament will be a “designated event” which offers a $20 million prize pool.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge is a par-72 measuring 7,454 yards featuring Bermudagrass greens. Bay Hill can play extremely difficult if the wind picks up, but the course certainly has teeth whether there is wind or not.

The event being “designated” guarantees that all of the top players on TOUR will be in attendance this week. Consequently, 44 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be in Orlando this week.

Past Winners at Bay Hill

  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler (-5)
  • 2021: Bryson DeChambeau (-11)
  • 2020: Tyrrell Hatton (-4)
  • 2019: Francesco Molinari (-12)
  • 2018: Rory McIlroy (-18)
  • 2017: Marc Leishman (-11)
  • 2016: Jason Day (-17)

5 Key Stats For Bay Hill

Let’s take a look at five metrics key for Bay Hill to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach is often the most important statistic, and this week will be no different. This is a difficult golf course, and players will be penalized for missing greens in regulation.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Tom Hoge (+28.9) (+11000)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+25.4) (+2200)
  3. Tony Finau (+21.3) (+2200)
  4. Gary Woodland (+19.7) (+10000)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+19.7) (+2000)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

To compete at Bay Hill, golfers will need an excellent performance off the tee. Distance is important due to the length of the course and its layout, but accuracy is just as important.

We have seen recent events in which golfers can get away with bad tee shots, but Bay Hill isn’t one of those courses. The rough is extremely thick and penal, so saving par after a poor tee shot isn’t likely.

SG: OTT Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+20.1) (+1000)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+19.5) (+6500)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+18.5) (+2200)
  4. Luke List (+17.1) (+15000)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+16.0) (+850)

3. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda and Lightning)

A major reason Bay Hill plays as one of the most difficult courses on TOUR is the incredibly fast greens. The Bermuda putting surfaces have played “lightning” fast in every round since 2017.

SG: Putting (Bermuda and Lightning) over past 24 rounds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+24.9) (+20000)
  2. Zach Johnson (+24.1) (+40000)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+21.5) (+3000)
  4. David Lingmerth (+20.4) (+50000)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+16.7) (+2200)

4. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

While ball-striking is in part off the tee and approach, I want the total tee-to-green package built into the model this week as it will take a well-rounded effort from tee to green to get it done at Bay Hill.

SG: BS Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+37.6) (+1000)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+36.6) (+2200)
  3. Gary Woodland (+35.0) (+10000)
  4. Jon Rahm (+33.6) (+650)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+22.7) (+850)

5. Strokes Gained: Par 5

With four par 5s on the course, it will be important to take advantage of these holes. While I don’t expect the winning score to be quite as uninspiring as last year, it certainly won’t be a birdie fest.

Whoever takes best advantage of the score-able par 5s may have the best shot to win.

SG: Par 5 Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jon Rahm (+21.7) (+650)
  2. Wyndham Clark (+20.3) (+11000)
  3. Justin Thomas (+16.6) (+2000)
  4. Garrick Higgo (+16.3) (+25000)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+16.1) (+2000)

Arnold Palmer Invitational Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories discussed above — SG: Approach (27%), SG: Off the Tee (23%), SG: Putting Bermudagrass/Lightning (18%), SG: Ball Striking (20%) and SG: Par 5 (12%).

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2200)
  2. Jon Rahm (+650)
  3. Gary Woodland (+2200)
  4. Scottie Scheffler (+1000)
  5. Tony Finau (+2200)
  6. Rory McIlroy (+850)
  7. Jason Day (+3500)
  8. Collin Morikawa (+2000)
  9. Charley Hoffman (+40000)
  10. Will Zalatoris (+3000)

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Viktor Hovland +3300 (BetRivers)

Last year, Viktor Hovland almost broke through at Bay Hill, but a final-round 74 was his undoing as he finished one shot behind a red-hot Scottie Scheffler. The conditions were tough that day, so him contending in those extremely difficult conditions is a good sign for his chances this week. For the week, Hovland gained 10.3 strokes from tee to green, which was third in the field. 

Hovland is yet to contend in the 2023 season, but he’s started off the year solidly enough. He has three top-20 finishes in four tries and is hitting the ball well off of the tee, which is crucial for playing well at Bay Hill. In his past 12 rounds, he’s third in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, gaining 3.6 strokes on the field per event. Long and straight is most definitely the recipe for the Arnold Palmer Invitational and can make up for Hovland’s (more than) occasional short game woes.

Historically, international players have dominated Bay Hill, winning five straight at the event prior to DeChambeau in 2021 and Scheffler in 2022. This would be far and away Hovland’s biggest win of his career as he’s yet to win in an elite field. With all eyes on Bay Hill in a designated event this week, I believe the 25-year-old will breakthrough and become the star many hoped he would be.

Jason Day +3300 (BetRivers)

So far in 2023, it seems as if Jason Day is on the precipice of returning to the form that earned him the number one spot in the world and a major championship. In his past three starts, two of which being “designated” events, Day has finished seventh, fifth and ninth. Even in the most elite of fields, the 35-year-old has shown that he can compete with the best. 

One of the most glaring differences in 2023 as opposed to recent seasons for Day has been his return to being one of the best putters in the world. At his peak, there was no one you trusted more over an important putt than the Australian, and it appears that may once again be the case. In four starts in 2023, Day has gained 4.9, 5.8, 3.7 and 4.3 strokes putting, respectively. In his past 12 rounds, he trails only the red-hot Max Homa in that category. 

In addition to the great recent form, Day has also historically been excellent at Bay Hill. He won the event in 2016 and has additional top-25 finishes in 2015, 2017 and 2018. I expect this week to be exceedingly difficult, which should favor a player with a terrific short game like Day. 

Shane Lowry +6500 (FanDuel)

Shane Lowry is quite an interesting case this week that emphasizes the debate on whether “course history” or “course fit” is more important. Lowry hasn’t been very good at Bay Hill throughout his career, missing his last four cuts at the event.

However, if we dig a little deeper, we can see he was in poor lead-in form for the majority of those starts. Most recently in 2021, Lowry was coming off of a week where he lost 5.7 strokes on approach. In 2019, it was the same story – he lost 5.2 strokes on approach in his last start.

The opposite is true currently, as Lowry is playing some fantastic golf. Last week at The Honda Classic, the Irishman gained 5.1 strokes on approach and 3.9 strokes off the tee. He’s in excellent form. 

In addition to the strong recent play, there’s no reason that Bay Hill shouldn’t suit the former Open Champion. Lowry loves a tough test and is an incredible wind player with a strong around the green game. With a winner likely to come in the single digits under par this week, I would be surprised if Lowry didn’t get involved over the weekend.

Tommy Fleetwood +8000 (BetRivers)

Tommy Fleetwood may not offer a ton of “win equity,” but at this price, he’s worth a look. The Englishman has played great golf in the state of Florida throughout his career. Seven of his 21 career top-10 finishes have been in the Sunshine State, including three of them at Bay Hill (2017, 2019 and 2021). 

Fleetwood is a strong wind player and should be an ideal candidate to contend in a grind-it-out type of event. The Englishman has gained 1.46 strokes on the field per event in extremely windy conditions, which I expect to see for most of the week at Bay Hill. 

Tommy may have never won on American soil, but he’s played his best golf in some of the biggest events. This year’s star-studded Arnold Palmer Invitational with a $20 million prize pool would certainly fit the bill for Fleetwood. 

Rickie Fowler +8500 (FanDuel)

He may not have won since 2019, but in terms of the way he’s playing, it would certainly appear that Rickie Fowler is “back.”

Fowler has had a fast start to his 2023, with finishes of 11th, 10th and 20th in his past three starts. Even more impressive than his finishes are his statistics. In those three starts, Rickie has gained 4.2, 6.3 and 4.6 strokes on approach. Now, he’ll head to Florida where he’s played incredibly well over the years. 

The 34-(wow, really?) year-old is a fantastic wind player and has been steady this season in terms of driving accuracy. He’s gained strokes on the field in “Fairways Gained” in every one of his 2023 starts and currently has great control over his golf swing. 

If Fowler is indeed back, a win at the first ever designated event at Bay Hill would be a hell of a way to announce it to the golf world. 

Gary Woodland +9000 (FanDuel)

Bay Hill is the scene of the last time it felt like Gary Woodland actually had a chance to win deep into the back nine on Sunday. He eventually finished fifth, but his Florida form should bring some positive vibes to a player who’s been struggling for consistency since his U.S. Open victory in 2019.

Woodland is certainly a risk to let us down this week, but he’s seemingly found his game at the perfect time to return to a course he likes. At Riviera, Woodland gained 9.7 strokes on approach and 2.8 off the tee. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks among the top five in the field in Approach, Off the Tee and Ball Striking. The statistics combined with his encouraging course history is too tempting to ignore at long odds.

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