February 28, 2023, 2:10 pm
The PGA Tour returns this week after Chris Kirk was able to hold off 34-year -old longshot rookie Eric Cole in a playoff. For a tournament with a field that left a lot to be desired, the magic of the PGA Tour shined through as Cole and Kirk separated themselves from the pack on Sunday afternoon. Cole certainly had his chances, but a few poor shots down the stretch sunk his chances and Kirk took home his first title in seven years. Now, we move on to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
After a one-week hiatus, we are back to another designated event for the API being played at Bay Hill Club and Lodge located in Orlando, FL. Another $20 million prize pool including $3.6 million for first is in play this week and it has attracted every eligible player inside the top-50 of the official world golf rankings. Bay Hill is another tough course where par is a perfectly acceptable score on most holes and wind is going to be a major part of the story as it usually is at this event. Let’s dig in.
Bay Hill plays as a monstrous 7,400+ yard Par-72 and is once again a tough test of golf for the field this week. The winning score here has not surpassed twelve under par in five of the last six tournaments. As is standard for Florida courses, players will be playing on Bermuda grass greens that are some of the fastest on tour. Water and sand is once again in play this week on a lot of holes to go along with frequent windy conditions. Adding to the difficulty is the length this course poses with nearly 30% of approach shots coming from 200+ yards out due. Most of this stems from the lengthy par 5s and all four par 3s playing at least 200 yards.
The par 5s will need to be where golfers take advantage of scoring opportunities here, especially the 6th hole which sports a birdie rate of over 50% (including a 5% eagle rate). The historic cut line at the event has been 3 or 4 over par and we have seen lots of comebacks due to weather conditions and the overall difficulty of the course which will present some live betting opportunities for those who are inclined. As of this writing, Friday appears as if it is going to be chaos with wind gusts climbing to over 30mph, but we will keep an eye on this as the week progresses.
120 players have been invited to play in Arnold’s tournament and as mentioned, we are treated to another excellent field. This event has typically drawn big names, but never all of them playing at the same time like this. International players have also had a strong presence at this tournament which makes sense given the windy conditions.
Rory McIlory, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick stand out when looking at course history. Sungjae Im, Keith Mitchell, Max Homa and last week’s champion Chris Kirk also feature excellent results in their careers at Bay Hill. Tom Kim and Patrick Cantlay will be making their course debuts this week, while other big names such as Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have very limited experience here.
It will be interesting to see if having all the top guns playing together here changes what we think we know about this event. This is one of the stickiest course history events on tour as the same players tend to do well here year after year. It’s not that previous tournaments had weak fields by any means, but never as strong as this.
Five of the previous six winners had a winning score of 12 under par or worse (Rory’s win in 2018 with a score of 18 under being the exception). Friday and Saturday could bring some doozy winds so we will also want to incorporate strong players in windy conditions into our lineups.
Here are the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– A staple stat that translates to any course. It is the stat that has been proven to be heavily correlated with long-term success and past winners of this event. With fast, firm and probable windy conditions, golfers’ second shots this week will need to be dialed in to contend.
- SG: ARG– Around the Green is going to be important this week. We want to target golfers who have the skillset to get up and down for par when they miss the green.
- Proximity 200+ – Half of the 10 par 4 holes are from 450-500 range, three of the four par 5s play between 550-600 yards and all four par 3s play at least 200 yards. Good long iron play is an absolute must at Bay Hill.
- SG: Par 5– As mentioned a few times already, scoring opportunities will be few and far between this week. That being said, the four easiest holes relative to par at Bay Hill are the par 5s. While they do have good length to them, all feature a birdie rate over 30% and we need the golfers we roster to take advantage of these holes.
Follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional thoughts as the week goes on and I’d be happy to help out with any lineup questions you have. Let’s make some money!
Round 1 Props
Thrive Contest Plays for Thursday’s Round 1 Action
Tony Finau 67.5 Strokes MORE (70 PTS) – Tony has been excellent to start the year, having yet to place outside the top-20. However, he has played here once before (2020) and did not see the weekend. We usually only see 3-5 golfers go under this number after round 1 and while Finau certainly has the talent to do so, his poor long iron play as of late gives me enough pause to bet him shooting better than this number.
Jason Day 4.5 Birdies LESS (80 PTS) – Day has been playing some excellent golf in 2023 and it is a joy to watch him play well again. The former number one in the world and past champion here certainly knows his way around Bay Hill, but five birdies on this course is asking quite a lot. I’m willing to go under on this one.
Jon Rahm 3.5 Birdies MORE (80 PTS) – Thursday seems like the best chance to get some scoring done. There is no denying that Rahm is on an absolute heater right now and is capable of taking advantage of each of the par 5s here. Went over this number in 2-of-4 rounds in his first appearance last year and I like Rahm to eclipse this number come Thursday.
Props Record YTD
DFS Top Tier Play
What’s left to be said about Jon Rahm? 1st, 1st, 7th, 3rd, 1st has been his 2023 and there are no signs of slowing down. Everything about his game is dialed in right now and he is rightfully so, the most expensive golfer this week. However, McIlroy has an immaculate course history here and is nearly $1,000 cheaper than Rahm, so there may be an opportunity for reduced ownership on the Spaniard. We have seen ownership percentages come in relatively flat at the top of the board in the designated events so far, but this is the biggest price difference there has been thus far between the top two players. T17 in his debut at this event last year when he wasn’t at the top of his game, I am riding the wave with Rahm this week.
Others Considered: Xander Schauffele ($9,200), Collin Morikawa ($9,500)
DFS Mid Tier Play
Burns has had an up-and-down start to the season. A middling start at the TOC and a MC at his last appearance during the Genesis bookend and 11th at the AMEX and a 6th in Phoenix. What really has me excited about Burns this week is the putter and especially his putting on Bermuda greens. Burns has two wins at the Valspar (also on Bermuda greens in Florida) and comes in having gained on the greens in his last 5 outings. Top-10 in this event last year to go with a made cut in four of five appearances here, I expect Burns to make the most of his opportunities on the greens this week.
Others Considered: Tyrrell Hatton ($8,300), Jordan Spieth ($8,600)
DFS Value Play
While I am excited about the putting of Sam Burns this week, the complete opposite can be said of Woodland. That being said, Gary has been playing some good golf coming in and also pops in the long-term key stats I’m looking at. Ranking 1st in par 3s over 200 yards and 3rd in proximity from 200+ (both over the last 50 rounds). He is also in the top half of the field off the tee and on taking advantage of the par 5s, while also above average in the field in windy condition and scoring on difficult courses. There have been a lot of mixed results for the 2019 U.S. Open Champion, but his game is trending in the right direction and if he can avoid putting himself out of this event (on a positive note he gained over 6 strokes putting here last year), I think there is a chance Woodland crushes this price tag.
Others Considered: Luke List ($7,300), Alex Smalley ($6,700)
Outright Betting Picks
Will Zalatoris (+2500) (DK)
Sam Burns (+4800) (FD)
*Will look to add more once the tee times are announced. Will also be saving some funds for live betting opportunities. Follow my Twitter for updates!
Position Player Name DK Salary G Jon Rahm $11,500 G Sam Burns $8,100 G Gary Woodland $7,400 G Jordan Spieth $8,600 G G REMAINING BUDGET $14,400 for 2 golfers