ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL - Orlando, FL
Course: Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge (7,419 yards, par 72)
$1,134,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
In both joy and sadness, this week will be the first Arnold Palmer Invitational without the beloved "King." A new bronze statue of Arnold Palmer will overlook both the first and 10th tees for spectators to revere for years to come. Such a humbling setting has brought forth 12 of the world’s top 25 players to pay tribute to the man responsible for putting Bay Hill on the map, while touching many hearts in the golf world and beyond. Top entrants include Rory McIlroy, Jason Day -- making his first start since the West Coast swing, and Henrik Stenson who seeks to triumph at the venue he recorded a top-5 finish at each of the last three years. Bay Hill plays tough, mostly due to four long par-4s, but birdie opportunities present themselves on the reachable par-5s. Dubiously named the "Devil’s Bathtub," the troubling 440-yard par-4 18th hole will draw fanfare and force critical decision-making for players down the stretch Sunday.
Prior Decade Champions
2016 – Jason Day
2015 – Matt Every
2014 – Matt Every
2013 – Tiger Woods
2012 – Tiger Woods
2011 – Martin Laird
2010 – Ernie Els
2009 – Tiger Woods
2008 – Tiger Woods
2007 – Vijay Singh
Key Stats to Winning at Bay Hill
• Par-5 Scoring
• Average Proximity to the Hole
• Strokes Gained Putting
Length always helps on a longer track, but a deep dive into the stats reveals the keys to winning at Bay Hill are approach shots and putting. In recent years, around 70 percent of the advantage winners have enjoyed over the field can be traced to those two factors. Looking at the past winners, we see Tiger, Jason Day, Ernie, Vijay, Martin Laird and Matt Every. It’s quick to note most of those guys are elite players with length off the tee, but Laird and Every have average length and average PGA Tour resumes. Keeping it in play off the tee and letting your irons and putter do the talking were long hallmarks of the late Arnold Palmer himself, which further strengthens the profile and brings light to why the King proclaimed it the “best course in Florida” after his first round at Bay Hill.
FANDUEL VALUE PICKS
Rory McIlroy, $10700 – The favorite this week, McIlroy re-emerged from a recent rib injury to post a top-10 at the WGC-Mexico two weeks ago. He has a T11 and T27 in his only two starts at Bay Hill and should contend if his putter is average or better.
Jason Day, $10300 – The defending champion at Bay Hill, Day is tried and true at this venue. However, his prospects are somewhat uncertain as he returns from the flu, particularly having not played on the PGA Tour in a month.
Henrik Stenson, $10200 – After a stomach virus abruptly ended his event two weeks ago, Stenson bounced back with a top-10 at Innisbrook last week. He holds perhaps the most decorated Bay Hill record of anyone in the field this week with, as noted above, top-5 finishes in his last three starts here.
Hideki Matsuyama, $10000 – Among the strongest tee-to-green players in the game right now, Matsuyama is enjoying a career year with five worldwide wins since last October. If his putter shows up he will be a strong contender this week.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Tyrell Hatton, $7800 – The 25-year-old Englishman is riding a hot streak of three consecutive top-10s as he makes his first start at Bay Hill.
Thomas Pieters, $7100 – He finished fifth at the WGC-Mexico two weeks ago and was second at Riveria a month ago, a course that closely resembles the difficulty of Bay Hill. Pieters currently leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach, a key to success at Bay Hill.
Wesley Bryan, $6700 – He is a first-timer at Bay Hill but has righted the ship of late, notching three straight top-10s after missing four straight cuts earlier in the season.
Kevin Chappell, $6300 – He has a bipolar record of three top-25s versus two missed cuts at Bay Hill, including a near-win last season. Last season Chappell made plenty of hay in big tournaments, so he’s no stranger to high-profile events.
Jason Kokrak, $5400 – An underrated bomber off the tee, Kokrak has history on his side with two top-6 finishes at Bay Hill to go with a tie for 20th last year.