The PGA Tour makes its way to Bay Hill Club and Lodge just southwest of Orlando this week, with Tyrrell Hatton looking to be the first Arnold Palmer Invitational back-to-back winner since Matt Every pulled off the feat in 2014-15. Prior to Every’s double-up, Tiger Woods had gone back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.
Woods had long dominated Bay Hill but unfortunately the all-time great won’t be playing this week or anytime soon. Even prior to the serious single-car accident that landed him in the hospital last week, Woods wasn’t expected to play at Bay Hill due to recent back surgery.
All told, the strength of the field at Palmer’s tournament has fallen off a bit in recent years. This year, 12 of the top 25 players in the world golf rankings will play in Arnie’s event at Bay Hill. That includes defending champion and No. 5 Hatton, along with 2018 winner and No. 8 Rory McIlroy, and No. 10 Bryson DeChambeau.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Odds 2021
McIlroy opened as the favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook with odds of +950. Viktor Hovland (+1200), DeChambeau (+1300) and Hatton (+1700) all had odds lower than +2000 at FD Monday morning.
Notable players in the field
Notably absent from this year’s event are five top ranked players in Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa.
The PGA Tour schedule is such that the players have to take a break somewhere. And following this past week’s WGC Workday Championship at Concession, the Arnold Palmer Invitational falls before next week’s Players Championship. The Honda Classic and the WGC Match Play event close out the month of March, then it’s another break for many top players prior to The Masters at Augusta National starting April 8.
Top players in the Arnold Palmer Invitational:
- Tyrrell Hatton (No. 5 OWGR)
- Rory McIlroy (8)
- Bryson DeChambeau (10)
- Patrick Reed (11)
- Viktor Hovland (14)
- Matthew Fitzpatrick (16)
- Sungjae Im (17)
- Paul Casey (18)
- Harris English (20)
- Tommy Fleetwood (21)
- Hideki Matsuyama (23)
- Kevin Na (25)
- Louis Oosthuizen (26)
- Victor Perez (30)
- Marc Leishman (32)
- Jason Kokrak (33)
- Kevin Kisner (34)
- Justin Rose (35)
Other notable players include Jason Day, Will Zalatoris, Henrik Stenson, President’s Cup captain Davis Love III and Jordan Spieth – who will play in Arnie’s event for the first time. The four-time major winner has found his groove again with a pair of top-5 finishes in February plus a T15 at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. Three players in the top 10 of the current FedExCup Standings will look to continue their strong play – Viktor Hovland, Harris English and Genesis Invitational winner Max Homa.
Other players in the FedExCup top 20 who have been playing better, and younger golfers to watch include Jason Kokrak and American Express winner Si Woo Kim, plus Sam Burns, Wyndham Clark and Peter Malnati.
Also, US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker and European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington have received special exemptions to play in the tournament.
Just two years ago, Justin Rose was ranked No. 2 in the world and was the favorite in this event. He’s fallen off to No. 35 in the OWGR. That’s nothing compared to Rickie Fowler, though, who came to this event in 2019 ranked No. 7 in the world and is now No. 65. Both golfers are back for this year’s tournament.
Of note, international players have won the last five editions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Recent Arnold Palmer Invitational winners and runner-ups:
- 2020 – Tyrrell Hatton (-4), Marc Leishman
- 2019 – Francesco Molinari (-12), Matthew Fitzpatrick
- 2018 – Rory McIlroy. (-18), Bryson DeChambeau
- 2017 – Marc Leishman (-11), Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman
- 2016 – Jason Day (-17), Kevin Chappell
Top finishers in 2020 returning in 2021:
- Tyrrell Hatton (Win)
- Marc Leishman (2)
- Sungjae Im (3)
- Bryson DeChambeau (4)
- Rory McIlroy (T5)
- Joel Dahmen (T5)
- Danny Lee (T5)
- Matthew Fitzpatrick (T9)
- Harris English (T9)
- Sung Kang (T9)
McIlroy, Im, Fitzpatrick and Kang also finished top 10 in the 2019 event.
Golfers to watch
There are just 6-7 golfers priced below 25/1 this week in a most competitive field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That includes Matthew Fitzpatrick, who came in at lower odds than expected with his solid current form and proven play at Bay Hill the past two years.
Last week, Collin Morikawa cashed in at +4500 to win as a Golfer to Watch at the WGC World Championships at The Concession. Here are four more Golfers to Watch that fit stat profiles, value odds and potential to win or gain a more realistic top 5, 10, 20 or even Top 30 finish, which you can bet at DraftKings Sportsbook. Also, use the profiles as a guide when betting tournament match-ups and player props. Strokes Gained stats provided by research at Fantasy National.
Watch the weather with more wind expected over the weekend, including rain on Saturday. Recall in last year’s event, not a single golfer shot in the 60s on Saturday, as heavy winds drove scoring up with the average score of 75.9 the highest round average in more than 35 years at Bay Hill.
Tommy Fleetwood (+4000 DraftKings & BetMGM): Fleetwood failed to deliver last week in his 2021 PGA Tour debut. He finished T44, but his Strokes-Gained ball striking stats were solid over the weekend. His SG: Approach stats are not strong over his last 36 rounds, but his Short Game and Around the Green Stats are competitive. More European players have thrived in this event, and Fleetwood’s solid Ball Striking and course fit from the tee make him a more likely contender this week. Fleetwood has finished top 10 in 5-of-9 starts on the traditional Florida Swing, which includes two top 10 finishes in this event the past four years.
Will Zalatoris (+4500 DraftKings): Zalatoris was also on our Golfers to Watch radar last week at longer odds, and he delivered until a double-bogey on the final hole dropped him to T22. Still, as he makes his debut at Bay Hill, his Tee-to-Green game fits well with longer par 4’s and birdies to be made on the par 5’s. Zalatoris has four top 10 finishes in 10 starts since last year’s U.S. Open. Three other top 20 finishes including at Riviera and just missing last week. As his putting comes around, this 24-year-old will be tearing up the tour. His top 20 stats over his last 36 rounds in SG: Approach, Ball Striking and Tee-to-Green make him one to watch.
Cameron Davis (+8000 DraftKings): Davis is a solid sleeper with a ton of talent, as the big-hitting, tall and slender 26-year-old Aussie has the game and can really score. Over his last 36 rounds on Bermudagrass, Davis ranks No. 11 in this field in SG: Total with top 10 in Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, which has been a real strength in some key events this year. He finished third in the American Express the end of January, and T14 at Pebble Beach. Could he break through on debut at Bay Hill? Top 5, 10 and 20 odds are more realistic but solid offerings at +1400, +650 and +300. He’s a match-up bet over the weekend if windy conditions prevail.
Matthew NeSmith (+11000 FD/DK): NeSmith ranks No. 1 on tour in Greens in Regulation, hitting better than 75% this season. A pair of top 20 finishes in recent events plus a T7 in Phoenix shows the 27-year-olds game is improving and in good form. His Strokes Gained stats support it over his last 36 rounds on Bermudagrass with a No. 12 ranking in SG: Total and top 5 in SG: Approach. In fact, over his last 24 rounds on all courses, NeSmith ranks top 2 in both Ball Striking and Approach play.
Wyndham Clark (+12000 FanDuel): Like the players above, Wyndham Clark has not yet won on the PGA Tour, but his play is improving. The big-hitting 27-year-old is third on tour in driving distance (318 yards), and finished T8 in his recent event at Riviera. He much prefers putting on Bermuda over Poa greens.
Sung-Hoon Kang (+29000 FanDuel): Kang has finished top 10 in this event the past two years, yet he’s being offered at these huge odds.
Joel Dahmen (+19000 FanDuel): He’s terribly out of form right now, having missed the cut in four of his last five starts. He doesn’t like Poa, but over his last 36 rounds covering Bermudagrass, Dahman ranks No. 3 in this field in SG: Total, with top 7 in SG: Ball Striking, Approach and Off-the-Tee.
Keith Mitchell (+17500 DraftKings): Mitchell has finished T5 and T6 the past two years in this event, and he’s another player that plays and putts so much better on Bermudagrass.
Sam Burns (+4500 DraftKings): Burns has become a very popular player since we first identified him as a Golfer to Watch in January. His odds have been cut in half since then, as his improved play along with Driving and Putting stats warrant consideration, although his struggles Around the Green and best finish of 36th here in three starts make him less attractive at these odds.
Jason Kokrak (+3800 FanDuel): Kokrak’s Tee-to-Green game is solid, and he’s finished top 10 in this event three times. His game and results have improved through early 2021 and includes a top 10 last week in the WGC Championships.
Course and tournament information
- Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
- Location: Orlando, FL
- Date: March 4-7
- Par: 72 / Yardage 7,454
- Purse: $9.3 Million / Winner $1.67 M
- Fairways/Rough: Bermudagrass
- Greens: : Bermudagrass
- TV/Online: Golf Channel, NBC (Sat/Sun), PGA Tour Live
- Twitter & Hashtag: @APinv
- Defending Champion: Tyrrell Hatton
When Arnold Palmer developed Bay Hill and moved to the area, he not only turned Central Florida into a recreation destination (before Disney World, 1971), but transformed the entire State of Florida into a golfing mecca. Mr. Palmer took ownership of the course in 1975, and Bay Hill has hosted a PGA Tour event every year since 1979. Palmer co-founded the Golf Channel just a tee shot away from Bay Hill in 1995, and it now broadcasts most PGA Tour events Thursday through Sunday with major networks chipping in coverage on the weekends.
Palmer’s generous financial gifts to numerous charitable causes, including throughout the Orlando area, is what the PGA Tour is about. The players are also benefitting from enormous purses as the game and golf betting interest continues to grow.
This is “The King’s” event, and Arnold Palmers’ aura and imagery is everywhere at Bay Hill.
Bay Hill was the first golf course planted with Tifway bermudagrass. The greens were re-grassed in 2015, and are above average in size with the tournament fact sheet showing greens averaging 7,500 square feet. The putting surfaces are pure, with little undulations. There are 84 sand bunkers to navigate and water comes into play on nine holes.
Generous fairways allow golfers to hit their driver often, but missing fairways presents problems with Bay Hill ranking as one of the hardest courses to get the ball close to the hole from the rough. Players with strong strokes gained stats in Tee-to-Green play are ones to identify.
The Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club is a comp course for similarity, along with TPC Southwind, which now hosts a WGC Championships event for the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Both those tournaments are in August.
Players in the field at Bay Hill that rank highest in SG: Tee-to-Green over their last 36 rounds include (Fantasy National stats):
- Keegan Bradley
- Corey Conners
- Viktor Hovland
- Luke List
- Harold Varner III
- Rory McIlroy
- Sam Burns
- Hideki Matsuyama
- Matthew NeSmith
- Bryson DeChambeau
- Will Zalatoris
- Henrik Norlander
- Paul Casey
Strokes Gained: Putting leaders on Bermudagrass over that same period include:
- Patton Kizzire
- Matthew Fitzpatrick
- Brendon Todd
- Sam Burns
- Peter Malnati
- Kevin Kisner
- Denny McCarthy
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout
- J.T. Poston
- Patrick Reed
Following the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the strongest fields in golf will be at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach as the players tee it up for the Players Championship.