This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Course: Bay Hill Club and Lodge (7,466 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,674,000 and 550 FedExCup points
Stop No. 2 on the 2021 Florida Swing takes us to famed Bay Hill Club & Lodge for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A common theme in recent years has been international winners, and in fact, Tiger Woods and Matt Every are the only Americans to win this event since 2006. Last year it was Englishman Tyrrell Hatton who prevailed during some of the most challenging conditions we've seen in Florida in some time. His winning score of 4-under was the highest score to par by a winner since 1983. The scoring conditions should be much more favorable this time around, as the worst of the wind is supposed to come on Sunday but only average around 15-to-20 miles per hour.
Eight of the top 18 players in the OWGR will be teeing it up in Orlando this week, and Rory McIlroy slots in as the easy favorite thanks to his impressive record at Bay Hill, where he has a win back in 2018 and hasn't finished outside the top-6 the last four years. Budding superstar Viktor Hovland will also be teeing it up and looking for his seventh top-6 finish in his last eight starts worldwide. Jordan Spieth will be looking for his fourth top-15 in a row as he makes his Arnold Palmer Invitational debut.
Like the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago, the winner this week will receive 550 FedExCup points and earn a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
2020 – Tyrrell Hatton
2019 – Francesco Molinari
2018 – Rory McIlroy
2017 – Marc Leishman
2016 – Jason Day
2015 – Matt Every
2014 – Matt Every
2013 – Tiger Woods
2012 – Tiger Woods
2011 – Martin Laird
2010 – Ernie Els
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- SG: Putting
Bay Hill tests all aspects of a player's game. For starters, the rough will be as thick as any course we have seen so far in 2021. That will place a premium on keeping the ball in the short grass, and is part of the reason why we have seen players of all lengths find success here. The greens are on the larger side, but getting close to these hole locations is often quite a challenge. The Bermuda surfaces are slated to run up to 13.5 feet on the Stimpmeter, which is about as fast as we see all season. That should further emphasize attacking hole locations from proper angles and from the fairways. The par-3s at Bay Hill are extremely challenging, so the par-5s have to be taken advantage of. All four of the long holes here should be reachable by the majority of the field. Scrambling will be important, because last year the field averaged just 9.1 GIR per round. While conditions should be easier, players will still likely have to navigate some difficult into-the-grain pitches around some of the raised greens. Lastly, you need to have a solid week with the flat stick to be in contention. With green speeds this fast and many of the surfaces very exposed to the elements, those that strike putts confidently and purely will be the ones that have a chance to put on the red cardigan at the end of the week.
FanDuel Value Picks
Viktor Hovland ($11,900)
Hovland nearly pulled if off last week at The Concession despite his infamous quadruple-bogey in round two. The Norwegian is just rolling right now, with six top-6 finishes in his last seven starts, and he has not missed a cut in a full calendar year. We all should know by now how great of a ball-striker Hovland is, but if you need some numbers, he ranks fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee, sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green, and 10th in GIR percentage. He's also ninth in birdie average and second in scoring average this season.
Sungjae Im ($11,300)
Im has made two career starts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he finished top-3 on both occasions. It's not a surprise he's done so well here considering how well he hits all the clubs in his bag. This season Im ranks 10th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 15th in driving accuracy, 27th in GIR percentage, and 19th in birdie average. The South Korean has only missed one cut in 14 starts this season and has eight top-30 finishes.
Matthew Fitzpatrick ($11,100)
Another Bay Hill ace, Fitzpatrick has finished T13 or better in three of his last four starts here, including a runner-up in 2019. The Englishman is playing his best golf right now, with finishes of T17-T5-T11 in his last three starts. That first PGA Tour win has to be coming sooner rather than later, especially given his affinity with Florida courses. Fitzpatrick ranks top-30 in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, and putts per GIR this season.
Francesco Molinari ($10,300)
Really since his win in this event back in 2019, things have gone downhill for the 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year. Things have started to turn around in the early part of 2021, however, as Molinari has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. The Italian is currently top-30 on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green, SG: Tee-to-Green, proximity to the hole, scrambling, and putts per round. That's the type of complete game you need to succeed at Bay Hill and a reason why he has never missed a cut while recording four top-10s in seven starts here.
Longer Shots with Value
Jason Kokrak ($9,800)
Kokrak has made the cut in all five of his starts in 2021, including a T9 last week at The Concession. In that event he ranked fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee and ninth in SG: Putting. Those strong driving and putting numbers are a reflection of his season stats this year. Kokrak has racked up three top-10s and five top-20s in his career at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Cameron Davis ($9,600)
The Aussie has really been coming into his own this season, making 9-of-10 cuts, including a trio of top-15s. Davis' ball striking numbers have been very impressive, as he ranks 15th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 45th in SG: Approach, and 30th in SG: Tee-to-Green. He is also 20th in birdie average and 45th in putts per round. His length should really help him take advantage of the par-5s when he reaches them.
Corey Conners ($9,100)
We know Conners has been one of the best ball-strikers on Tour over the last couple seasons, but this season he is actually gaining strokes around the greens and on them. The Canadian sits top-20 on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Tee-to-Green, driving accuracy, and GIR percentage. Conners has already recorded seven top-25 finishes this season, after putting up 10 all of last season.
Chris Kirk ($8,700)
Kirk comes in rested after picking up his fourth top-20 finish in six starts at Pebble Beach a few weeks ago. None of his stats really jump off the page, but he is very solid across the board. Kirk ranks top-50 this season in SG: Approach, SG: Around, SG: Tee-to-Green, driving accuracy, GIR percentage, proximity to the hole and scrambling. He also has had pretty solid success at Bay Hill, notching four top-16 finishes in eight career starts.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
For whatever reason, Bay Hill just seems to be one of those places where course history plays a big factor. Players that perform well here seem to have continued success, while those who have struggled in prior attempts seem to continue doing so. It's also a place where – as mentioned in the Champion's Profile – you can't fake your way around. All aspects of your game will be tested, and I think it's wise to target players who have performed well in a number of different areas. There are a number of options at $10,000 and up that it would be hard to go wrong with, but there's also not quite as many intriguing options below $9,500, as has been the case at some other events with similar strength-of-field ratings.