ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL
Winner's Share: $1.602M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
2017 champion: Marc Leishman
Last year was the first Arnold Palmer Invitational without Arnold Palmer. While this year's tournament can't and won't be quite as sad and somber, Bay Hill will remain a poignant moment on the golf calendar for years to come. Palmer was called "The King, but also simply "Arnie" by his legion of fans in Arnie's Army. And that was the beauty of Palmer, someone so legendary as to be referred to as royalty but also a regular Joe, a man of the people. Since Palmer's passing, the tournament implemented rotating co-hosts. This year, Rickie Fowler, one of the most popular players on Tour, is joined by Peter Jacobsen (back for his second year in the role) and Nancy Lopez.
Of course, the only golfer almost as synonymous with this event as Palmer is its eight-time champion, Tiger Woods. Woods returns for the first time since capturing the title in 2013, and we can expect some gesture on his part to pay homage to Palmer. We could wax poetic all day about Palmer and these wonderful subplots to the actual golf. But with Woods arriving on the heels of his remarkable showing at the Valspar last week, it's time to talk actual golf. It's not surprising that Woods is the betting favorite; it's stunning that at 6-1 he is the overwhelming favorite. Surprisingly, though, Woods is only the No. 5 choice on the DraftKings board, behind 2016 champion Jason Day; Justin Rose, the 2013 runner-up to Woods; Rory McIlroy, who tied for fourth last year; and Fowler, third in 2013. But make no mistake, Woods' ownership will be off the charts, likely more than all four of those guys. It creates a conundrum for gamers, especially GPP players looking to separate themselves from the pack. So many golf fans are rooting for Woods, and want to be a "part" of his first victory back. We could even envision some gamers who didn't pick Woods rooting for him late Sunday and against themselves. It all creates a fascinating backdrop to lineup strategy this week, and likely for many weeks to come as Woods makes a huge impact on daily fantasy golf.
Four of the top-10 in the world are in the limited 120-man field: Rose, Fowler, Day and Hideki Matsuyama, who is making a return of his own after being out 1 1/2 months with a hand injury. After that, the tournament fills out nicely with 13 of the top-25 part of what traditionally is among the two or three strongest fields on the regular Tour schedule (excluding majors, WGCs, playoffs).
Bay Hill most years plays as one of the tougher tracks on Tour. But after some modifications, things got significantly easier in 2015 and '16. Last year, however, it regained its usual bite and was ranked as the ninth-toughest course. At 7,400-plus yards it's not especially long by today's standards, especially for a par-72, but all four par-3s exceed 200 yards and there are five par-4s exceeding 450. That means long iron play is important. That also tells us something about the par-5s. None is longer than 575 yards, all are gettable and golfers must make a big dent in them if they hope to win. We'll expand on that in the key stats and Champion's Profile below. The toughest hole last year once again was the 458-yard 18th, and there were 28 scores of double bogey or worse, something that could lead to a fantastic finish, or a disastrous one, coming Sunday evening.
Weather-wise, the forecast almost seems too perfect as of now. Temperatures in the 70s and 80s with little chance of rain and tepid wind all four days. But if the wind picks up along the Atlantic coast...
Key Stats to Winning at Bay Hill
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation, especially from 200+ yards/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Par-5 scoring average
2017 - Marc Leishman
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
Over the past decade, the tournament has been dominated by, of course, Tiger Woods and also, er, um, Matt Every. Woods has won four times in that stretch and Every remarkably captured two in a row. One thing they had in common was excellent putting. The last six winners -- Woods twice, Every twice, Jason Day and Marc Leishman -- all finished top-8 in the field in strokes gained: putting. Despite the course's length, don't focus on driving distance. The fairways are very wide and even today's medium-distance hitters are long enough for Bay Hill (when Woods won in 2013, he was 49th in driving distance). What does go a long way in determining a champion is par-5 scoring. When Leishman won at 11-under last year, he finished 11-under on the par-5s. When Day won at 17-under amid somewhat easier conditions, he was 10-under on the par-5s.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Jason Day - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
Day won here in 2016, though he has failed to crack the top-15 in his other six visits. His 2018 results are fairly impressive: a win and a runner-up in two starts. With a small sample size, Day is ranked first on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Justin Rose - $11,500 (14-1)
Rose's price jumps a whopping 2-grand over last year's $9,500. Which means he was a bargain last year and, despite great course history, is no bordering on being priced out. He has a boatload of high finishes through the years, including a second and third, and was T13 last year. Rose is coming off top-5 last week at the Valspar, albeit a disappointing one in which he easily could've captured the title. The Englishman is ranked 11th on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Tiger Woods - $10,000 (6-1)
If this were a movie, the music would crescendo as the critical scene plays out. Even if most of the movie-goers knew what was coming, they'd still gasp! Yes, we're picking Woods. Woods of course owns Bay Hill and he was co-runner-up last week. But as good as he looked at Copperhead, his putting was dreadful and he failed to take advantage of the par-5s. Of course, that won't cut it this week. The thinking here is that Woods knows these Bermuda greens so well, he'll do significantly better this week. Besides, his price isn't outlandish as we thought it would be.
Tier 2 Values
Alex Noren - $9,200 (25-1)
Let's throw out Noren's T49 here a year ago. He's now much more comfortable on the PGA Tour, with a runner-up and a solo third among five 2018 tournaments. His worst finish was T21. Noren is tied for second on Tour in par-5 scoring, eighth in strokes gained: approach and 21st in strokes gained: putting.
Tyrrell Hatton - $9,000 (25-1)
Despite Hatton's histrionics seemingly after every missed putt, he's a terrific putter. Hatton showcased his skills in a superb Bay Hill debut a year ago, when he ranked fifth in the field in strokes gained: putting en route to a tie for fourth. The Englishman tied for third at the WGC-Mexico a couple of weeks back.
Brian Harman - $8,500 (30-1)
Most gamers know Harman is an elite putter, and he is, ranked sixth on Tour in SG putting. But how many know the diminutive left-hander is also ranked 14th in par-5 scoring average, as well as second in greens in regulation? Harman finished top-20 at Bay Hill the past two years. He's already rung up six top-10s in nine starts in 2017-18.
Tier 3 Values
Jamie Lovemark - $8,000 (50-1)
Lovemark's brutal stretch of five consecutive missed cuts bridging 2017 and 2018 is fully in the past. He's made four straight weekends, with a T7 and T16 his past two outings. Lovemark was 23rd at Bay Hill a year ago and T6 in 2015. He's ranked 39th on Tour in strokes gained: approach and 42nd in SG putting.
Jason Kokrak - $8,000 (50-1)
Kokrak eats par-5s for breakfast, one reason he's played Bay Hill well through the years (two top-10s and a T20). He's 6-for-6 in cuts so far in 2018, including an impressive T8 last week at the Valspar. Kokrak is tied for fourth on Tour in par-5 scoring and is ranked 36th in greens in regulation.
Zach Johnson - $7,700 (60-1)
Johnson has played the tournament so many times it wasn't even named for Palmer when he debuted back in 2004. And through 14 editions, Johnson has amassed five top-10s and missed the cut but once. He's amid a bit a career resurgence, too, with top-25s in seven of his last eight starts dating back to last season's playoffs. Johnson ranks 17th in strokes gained: approach and, surprisingly, 30th in par-5 scoring.
Scott Piercy - $7,500 (80-1)
For someone with top-25s in four of his past five starts and leading the Tour in strokes gained: approach, this is a very attractive price. Piercy is obviously healthy after missing a big chunk of last season, which caused his OWGR to plummet. He's currently ranked 122nd in the world.
Patton Kizzire - $7,300 (80-1)
The two-time winner so far this season is on the verge of cracking the top-50 in the OWGR for the first time. Kizzire is one of the top putters on Tour (ranked 19th in SG putting), but he's also sixth in greens in regulation and 11th in par-5 scoring. Kizzire is coming off a tie for 12th at the WGC-Mexico.
Kevin Chappell - $7,300 (60-1)
This seems like another one of the low-ball prices we're seeing this week on the DK board. Ranked 37th in the OWGR, Chappell has four top-25s already in 2018, two of them top-10s. He hasn't missed a cut. He's even had three top-25s at Bay Hill, including a runner-up two years ago. Chappell ranks 26th in strokes gained: approach and 35th in par-5 scoring.
Sam Burns - $7,200 (60-1)
Burns is only $500 from the bottom price, but he's middle-of-the pack at 60-1. Those odds seems more befitting a golfer with a tie for eighth and a tie for 12th in his last two starts, including his mano-a-mano with Woods at the Honda. Burns doesn't have many PGA Tour rounds under his belt, but he's ranked second on Tour in strokes gained: putting, behind only Day. He's also T30 in par-5 scoring.
Kevin Kisner - $7,100 (60-1)
Kisner has been in a slump, but this is quite a price for the 36th-ranked golfer in the world, one who was runner-up here a year ago and currently ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained: putting. Kisner said he loves putting on Bermuda, which he grew up on. Kisner is ranked 24th in greens in regulation.
Kevin Streelman - $7,100 (100-1)
Until missing the Valspar cut, Streelman had been 10-for-10 this season, half of them ending in top-25s. In seven API starts, he's made six cuts, though here his success is more limited, with just two top-25s. Streelman leads the Tour in greens in regulation.
Bryson DeChambeau - $6,900 (100-1)
To illustrate how weak the bottom of this field is, DeChambeau withdrew last week with a bad back but we're going to jump on board. He said he slept poorly one night, so hopefully whatever it was has passed. DeChambeau tied for 27th in his lone visit to Bay Hill two years ago. He's tied with Noren for second on Tour in par-5 scoring, behind only Dustin Johnson.