A star-studded field of 121 golfers makes the annual trip to Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla. for the 14th running of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The event precedes next week’s Players Championship, and many of the top golfers from the Official World Golf Ranking will be making their final preparations, including defending Players champ and World No. 1 Rory McIlroy. McIlroy skipped last week’s Honda Classic, as Sungjae Im claimed his first PGA Tour victory. Below, we’ll look at the best betting picks for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We highlight the outright odds at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, along with some of the tournament’s best value bets.
Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner at Bay Hill and four-time champ under Palmer’s name, is skipping Arnie’s tournament for a second straight year as he ensures he’s in peak physical form for the Masters next month. In addition to McIlroy, four others from the top 10 of the OWGR are in attendance.
The course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Bay Hill Club and Lodge plays to a par of 72 and measures 7,454 yards. The last eight champions finished 11 or more strokes under par. Seven holes played to scoring averages under par last year, while 11 played above par. The 511-yard, par-5 16th played as the easiest hole on the course at a scoring average of 4.424. There were 16 eagles and 214 birdies carded against 19 bogeys and three doubles. The most difficult hole was the 460-yard, par-4 8th at an average of 4.281. It saw just 43 birdies against 115 bogeys, 15 doubles and two scores of triple or worse.
All four par 3s are at least 199 yards in length. The par 5s range from 511 yards to 590 yards and the par 4s are between 370 to 480 yards, with three measuring 400 yards or shorter. There were two aces on the 199-yard, par-3 7th last year.
Water is very much in play on eight holes, including the finishing two. Bunkers, both fairway and greenside, create plenty more difficulty. Bermuda greens are featured for the second week in a row.
Key stats to consider for your Arnold Palmer Invitational betting picks
The last two champions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational – McIlroy in 2018 and Francesco Molinari last year, shot a final round of 8-under 64 to clinch their win. Im and Tommy Fleetwood, who finished first and third last week, respectively, tied for third at Bay Hill last year, along with Rafa Cabrera Bello.
The last four champions, Molinari, McIlroy, Marc Leishman, and Jason Day have all come from outside the USA. Matt Every, who went back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, was the last American winner. Paul Goydos in 1996 was the last person to win at Bay Hill while entering the tournament week outside of the top 100 in the world ranking.
Based on the design, length and average scores at Bay Hill, the key stats for this week are Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Opportunities Gained, Sand Saves Gained, Proximity from 200-plus Yards, and Par 3 Efficiency: 200-225 Yards. My model at Fantasy National looks at the most recent 36 rounds for all golfers in the field.
Arnold Palmer Invitational betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Outright: Francesco Molinari +17500
The defending champion and winner of the 2018 Open Championship is +17500 in his defense of Bay Hill. Sure, the last time we featured Moli here was for the Genesis Invitational and he missed the cut, but the price just can’t be turned down. His form has been off since a T-23 finish at the Safeway Open, but Every had nine missed cuts, a withdrawal, a disqualification and just one top-10 finish in 24 events between his back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015. Course history seems to matter more at Bay Hill than in most cases.
Molinari is still 26th in the world and he shares outright odds with the likes of Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sam Ryder, and Mark Hubbard. He should also be backed for top-5 finish (+3300) and a top-10 (+1400). He’s +9000 for the outright win at FanDuel, so this is an incredible value.
Leader after Round 1: Rory McIlroy +1400
McIlroy has finished no worse than last year’s T-6 in his last three trips to Bay Hill. No golfer in the field with a minimum of 10 strokes played at the venue has gained more strokes per round than McIlroy’s 2.78 through 20 career rounds, according to Data Golf. Molinari ranks second at 2.21.
Bettors should be finding ways to get a piece of Rory this week but the outright odds make it too difficult. I don’t hate the +125 odds for a top-5 finish, and he can also be backed at +1000 for a wire-to-wire win at DraftKings. Another strong bet is for McIlroy to finish as the top European player at FanDuel with +165 odds.
Winner to birdie the 72nd hole: Yes +600
These are good odds at a tournament where the last two champions have gone low on Sunday. The 18th hole at Bay Hill played to a scoring average of 4.18 (0.18 above par) last year, but there were 46 birdies carded over the four rounds. Due to the strong field, the winner may need a birdie to avoid, or force, a playoff. Only two of the six runnings of the tournament was decided by more than one stroke.
Group D betting: Matthew Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick, the runner-up last year, is grouped with Tony Finau (+210), Leishman (+250), and Byeong Hun An (+270). He ranks third in the group in the OWGR, but he has eight top 10s in his last 27 worldwide events and does well in these strong fields.
To make the cut: Brooks Koepka – No +200
Koepka missed the cut last week following a T-43 at the Genesis Invitational since losing the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. Whether it be the course or the position in the schedule, he hasn’t fared well at this event, missing the cut in his last two appearances over the last three years. He withdrew mid-way through his fourth round in 2015.
Arnold Palmer Invitational betting picks: Our winner
Outright: Collin Morikawa +4500
These odds are the best we’ve seen for Morikawa in some time, as he still hasn’t missed the cut as a professional. He tied for 42nd at the WGC-Mexico Championship and doesn’t have a top-10 result since the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but he had an adequate showing here as an amateur in 2018 with a T-64 finish. He’s ninth in my overall stat model and fifth in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green.
This article was originally published on Tuesday morning. Odds subject to change.