Arnold Palmer Invitational PGA Preview
ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL PGA PREVIEW - Last week was rock bottom for me as a golf bettor. I spent all week agonizing over which longshots I loved before settling on six tasty options. Four of them proceeded to miss the cut, while one of them finished in a tie for last place (shoutout to EVR for battling it out; also, credit to Sung Kang for shooting 46 on the back nine so that my guy wasn’t solo last).
I don’t know what to say. It’s time to turn the page and shift our focus to the fourth designated event of the season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Bay Hill can be a brute. This is the second week in a row where the Tour is heading to a really challenging Florida golf course.
Bay Hill measures out at somewhere between 7,400-7,500 yards depending on the tees and plays to a par 72. This means it’s pretty long, particularly for a course at sea level. The rough will be thick and there is water in play on most of the holes. The greens will also be lightning fast Bermuda grass.
Realistically, this course, in terms of setup, will not be that much different than last week at the Honda.
Ten players managed to finish under par last year, so this will not be a birdie-fest. Bay Hill also tends to get tougher as the week goes on and it isn’t unusual for the scoring average to be somewhere north of par, sometimes going as high as 75, on Sundays, like it has for the past couple of years.
The past three iterations of this tournament have yielded winning scores of -5, -11, -4. This week will be a grind.
This is a designated event, so most of the big boys will be teeing it up again this week, just as they have for the other elevated events on the schedule thus far this year.
We’re looking at 44 of the top-50 in the world, which makes this field the strongest, top-to-bottom, that we’ve seen this season.
Jon Rahm (+650) is basically getting the Prime Tiger treatment from sportsbooks as he’s won 60% of his starts on Tour this season. Rory (+1000) and defending champ, Scottie Scheffler (+1000), are just behind him on the betting board.
If you’re reading this article thinking that I’m going to tout one of those guys, you haven’t been paying attention, so my focus will be elsewhere on more mid-range guys. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.
Putting it all together
I feel like a broken record after writing more or less the same thing about the Honda so far in this preview, but I will press onward.
Ballstriking is the most important stat at Bay Hill. The rough is incredibly penal and the water hazards demand precision.
The greens are often almost ludicrously fast and the rough around the greens makes it so challenging that it’s hard for anyone to scramble really effectively, so those stats are downgraded a little bit for me.
Ultimately, this is a tournament that is typically dominated by guys who are excellent off the tee. Rory, Scottie, Bryson DeChambeau and peak-Jason Day all have wins here in recent memory.
We all remember this gaudy driving performance from Bryson.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 6, 2021
Guys like Tyrrell Hatton (+3500) who tend to be really straight, but not overly long by Tour standards can also win here.
So, long and straight is best. But when it comes down to it, guys who are average in length off the tee can succeed if they hit a lot of fairways.
Look for SG: Off the Tee as a good starting point for your handicapping this week, then take a look at SG: Tee to Green to tie everything together.
This week will take a complete effort from tee-to-green for whoever is hoisting the trophy on Sunday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with some specific picks, so check back then.
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