Who is a safe bet for this weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational?
The PGA Tour heads from the Palm Beach coast to Orlando this week as the Florida Swing continues at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A year ago at Bay Hill we were treated to one of the best closing jobs of the season, when Rory McIlroy birdied 5 of his last 6 holes to win the API by 3 strokes over Bryson Dechambeau.
Despite Tiger Woods withdrawing with a strained neck, the 2019 edition should once again be filled with high drama. Just a week after the Michelob Ultra style field at the Honda Classic, the API steps up with a loaded board. Six of the top 10 in the OWGR and 12 of the top 20 in the world will tee it up at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge including Justin Rose, who will make his first start since being bumped by Dustin Johnson from the #1 spot in the world
Strokes Gained Approach and a hot putter have been key factors at Bay Hill over the past few years, so with that in mind, here’s a look at this week’s picks and plays.
Nuts and Bolts
Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge (7,419 yards, Par 72)
Defending Champ: Rory McIlroy (270, -18)
Weather Forecast: Partly Sunny, Highs upper 70’s. Chance of showers Sunday.
Rory McIlroy (8/1, $12,200)
After skipping Bay Hill for the first 6 years of his career, McIlroy has made the API a regular on his schedule. His win in 2018 seemed to carry extra weight, as he was emotional about not just winning, but winning “Arnie’s event”, and slipping on the red cardigan. If it weren’t for Dustin Johnson’s performance at the WGC-Mexico, Mcilroy would be getting a ton of attention as the hottest golfer on the planet right now. With top-five finishes in his last four starts on tour. He’s No. 1 SG total, SG off the Tee, SG Tee to Green and his distance off the tee along with his ability to go on birdie barrages sets up perfectly for Bay Hill
Jason Day (14/1, $11,700)
Another superstar flying under the radar this season, Day has been as consistent as they come. In six PGA Tour starts this season, J-Day’s worst finish is 16th, which includes consecutive top-5’s at the Farmers and AT&T Pebble Beach. The 2016 API champion ranks 10th in SG Total, 6th in SG off the Tee and 13th in SG Putting. Day is primed for a huge 2019 and it could easily kickoff at Bay Hill.
Marc Leishman (33/1, $10,800)
Keeping with the theme of previous API champs, Leishman returns to Bay Hill where he won an emotional tournament in 2017, the first since Arnie’s passing. Leishman’s track record speaks for itself with a T-7, Win and T-17 in his last three API’s. He already has five top 5’s this season, the most recent coming at the Genesis Open (T-4). If the March winds kick up in Orlando… Advantage Leishman
Patrick Rodgers (200/1, $8,800)
After missing four straight cuts, Rodgers seems to have righted the ship and is back on track. The 26-year-old is one of the bright young up and comers on tour and is primed for his first career-win after a close call at the RSM in the fall. Rodgers has two top-20 finishes in three starts at the API including a T-7 in 2018.
Martin Kaymer (200/1, $8,600)
I’m usually a fan of taking a flyer on a major champion, let alone a two-time major champ, but Kaymer’s game is nowhere right now. He’s failed to crack a top 25 since November and has made just two starts at Bay Hill over his career (T-23, Cut). He’s coming off shooting 75 on Sunday at the Honda where he finished T-67.