PGA Tour best bets for the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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The PGA Tour’s Florida swing treks on this weekend with the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. The tournament usually attracts some of the best golfers in the world, and this year will be no different.

While 2021 champion Bryson DeChambeau withdrew from the tournament on Monday because of a lingering hand injury, 2018 champion Rory McIlroy will return to Bay Hill for his fourth PGA Tour event of the season.

Which players are the favorites this time around? Who offers good odds? And what props are worthwhile?

Betting analysts Chris “The Bear” Fallica, Anita Marks, sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and, live from Bay Hill, the caddie Michael Collins, offer their best bets.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.


Bets to win

Rory McIlroy

Bearman’s pick: To win (12-1)

I had strong conviction two weeks ago at the Genesis that we were due for a breakthrough win from McIlroy. He didn’t get the win, but he had a strong weekend ending in a T-10 finish. We won’t get the 22-1 price that we auto-bet then, as that field had all of the top-10 players in the world, but we are getting McIlroy in good form and on a track he does very well on. The beauty, and difficulty of handicapping Bay Hill, is that while it seems and looks like only long hitters win here, it has been won by long hitters (DeChambeau last year) and precision players (Kevin Na has won here, and Lee Westwood was runner-up last year). Well, McIlroy is all of the above. He can drive it long and has a top precision game when in form. McIlroy comes in with top-10s in both of his tour events this year, along with three top-12s overseas on the European Tour.

McIlroy has a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (2018) and four additional top-11 finishes (T-11 in 2015, T-5 in 2020, T-6 in 2019 and T-10 last year) in seven total appearances. Over his past 36 rounds here, he leads everyone in shots gained tee-to-green and is second in approach, ball-striking and total shots gained. The only one better in total for a career is Tiger Woods. As we saw with DeChambeau last year, distance off the tee matters here, and McIlroy was second on tour last year with an average of 319.3 yards per drive and is currently fourth in shots gained off the tee. He sat out last week, so he has a little extra rest as well. Last year we had to wait until the Wells Fargo to see his first win, but I think he gets it much earlier this season.

Viktor Hovland

Marks’ pick: To win (16-1)

Very few are playing better golf than Hovland at the moment. He has been especially impressive with his iron play, where he gained six strokes on approach at Riviera.

Bay Hill sets up nicely for him, and this could be the week he finds his first PGA Tour. I’m banking on it.

Matt Fitzpatrick

Bearman’s pick: To win (30-1); top-10 finish (+275)

Fitzpatrick is coming off back-to-back top-10s in Scottsdale and at Pebble. He was a popular pick to contend and win the Genesis two weeks ago, but he had to pull out due to a stomach bug. Now rested and healthy, the 27-year old heads to Bay Hill, where he has gone T-10, T-9, runner-up the past three years. Over those three appearances, he is second in shots gained total, third in short game and 12th around the green. Besides the top-10s in his past two PGA Tour events, Fitzpatrick also finished runner-up in Dubai in November and won the Andalucia Masters in October. He has seven wins overseas, and with 12 top-10s on the PGA Tour over the past two and a half seasons, he is primed for this maiden win here. First-time winners have won four of the past five PGA events. Why not Fitzpatrick?

Keith Mitchell

Bearman’s picks: To win (33-1); top-10 finish (+425)

You might not have heard much about Mitchell before this year, but you should start paying attention. We cashed a nice top-10 (+300) on him last week, which was his second consecutive top-10 finish (10th at WMPO) and third in his past five events. He also has T-12s at Pebble Beach and The RSM Classic mixed in there. For those counting at home, that’s five top-12 finishes in his past six events. Mitchell sits 15th in shots gained tee-to-green and total and is third off the tee. He has shown he likes playing in Florida; he won the Honda in 2019 and went sixth and fifth here in 2019 and 2020, respectively. He has become a profitable golfer to have on your card, so let’s continue to ride him.

Collins’ pick: To win (33-1)

I spoke with Keith on the driving range of the API on Tuesday afternoon, asked him what the key to playing well this week was and he said, “Patience.” And when looking at how he’s played the last few weeks (T-12, T-10, T-9) his patience is trending in the correct direction. Have I mentioned how well he’s played here in the past? T-6 in 2019 and T-5 in 2020… sure there was the T-43 last year but don’t worry about that.

Marc Leishman

Bearman’s picks: To win (30-1); top-20 finish (+150)

As mentioned earlier, this event has been won by long-range hitters and by those who can play the precision game around the course, avoid hazards and give themselves good angles to the greens. Leishman is the type of player who can fit into both categories, depending on the week. He is also one the better players at navigating difficult winds, which happen often on the Florida courses with a lot of water.

Prior to last year’s missed cut here at Bay Hill, Leishman was runner-up in 2020 to Tyrrell Hatton, finished T-7 in 2018 and won in 2017, so he knows how to get around Arnie’s track. He also comes in with good form, having cashed top-20 tickets at the Sentry (T-10), Farmers (T-16) and Genesis (T-15). He currently sits 13th in shots gained total, 30th in tee-to-green and 32nd on approach, which will be important at Bay Hill. An underrated aspect of his game is the flat stick, which he is currently 15th on tour. The Aussie golfer knows how to avoid trouble here and should be in contention over the weekend.

Jason Kokrak

Fallica’s picks: To win (50-1); top-10 finish (4-1)

I’ve noticed two things when it comes to Bay Hill: European players do well, as do players with a good course history. You don’t need me to tell you to play McIlroy, Jon Rahm or Leishman, so I’ll pass along two other names. The first is Kokrak, who has been no worse than 10th each of the past three years and also has a T-4 and a T-6 on his résumé here. His long-iron play (13th in approach from 200-225 yards) and putting should give him a big shot this week.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Fallica’s pick: To win (50-1); top-10 finish (4-1)

In two trips to Bay Hill, Bezuidenhout has finished seventh and T-18. He fired a final-round 66 at the Honda to seal backdoor a top-25 finish. He is a good enough putter and long-iron player, and it appears he has taken a liking to the course.


Props

Hideki Matsuyama

Collins’ pick: Top-5 finish (+550)

I joked with Hideki on Tuesday that he hit only five range balls and that was all the practice he needed. But for a guy with two wins so far this season and no missed cuts in his nine starts, he honestly doesn’t need much work on his game. Here are two reasons why he’ll have a solid outing this week. First, he now lives here in Orlando and practices close to Bay Hill, so he knows how the course plays this time of year. Second, and most importantly, the forecast for the week does not include high winds. Matsuyama is a high-ball hitter, and wind is a killer for him. This week, he doesn’t have to be concerned.

Matt Fitzpatrick

Marks’ picks: Top-5 finish (+550); top Englishman (3-1 at DraftKings)

Fitzpatrick loves this track and lights up when he talks about Bay Hill. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his past three starts. To win this week, one must dominate the par-5s. Fitzpatrick ranks first in par-5 scoring, is top 15 in sand saves and excels on fast Bermuda greens. I would not be surprised if Fitzpatrick won Sunday.

Rory McIlroy

Bearman’s picks: Top-10 finish (+150); first-round leader (22-1); tourney matchup over Rahm (+120)

Rahm has much shorter odds than McIlroy and has never teed it up here. Give me McIlroy +120 head-to-head. McIlroy has carded 66s in the first round each of the past two years. Last year, it was good enough for the lead, and he was in second place after 18 holes in 2020. He has at least one round of 66 or better in all seven appearances here, showing he is one of the few players who can consistently go low at Arnie’s place. That’s good enough to sprinkle something at 22-1 to lead after one round.

Marks’ picks: First-round leader (22-1); tourney matchup over Rahm (+120)

Rory has a win and five top-10 finishes at Bay Hill and is the best in the field taking advantage of the 450-500 yard par-5s. He shot a first-round 66 here last year and has shot at least one round of 66 or better in each of his seven starts.

Sungjae Im

Bearman’s pick: Top-10 finish (3-1)

Playing Im last week to win at one of his favorite courses didn’t work out, as he missed the cut at PGA National after two double-bogeys in the first round. As a golf bettor, you can write that player off or chalk it up to a bad round or two. At any other event/course, I may pause a little before picking him again. But Im is just as good here (as he normally is at PGA National), with two third-place finishes and a T-21 in his three appearances. Before last week’s missed cut, Im had three top-11 finishes in five starts in 2022 and also won back in October at the beginning of the PGA Tour season. The missed cut in Palm Beach Gardens was only his second in 11 PGA Tour events in Florida, where he has finished in the top 10 in nearly half of them (five). While I am not ready to jump right back into him winning this week (although he absolutely could, and 26-1 isn’t a bad price), I see good value in the top-10 market.

Will Zalatoris

Marks’ pick: Top-10 finish (3-1)

Zalatoris will win eventually, probably sooner than later. He plays better on Bermuda greens, and the Florida Swing gives him a great opportunity for him to get that win. He ranks first in strokes gained on approach over his last 24 rounds, and he has the game in his bag to dominate all four days.

Jason Kokrak

Bearman’s pick: Top-20 finish (2-1)

If you are writing about a course in which distance could give you an advantage, then I hope Kokrak is on your list. He has four top 10s in nine appearances here, including a T-8 last year and T-10 in 2019. His metrics aren’t going to wow you, and he hasn’t finished better than T-17 since winning the Houston Open in November, but he can get the ball out there into places some of his opponents can’t. He’s someone to watch for in head-to-head matchups and is worth a top-20 flier at double your money with his past success at Bay Hill.

Marks’ pick: Top-20 finish (2-1)

Kokrak is one of the best on tour in scoring on long par-4s and par-5s, something you have to do to be a winner at Bay Hill. He has finished in the top 20 in each of his last three starts at this tournament.

Cameron Young

Marks’ pick: Top-40 finish (+110 at DraftKings)

Young has four top-26 finishes this season. He drives the ball a mile and has the flat stick to sink birdie putts. He has been playing a lot of golf, so I expect him to start fast and then coast to the finish line in the top 40 on Sunday.

Chris Kirk

Collins’ pick: Misses the cut (2-1)

Kirk finished T-7 last week, but that was because of a blazing first two rounds. Over the weekend, he only made five total birdies against four bogeys and two double-bogeys. He hit only 50% of fairways Saturday and 42.86% on Sunday las weekend. Do that this week, and you are going home after Friday.

Marc Leishman

Collins’ pick: Tourney matchup over Tyrrell Hatton (-120)

Take Leishman all day! This place is all about controlling your emotions when things don’t go your way, and they will not go your way all week here. Leishman has won here before and understands that. Hatton is someone I love watching (and listening to) when things go squirrely cause it’s going to be a hilarious dumpster fire of self-deprecation.

Scottie Scheffler

Fallica’s pick: Tourney matchup over Hovland (-120)

Hovland hasn’t finished better than 40th in any of his three trips here, and I don’t fully trust him on Bermuda greens. Scheffler was T-15 two years ago and has been out of the top 25 just once in his last eight starts this season.

Corey Conners

Marks’ pick: Top Canadian finisher (+125)

Conners did not do so well out west, so he’ll have to pick things up out east. He ranks in the top 15 in strokes gained tee-to-green over his last 50 rounds, which is the most important metric when handicapping this week’s field.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Marks’ pick: Top South African finisher (+150)

Bezuidenhout has made five of his last six cuts this season. He is great out of bunkers (and there are many here) and is terrific on Bermuda greens. He finished the Honda with a bogey-free 66, and I expect him to pick up where he left off.

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