Arnold Palmer Invitational DFS Picks and Preview
2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview and DFS Picks
Course: Bay Hill Club and Lodge (Bay Hill, Florida)
Yardage: 7,419 - Par 72
Field: 120 players
Recent Arnold Palmer Invitational Winners
Tiger Woods Comes Back a Contender
When Tiger Woods declared just one week in advance that he’d be attending the Valspar Championship, the organizers of the tournament had to scramble to create extra hospitality tents as well as merchandise tents full of Tiger branded gear. He did not disappoint.
Did anyone expect such a quick return to contention for Tiger? Realistically, we all expected a guy who would play well and belong on Tour. However, Tiger was a serious contender in the Valspar in what was a very strong field of players, and he fell just one foot short of forcing a playoff hole. The next chapter of Tiger’s career looks promising, and you’d be a fool at this point to say that he won’t find his way back into the winner’s circle, barring injury.
Reed's Choke Ends Casey's Drought
Sorry if we’re downplaying your victory Paul Casey; us true golf fans are aware that that was a monumental win for the 40-year-old Englishman. Paul Casey has been the almost kid on the PGA Tour for years now. Casey has won 13 times on the European Tour, but his only prior win came at the Shell Houston Open in 2009. Since that lone victory, Casey has logged 40 Top 10s and finished in the Top 3 in 11 of those. At that point, it’s basically bad luck that not one of those 11 Top 3 finishes produced a win.
Starting the day five shots back, it appeared Casey would settle for another Top-10 finish when all of the sudden--BAM BAM BAM! Casey dropped birdies on 11,12, and 13, then parred his way in to set the mark at 10-under par. Corey Conners, who led the tournament for the first three rounds, had already fallen on his face, Justin Rose was unsteady down the stretch, Tiger dropped a 40-footer on 17, but couldn’t pull off the miracle on 18 to get into a playoff, and forgotten among all the Tiger chatter was Patrick Reed’s fairly epic choke.
Needing just par to get into a playoff, Reed failed to get his putt up the hill of the double-tiered green on 18. Perhaps the worst feeling in golf is when you have to watch your putt (or shot) return back to you. Reed had to miserably watch his ball dribble back down to his feet on the 18th hole of a tournament he was in contention to win. Some may say a bit of luck was involved for Casey to come away with the win. I say it’s just the golf gods getting him back for nine years of almosts.
Rest in peace to the King. It’s been 18 months since the passing of Arnold Palmer. The Tour pays its respects by staying in Florida for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. This tournament is an invitational, so the 120 players in this event have earned their way into this tournament. With only 120 players in the field, the odds of making the cut are slightly better than usual as Top 70 and ties still apply this week.
44.23 miles. 😳
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 14, 2018
Plenty of Star Power on Hand
With the Masters Tournament lurking just three weeks away, we’ll keep seeing a good amount of star power at the top with players getting warmed up for the first major of the year. Surely, you’ve heard that Tiger Woods will be teeing it up to attempt to win this tournament for the ninth time of his career. Jason Day returns for his first PGA start in a month and Justin Rose is back after contending for most of the 72 holes last week. Rory McIlroy continues to look for his true game after missing the cut last week and Rickie Fowler falls into that category as well, having shot in the 60s just once in his last seven rounds.
In the 9K range, Hideki Matsuyama makes his return after withdrawing at the Phoenix Open last month. The rest of the 9K priced players is made of a squad of Euros, Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, and Tyrrell Hatton. In the 8K range, we’ve got Patrick Reed trying to bounce back from the horrors of the 18th green last Sunday, Adam Scott is starting to look more like himself as of late, Bubba Watson is back, Brian Harman has quietly played great all year, Marc Leishman looked great in the early stages of the wrap-around season, but not so much lately. Brandt Snedeker looked great for three days until a 78 happened.
Rounding out the group at 8K is Louis Oosthuizen, Luke List, Jason Kokrak, and Jamie Lovemark. In the everybody else range, there are plenty of notables including our Thai friend with the best name in golf Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Cameron Smith, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Byeong Hun-An, Ryan Moore, Emiliano Grillo, James Hahn, Charles Howell III, Scott Piercy, Shane Lowry, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ollie Schniederjans, Kevin Chappell, Patton Kizzire, Charl Schwartzel, Kyle Stanley, and Kevin Kisner, to give you an idea of this field’s depth.
Bay Hill Club Course Preview
What should we expect on the golf course? A lot of water. With seven water hazards and 84 bunkers surrounding the course, finding players who aren’t susceptible to blow-ups will be important. How do we find those players? Well, to blow-up on this course you’re either doing one of two things. You’re finding water/unplayable spots off the tee, or you’re butchering your short game.
With water hazards lurking off the tees, and bunkers surrounding the greens, look for players who excel in strokes gained: off-the-tee, and/or players who are great in strokes gained: around the green. As always, strokes gained: approach will give you a chance if the rest of your game isn’t awry. As another course with four Par 5s, players who rank highly in Par 5 birdie or better % will have four good opportunities at birdie. None of the Par 5s measure longer than 570, so bombers will have a legitimate chance to reach all of them.
With four par 5s, and all four par 3s this week measuring 200-plus yards, shots will be coming in from over 200 yards a good portion of the week. Players with a high birdie or better % 200-plus yards will be rewarded here, as will the players atop the leaders in approach proximity 200-225 yards. Players who struck it well last week should fare well this week, as Innisbrook’s approach distances are similar to Bay Hill’s. Good luck and enjoy the week at Arnie’s course!
Strokes gained: off-the-tee
Strokes gained; around-the-green
Strokes gained: approach
Par 5 birdie or better %
Birdie or better % 200+ yards
Approach Proximity 200-225 yards
*using DraftKings pricing
Tiger Woods ($10,000) - Sound the alarms! I’m officially endorsing Tiger Woods for this week. I may be a week late, but I had to be fully sure that he was healthy and back in rhythm. Everyone may be on Tiger this week, but I’m not going to miss that train while he’s playing at a course where he’s an eight-time-champion. The decision is a lot easier when you consider the other top choices. Jason Day and Matsuyama haven’t played in a month (although I like Matsuyama for that price overall), McIlroy and Fowler haven’t been themselves lately, and Justin Rose played really well last week, but with eight less victories than el Tigre, I don’t see paying $1,500 more as a worthwhile play.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,500) - I explained my reasons for fading the rest of the top priced players, and with the extra money I can afford the next highest priced player in Tommy Fleetwood. At $9,500, Fleetwood to me is undervalued. He could easily be worth between $10 or $11 thousand as he is a nearly guaranteed Top 20 finish every week. He dominates the key stats ranking 2nd in the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee, seventh in strokes gained: around-the-green, and number one in birdie or better from 200+ yards. Fleetwood also played well in his first start here last year, finishing in a tie for tenth place despite an opening 78.
Jason Kokrak ($8,000) - Jason Kokrak has been a beast at Bay Hill throughout his career. Kokrak made his last four cuts here finishing fourth in 2014, sixth in 2015, and T-20 in 2016. He’s having his most consistent season in 2017-18 with six top 20s and three top 10s including an 8th place finish last week at the Valspar. Kokrak has been solid off the tee and shown soft touch around the greens this year. He will absolutely feast on the Par 5s. Of the 142 Par 5s he’s played in 2017-18, he’s made at least birdie or better 78 times (3rd in the field). That’s 55%, meaning if he has an average week on the Par 5’s he should have around nine birdies there this week.
Zach Johnson ($7,700) - Zach Johnson finished T-16 last week at the Valspar Championship. Now he comes into Bay Hill, a course where he’s made 13/14 cuts and placed in the top ten five times, for the exact same price? I’m confused as to why Zach Johnson who has played great here over the years, and very solid as of late, wouldn’t get any sort of price bump. DailyRoto’s value optimizer seems to agree with me as Johnson is listed as the fifth best value this week. Rather than overthink it, I’m going to fire him up again this week. He’ll look to add to his collection of top 25 finishes this year, he has six in seven starts.
Kevin Chappell ($7,300) - Kevin Chappell is the glaring outlier in the low 7K range. A former runner-up at Bay Hill, Chappell is racking up the top 25s this year with six. At just $7,300 he is the second best value this week according to DailyRoto’s value optimization tool. Chappell ranks 14th in the field in strokes gained: approach, sixth in birdie or better % from 200+ yards, and third in strokes gained: off-the-tee. Despite the low price tag, Chappell is inside the top 20 in terms of win-probability odds, with a 1.56% chance at winning, and an 8% chance of finishing inside the top five.
Kevin Na ($7,100) - Kevin Na is another top value play this week coming in as the seventh best value according to DailyRoto’s value optimization. Na scares me with his poor numbers off-the-tee, but he’s more than capable of making up a shot or two in the drink. Na ranks number one on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: around-the-green gaining nearly a shot per round. He’s a top 30 player in this field in strokes gained: approach, and although not thought of as a power player, his great short game translates to terrific numbers on the Par 5s ranking him within the top ten in the field in Par 5 birdie %.
Also like: Hideki Matsuyama, Tyrrell Hatton, Adam Scott, Cameron Smith, Emiliano Grillo, Anirban Lahiri
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