Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:46 AM

Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks, Odds and Predictions

Mar. 2, 2021

Golf Expert

As the PGA Tour returns to Bay Hill this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it serves as a reminder that this tournament last year was the last one the PGA Tour had without restrictions on fans before COVID shut the world down.

There have been times during this past year where I'm sure we've all felt like it's been five years, but the fact that it is the Arnold Palmer Invitational on tap this week can really bring home the fact that it's only been 360 odd days.

Hopefully the next 360 odd days are a little brighter for everyone out there.

Last week's WGC event could have been much brighter for the selections had I flipped the Victor Hovland outright and Collin Morikawa Top 20 selections, but a quadruple bogey on 18 on Friday for Hovland proved to be too much to come back from for an outright win, as the fact that he lost by three strokes has to sting a bit when you look back at that final hole on Friday.

You can't take anything away from the impressive showing Morikawa had, and a win is a win in terms of cashing his Top 20 bet.

Having two guys that were mentioned in the selections involved until the very end has helped with the recalibration of my rangefinder with these pieces, and it does feel like a winner is coming around the corner here soon.

Whether that's the case or not remains to be seen, as all you can do is keep plugging away each week.

Golf Betting Resources
2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational

No shortage of history at this venue, as this tournament was a favorite stop for many Tour players over the years. It can be a tough course if the wind is up, but the way guys can find the most separation from the field at Bay Hill is to score well and gain strokes on the long Par 3's.

As a Par 72, it's got four Par 5's that should rack up birdies from the entire field, so making the most of those opportunities is also a must for potential winners as well.

But guys that don't lose strokes to the majority of the field on the Par 3's, and are dialed in with their proximity to the hole and/or scrambling around these large and fast greens at Bay Hill will be the ones who find their names at the top of the leaderboard starting Sunday's final round.

Given the reverence for this event though, course history can be weighed a little heavier at Bay Hill for those that prefer to go that route, something that definitely counts as a knock against the resurgent Jordan Spieth (+3000) as he's never teed it up competitively here during his career.

With recent finishes of 15th, 3rd, and 4th in his last three starts, current form will have Spieth land on some betting cards, but with all the past winners having had at least one competitive start here before he's not a name I'm interested in this week.

Rory McIlroy has been installed as the top betting choice to win this week's event from Bay Hill. (AP)

Arnold Palmer Invitational
Betting Odds

Rory McIlroy (+850) comes into this tournament as the favorite, as he's coming off a 6th place finish last week for his fourth Top 16 finish in his last five starts on Tour.

McIlroy had stated a few weeks ago in interviews that he liked the trajectory he felt his overall game was currently on and those recent results suggest he was on to something there. It also doesn't hurt that he's had finishes of 5th, 6th, 1st, and 4th here at Bay Hill the past four years.

Following McIlroy, is the aforementioned Hovland (+1200) and Bryson DeChambeau (+1200), with defending champion Tyrrell Hatton (+1800) and Patrick Reed (+1800) the only other names below the 20-1 price range.

Hovland is the only name in that group without a Top 10 finish at Bay Hill in the past four years, but with four Top 6 finishes in his last four starts overall, and six Top 6 finishes (including a win) in his last seven starts overall, any bettors that are heavy on current form regardless of venue will likely have Hovland make their short list.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Contenders

  • Rory McIlroy +850
  • Viktor Hovland +1200
  • Bryson DeChambeau +1300
  • Tyrrell Hatton +1700
  • Patrick Reed +2100
  • Sungjae Im +2100
  • More Golfers
  • (Odds Subject to Change)

None of those names are where I'm starting this week's selections though as it's a guy slightly further down the list that gets the first nod.

Golfers to Watch - Arnold Palmer Invitational
Top Picks and Predictions

Contender to Back
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Matthew Fitzpatrick +2500

Fitzpatrick is the English professional with a great first name, and his play on the course in recent weeks has started to approach “great” territory as well. He's finished 11th and 5th in the past two weeks on Tour, and in his last five starts he's got a victory, missed cut, and 17th place finish as well.

He's gained strokes on the field in nearly every category during the bulk of those starts, but the fact that the last two weeks has seen Fitzpatrick finish with Strokes Gained: Total numbers of +2.56 and +2.78 suggests to me that his game is right where he wants it, where it needs to be, and it may not be all that long before we see him grab another victory.

Bay Hill has always been a place that's always treated Fitzpatrick well too, as he's finished 9th and 2nd here the past two years, and has other results of 13th, 27th and one missed cut at this track dating back the previous five campaigns.

He gained over 6 strokes on the field in the final round here last year to make up for a slower start on Thursday/Friday, as the lack of distance he's got that may be considered a knock to some, hasn't bothered him much at all at Bay Hill over the years. All the Par 5's are getable for everyone in the field so there isn't a huge concern there, and if the wind does kick up like it did here a year ago, his English roots should serve him well in that regard as they did a season ago.

He's a guy that's seemingly got everything pointed in the right direction coming into this week, and should the flatstick stay relatively hot as it has the past few weeks, then a guy who I believe could get lost in the shuffle among these top tier favorites this week could end up being the one that bests them all. Here's hoping that turns out to be the case.

Mid-Range Value
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Rickie Fowler +8000

It's been a swift fall from grace for Fowler in the marketplace in recent months, as he's struggled with his game mightily at times, and I've even had friends of mine use the word “trash” relative to his game and them being sick and tired of believing Fowler would eventually turn things around.

Golf's a very tough game though, and all you can do is power forward through the tough times and hope the swing finds some electricity and gets locked in that groove again. At his best, Fowler's much better than this price suggests, but “at his best” is not something we've seen from Fowler much at all in recent months.

It's a return to Bay Hill that I'm hoping is the catalyst for Fowler to regain some solid form, as this is a course he's made a point of playing nearly every year the past decade – only two missed starts since 2010 – with one missed cut (2014), and three Top 20 finishes in the past four years. It's that course history and this price that has me grabbing a piece of Fowler this week, because his recent numbers statistically don't provide all that much support.

Fowler's biggest drop offs of late have come in the approach game and on the greens, obviously two of the more important factors out there, but he's still strong off the tee and around the greens, and that's not the worst place to start at Bay Hill. Given his career history, there should be more belief in Fowler's putting stroke making drastic improvements over time, as that's not been one of his weaknesses historically, and making putts is always going to be the best way to save strokes against the field, and knowing one's way around the greens at Bay Hill has always got to be considered a plus in that regard.

Placement wagers (Top 10 at +650, Top 20 at +300, Top 30 at +188) are probably the better ways to put most of any Fowler investment into, but as we saw with the Morikawa Top 20 selection last week, it never hurts to have a piece of an outright win as well. Especially at this type of price.

Long Shot Pick
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Maverick McNealy +13500

Like Fitzpatrick, McNealy doesn't lack any swagger with that first name, even if he isn't spending his down time hustling poker players on a paddle steamer in the deep south. He's got plenty of gamble in him though as his recent results have been hit or miss, but off a “miss”, McNealy's often found ways to bounce back strong.

Since this 2020-21 wraparound season began in mid-September, McNealy has missed five cuts, including his last outing in LA at The Genesis Invitational. But after those previous four MC's, McNealy has finishes of 17th, 21st, 12th, and 2nd, so any sort of placement wagers with him should be considered as well.

The course history isn't particularly there for McNealy with a missed cut here last year and a 46th in 2016 as a young 21-year old budding talent. He has started to grow into that potential over the past 12+ months though, and the fact that he can bounce around the spectrum of quality finishes and missed cuts speaks to his 25-year old youth more than anything.

His statistical strengths this year come off the tee (+.141 SG) and around the green (+.138 SG), and that's really no different than what we've got going with Fowler this week. Obviously he doesn't have the Bay Hill memory bank to lean on that Fowler does, but he's 8th on Tour in final round scoring average this year (68.00), and his Par 3 scoring average (3.04) is in the top half of this field.

If he can put together some strong play on Thursday and Friday to at least give himself a chance to be involved on Sunday again as he did a few weeks ago, then maybe we get to see that budding potential realized for at least one week. Bay Hill has had its share of names come out of nowhere to win this event in the past with Matt Every's back-to-back wins in 2014/15, and even others like Martin Laird and Rod Pampling cashing in as bigger underdogs over the past 14 years. McNealy's game is plenty good enough to see him added to that list.

72 Hole Matchup to Take
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Sungjae Im (-125) over Billy Horschel

Im was actually the final cut made for the “favorite” section earlier, as a pair of 3rd place finishes in two career starts at Bay Hill was hard to ignore. I went with Fitzpatrick partly for the larger sample size there, but always knew I'd like to have a piece of Im as well this week, and this head-to-head matchup against Horschel ended up being the preferred way to go.

May seem odd given that Horschel played very well last week, but fading guys off a great week is always going to be somewhat of a default for me if it makes sense. Horschel's never missed a cut here in the past eight years, but he's also never finished better than 13th in any of those attempts, and six of the eight finishes have been 36th or higher. That's not anything I want to be a part of against a guy like Im who has taken to Bay Hill ever since his first round here, and someone who's finished 36th or worse in just one of his past seven starts.

Im's averaged +2.99 True Strokes Gained: Total throughout his eight career rounds at Bay Hill, and if he can get his approach game back on track – he's lost strokes to the field in approach his past two starts – another Top 10 for him could be in the cards. He's finished 17th and 28th in those two recent starts despite struggling with his approaches, so even considering that as somewhat of a “floor” for him gives us much more wiggle room in a head-to-head wager as opposed to an outright play.

Top 20 Finish
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Marc Leishman +200

Leishman is another guy that shouldn't have as many issues as the majority of the field if the wind kicks up, but even if it doesn't, Bay Hill has been kind to him as well over his career. To have a +200 price tag on a Top 20 finish for Leishman this year with his finishes here the past five seasons being 2nd, 23rd, 7th, 1st, and 17th, is something I've almost got to do on price alone.

The second thought I had when seeing these odds was whether or not this play could be leading me into a “trap” or that I may be missing something, but even his recent results these past few months don't suggest that to be the case. Sure, there have only been two Top 20's for Leishman in his past five starts, but the other three results were 39th, 32nd, and 24th, so it's not like he's been far off.

At this price I've got to bite, and if I get trapped, well then so be it, it happens.

How to Bet on Golf

Golf betting has gained much more exposure and interest in the past few years, and with plenty of plus-money prices littered throughout the various forms of golf wagers, the chance for bigger scores is part of the reason behind that increased popularity.

2021 Golf Betting Schedule

Sportsbooks ensure that there are no shortage of wagering options on golf tournaments every week, and it isn't all about picking the winner. Grabbing the outright winner of a golf tournament is the best way to get that 'big score' but it's also the hardest wager to cash. After all, a typical professional golf tournament has a field of 140+ different players to consider.

Understanding Golf Odds and Bets

Most golf odds are listed in the fractional format – 10/1 on Dustin Johnson for example – and in that particular case you would multiply the amount bet by that first number to project your winnings. So a $100 bet on DJ to win that particular event would win you $1000.

If you are more comfortable with the American version of odds listings that you typically see across the other major North American sports – ie +1000 – these numbers are easily convertible. Online and app based books may already have that option built in, but the easiest way to do it yourself is to add two zeros to the first number in the fraction. So a 10/1 price on DJ converts to +1000 in that format.

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