Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM

Arnold Palmer Betting Odds, Preview, Predictions, Picks and PGA Analysis from Bay Hill

Arnold Palmer Invitational Betting Odds & Best Bets

We had a shot for most of the weekend with the Gary Woodland selection at last week's Honda Classic, but it was the man who was backed in the head-to-head matchup who ended up winning it all.

Sungjae Im captured his first career PGA Tour victory last week, and while it was nice to cash a winner in the head-to-head matchup prop with him over Hovland – who was coming off his first career win – having Im in the futures market as well would have paid off even more. That's just how it goes sometimes with golf betting, and all you can do is move on to the next week. As now we've got Sungjae Im in the identical role his matchup opponent was in last week – Victor Hovland – as this is a week where fading Im in spots where you can could pay off nicely. But let's look at the venue first.

Date: Thursday March 5 - Sunday March 8
Venue: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Location: Orlando, Florida
Par-Yardage: 72, 7,380 yards

Similar to last week's first stop for the Florida swing, Bay Hill is another track that's loaded with water to avoid. However, overall, this course is a fair bit easier than what we saw last week, as winning scores at Bay Hill are usually in the mid-teens below par, not the single digits we saw a week ago. Having four Par 5's which are gettable for basically everyone in the field play a big part in that, as not one of the four Par 5's are more than 575 yards. For today's professional player, that means green light the whole way down those holes.

Where guys are going to differentiate themselves from the field this week is on the Par 3's. All four of these holes are quite long (three over 215 yards), and picking up a birdie on any of them is like gaining multiple strokes on the field. Fast greens make things here even trickier, and if strong winds find there way to the venue, the overall difficulty of this course increases quite a bit. Even with lower scores here in general relative to last week, you can't just go out and avoid the water at Bay Hill, and you'd better be good at scrambling when it's needed.

Weekly PGA Betting Odds
Arnold Palmer Invitational

This field does have a great selection of the game's top names, as there are plenty of guys who subscribe to the belief that playing the week before a big tournament – next week is The PLAYERS – is a great way to sharpen up the skills and hopefully peak at the right time. It also means that some of the biggest names may be better to be monitored early on Thursday/Friday rather then backed pre-tournament, as their overall focus may be more geared towards next week's events. Just something to keep in mind.

Looking back at past winners here, there are a few commonalities in the sense that you do want to have at least some level of course history at Bay Hill, and preferably some success in the past at this venue. Each of the past nine winners here all played Bay Hill the year prior, and the most recent eight winners never finished worse than 34th the year prior to winning, with seven of those eight finishing in the Top 26 at this event the previous campaign. Course history isn't always the best guide to use on a weekly basis in golf betting, but it's definitely more relevant at times based on the tournament, and this event is one of those ones where it does seem a touch more important.

At the top we've got Rory McIlroy as the overwhelming favorite at 5/1 odds this week, as only one name exists between McIlroy and the 20/1 range – Tommy Fleetwood at 14/1. From there, there is a whole host of great names to consider, names like Matsuyama, DeChambeau, Schauffele, Scott, Reed, Im, Koepka, Fowler, Day, and Finau all somewhere between 20/1 and 30/1 odds.

Top 10 Betting Choices

  • Rory McIlroy 5/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 14/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 20/1
  • Bryson Dechambeau 20/1
  • Xander Schauffele 25/1
  • Adam Scott 25/1
  • Patrick Reed 25/1
  • Sungjae Im 25/1
  • Brooks Koepka 30/1
  • Rickie Fowler 30/1
  • More...

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Golfers to Watch

It's that list of names that brings this week's first play, so let's get started:

Favorite: Hideki Matsuyama (20/1)

Matsuyama's 33rd place finish here last year is just outside that Top 26 previous year range that's on a perfect 8-for-8 run the past eight years here, but with Matsuyama's skill, it's a risk worth taking. There are only two players in this week's field with a lower cumulative finish over their last two starts then Matsuyama's 6th and 5th – DeChambeau has 2nd and 5th finishes, while Rory is riding a 5th, 5th two-start streak – and if Matsuyama can just find a way to get the putter going consistently for four days, another trip to the winner's circle won't be too far behind.

Matsuyama is among all the leaders in every Strokes Gained category outside of putting that their is, and if he manages to hit greens in regulation this week at the 73.68% clip he's averaged all year, whether or not he ends up winning will depend on how hot his putter gets. If Matsuyama is striping the ball like he has been, his putter doesn't have to be scorching hot by any means, just a little about average will do.

What should really separate Matsuyama's game from the rest of this field though is his ability to score on the Par 3's and Par 4's this year. He ranks 31st and 2nd in scoring average on Par 3's and Par 4's respectively, but in terms of this field specifically, he's in the Top 20 and 1st in those two categories coming into the week. Keep that rate up this week, and it will be hard for Matsuyama not to have a shot at claiming this title.

Mid-Range: Marc Leishman (40/1)

Leishman is another guy who prides himself on overall ball striking, at least from the second shot in. Leishman's issues this year have been accuracy off the tee, but when he's hitting fairways, he's hitting greens. With how much water is in play for these guys this week, it should force Leishman to be conservative more often then not off the tee, which theoretically should help with driving accuracy. If Leishman gets that down, his week will be off and running. Considering this has been a place that has treated the big Aussie quite well over the course of his career, you've got to like his chances of getting things going in the right direction this week.

He finished 23rd here last year so he does fit that eight-year trend, but that's also his worst finish here in the last four years. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational back in 2017, finished 7th and 17th as well those past four years, and even has a 3rd place finish here from 2011 on his resume. Sometimes guys just love the way a course fits their eye, and when that course rotation number comes up in the midst of some minor struggles, the entire golf game can get healthy in a hurry. Hopefully that's the case for Leishman this week.

Long Shot: Ian Poulter (80/1)

Poulter is another guy who seemingly loves to come here every year, as this will be his 10th straight start at this tournament, and he's got six Top 25's in that time. Last year it was a T23 just like Leishman, and that came with his 1st and 3rd rounds finishing over par. Guys are going to make mistakes here with all the water and sand that's around, but you can't continue to compound mistakes, and Poulter's always been great in that area.

Brooks Koepka hasn't had much success in his career at Bay Hill.
Brooks Koepka hasn't had much success in his career at Bay Hill. (AP)

Like Leishman, this is obviously a course Poulter prefers to try and get his season going with, and spending his time in Florida when he's in the US is always a plus for knowing how to react to certain characteristics Florida tracks tend to bring. The course is nowhere near long enough to really price Poulter out of this event, and there are still quite a few guys ahead of him in the odds that I wouldn't think of taking over Poulter this week.

72 Hole Matchup to Take: Rickie Fowler (-120) over Brooks Koepka

Fowler nearly got mentioned in the 'favorite' section of this piece as I do quite like his chances as well this week. However, I'm probably higher than most on Fowler's prospects overall for 2020, and taking him in matchups like these should tend to payout more often.

Koepka is not a guy I'm all that high on this year, and for this event specifically, it's got all the makings of one where Koepka is more concerned with finding his overall game then really trying to win. He missed the cut last week where he never really gave himself a shot, and in the two times he's teed it up at Bay Hill in the past three years, those entries have results in weekends off as well. Can't say this is a particular track Koepka feels like he's got the best of it on, but with the PLAYERS next week and the Masters soon after that, the more competitive rounds he gets under his belt, the better his overall form should eventually be.

That just won't be this week, as Fowler's in a similar position after a MC last week, but Bay Hill is also a course where he's found plenty of success. Fowler's got three Top 15's in his last six starts here, and at this point of the season it's not hard to trust his overall ball striking ability to keep his ball dry and the birdie opportunities continually coming. Not so sure Koepka's quite there yet with his form, as anywhere up to 30 cents on the dollar is worth it to back Fowler in my view this week.

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