2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks, Predictions

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Bay Hill.

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2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Show Index

0:22 Giveaways
4:29 Honda Recap
18:47 Golf News
43:09 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational
45:34 Favs
56:51 Brooks
58:27 Middle Range
1:20:03 Longshots
1:26:31 Quick Picks
1:27:03 One and Done

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Field

Field: 121 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties after 36 Holes
First Tee: 7 a.m. ET; Thursday, March. 5
Defending Champion: Francesco Molinari 

Fresh off the difficult scoring conditions at the Honda Classic, the players are back on a Par 72, once again attempting to dodge the wind at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational. With the field strength at an all-time low at PGA National a week ago, it’s now been announced that it will be moving spots on the schedule to after THE PLAYERS Championship next season. Field strength hasn’t been an issue for the API however.

The only noticeable absentee in 2020 is eight-time champion Tiger Woods. Tiger seems content listening to his body and is giving himself enough rest time before the Masters with THE PLAYERS and WGC-Match Play likely on his schedule already. Still, even sans Tiger, the field at Bay Hill is stacked. Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel and Phil Mickelson represent the American contingent in Orlando.

The international side may even better, though. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is joined by Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Byeong Hun An, Abraham Ancer, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, Viktor Hovland, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace, Joaquin Niemann, and Ian Poulter. Henrik Stenson has finally decided to make the trek to the U.S., too. The Swede has played at Bay Hill in each of the past 10 years, and will mark his 2020 debut at the course where he’s posted Top 10 finishes in five of his past seven starts.

It’s worth noting that international players have won each of the past four seasons. In 2019, the entire top 5 finisher list was comprised of international players.

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Proximity 200+ Yards
Opportunities Gained
Par 3s Gained 200-225 Yards

Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Course

Course: Bay Hill
Yardage: 7,419
Par: 72
Greens: Bermuda

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Past Winners

2019: Francesco Molinari -12
2018: Rory McIlroy -18
2017: Marc Leishman -11
2016: Jason Day -17
2015: Matt Every -19
2014: Matt Every -13
2013: Tiger Woods -13

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Notes

The field size is smaller at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational than in a normal week. Since it’s it’s an invitational, like the Genesis a couple weeks back, a higher percentage of the field — at least 54% percent — will make the cut. This usually allows for more risk when building DraftKings lineups at the bottom end of pricing.

If you’re someone who leans on stats and modeling to make decisions, beware of the international players whose primary tour is not the PGA. Small samples, strung across a lot of years for some, will yield insufficient results, good or bad.

If you hate water, pass on Bay Hill and move to the desert. Water ripples in the eye line of almost every shot, and sand (84 bunkers) is ubiquitous, not to mention that the rough is longer than Martin Scorsese’s directors cut of “The Irishman.” Very similar to Riviera a few weeks back, Bay Hill actually plays longer than its 7,419 yards. With all the water and series of doglegs, the holes are have more distance to carry than they actually measure on the scorecard, with the average drive over five yards shorter than the average PGA Tour event (277 yards to 283 yards). While there are only eight officially listed water hazards, the wetness directly affects eight holes.

The past two champions — Francesco Molinari and Rory McIlroy — have fired 64s on Sunday to stage a comeback victory.

Players are forced to lay up off the tee to keep dry or set themselves up for a clean look at the green, the reason driving accuracy at Bay Hill (66%) is over five percentage points above the TOUR average (61%). Do that, or risk paying the price — like on the Par 5 sixth hole. You can take on the water to save some distance and try to get on the green in two, or you can end up carding an 18, like John Daly did in 1998. Since 1983, No. 6 has produced 23 scores in the double-digits. That’s the most on TOUR by a large margin.

There were 239 water balls in 2019. Ninety-four found the aqua in the first round, the most of any round since 2003.

Strokes Gained: Approach has been two times as influential on the top 5 finishers than SG: Off The Tee, and 2.5x more influential than SG: Around The Green. The gap between each of the SG stats shrinks if expanded to the top 20 finishers. Looking at winners only, SG: APP is 2.7x more impactful than SG: OTT and 4.2x against SG: ATG. While SG: APP is always one of the most important stats to look at, it’s more pronounced this week with so many approaches coming from beyond 200 yards Hill. Historically, over 33% of approaches will come from that distance.

The Par 3s average over 215 yards in length.

Marc Leishman and Jason Day have won both at Bay Hill and Torrey Pines in past five years.

Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari, Marc Leishman and Jason Day have the most Strokes Gained: Total in the past five years at Bay Hill. Robert Gamez, Anirban Lahiri, Rod Perry, Kevin Streelman and Scott Brown have lost the most. Unsurprisingly, Gamez has a ludicrous -68.89 SG: Total the past five seasons.

Over the past three years (minimum two starts), Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlory, Lucas Glover, Bubba Watson, Byeong Hun An, Ian Poulter, Charles Howell III, Tyrrell Hatton, Ryan Moore, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed, Pat Perez, Keegan Bradley, Beau Hossler, Kevin Streelman, Sam Burns, Jimmy Walker, Alex Noren, Kevin Chappell and Emiliano Grillo have made the cut each time they’ve teed off.

Rory McIlroy, Byeong Hun An, Charles Howell III and Henrik Stenson have posted top 20 finishes in each of the past two years.

Rafa Cabrera Bello, Sungjae Im, Adam Long, Keith Mitchell and Matt Wallace all posted a top 10 result in their debuts at Bay Hill last year.

The greens at Bay Hill have annually played extremely in comparison to most courses. The players with the most Strokes Gained: Putting per round on fast + LIGHTENING greens per round, over their past 24 rounds: Billy Horschel, Cameron Champ, Rickie Fowler, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Wyndham Clark, Patrick Rodgers, Brian Gay. The worst? The legendary Scottie Scheffler (only eight rounds of total data on this speed of greens).

If we add Bermuda greens only to that fast + lightening filter: Cameron Champ, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel, Denny McCarthy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Billy Horschel and Patrick Rodgers come out on top.

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational — Targets From Each Range

Xander Schauffele, $10,000

Xander is a tough case this week because of his lack of Florida reps. Outside of THE PLAYERS Championship, Schauffele has skipped the entire Florida swing outside of the 2018 Honda Classic. But his stats couldn’t be better suited for this course unless his name was Rory McIlroy. Against this field, over the past 24 rounds, he’s the best in SG: Approach and proximity from beyond 200 yards He’s also top 10 in Par 5s gained, Par 3s gained 200-225 yards and Par 4s gained. Despite the disappointing finish in Mexico a few weeks back, he was the best player in the field with his irons, over a stroke better than Hideki. The putter is worrisome, as Bermuda grass has given him fits, but he looks too good on paper to pass on. Additionally, he’s surrounded by some bound to be popular names at his price point, so it’s conceivable many just overlook him.

Tyrrell Hatton, $8,100

Fourth in his debut in 2017, Hatton has made the cut in each of his three appearances at API, and enters having quelled the concerns many had about his wrist injury at WGC-Mexico. Making his first start since a T46 at the DP World Tour Championship in November, Hatton gained in all four strokes gained metrics in Mexico City, finishing tied for first in SG: T2G for the week at +10.4. Plus, if the wind picks up, that’s always an advantage for Hatton.

Harry Higgs, $6,700

You’d think Higgs would eventually turn into a pumpkin based on his currently play. But it just keeps going. He’s gained off the tee in 12 of his 13 PGA starts this season, playing the weekend in eight of his past nine. While the irons are are inconsistent, when he’s dialed in, he tends to gain in bunches. In his past seven starts, Higgs has only gained on approach three times, but gained over three strokes in each of the events where he found the positives. At $6,700 you’re not looking for a winner, you’re looking for a cut maker who can pop into a top 20 finish with some solid DraftKings scoring. That’s Higgs this week.

Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Rory McIlroy, Seb Munoz, Lanto Griffin, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Bubba Watson, Lanto Griffin

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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.

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