WATCH: Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill course preview
The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, golfer history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections ahead of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
This is just the second year of the Arnold Palmer Invitational (API) since the tournament namesake’s death, and it again features a decent field to celebrate his contributions to the game. When you factor in that Tiger Woods (eight wins at Bay Hill), Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Justin Rose all will be in attendance, you have a really good top end. We also have Hideki Matsuyama returning from injury this week to compete, and Rickie Fowler will look to find some form before Augusta.
International names teeing it up include Alex Noren, Tyrell Hatton (who nearly won in Mexico two weeks ago) and last year’s champ, Marc Leishman. This is an invitational event, so approximately 120 golfers will get in, but the cut remains Friday after the second round, and the top 70 and ties will play the weekend.
Bay Hill — Orlando, Fla.
Par 72, 7,400-7,500 yards
This course has hosted this tournament since its inception but has undergone major renovations over the lifespan of the event. Unlike many courses, Bay Hill — in an attempt to ensure long-term viability — has had modifications that have made it somewhat easier to play in spots. The course used to play as a Par 70 between 2007 and 2009, but it reverted back to a Par 72 in 2010 and remains that way today. After 2014, fairways were widened, and overgrown rough and some trees were removed, making driving conditions easier for golfers. New Bermuda greens also were added. Overall, the last three winners of this event have been 19, 17 and 11 under par. Last year’s event had some tougher conditions with the rough, and if the wind gets up (it’s Florida), we could see a similar winning score.
As mentioned above, the course features Bermuda greens, and as a traditional Par 72, also features four par 5s, none of which play longer than 570 yards. As such, these holes will yield a ton of birdies or better during the week and will need to be played well under par by any golfer hoping for a top finish. While golfers will be able to score on the par 5s, Bay Hill does carry some challenges along the way, including three par 3s that measure 215 yards or longer. Golfers also will be challenged by the longer par-4 finishing hole, which requires an accurate drive off the tee and a steady hand on the approach to a semi-island green.
All in all, expect Bay Hill to yield some birdies, but also expect golfers who hit poor shots to be penalized … severely. There are 70-plus bunkers on the course, and water is in play on half of the holes. This is a course that rewards aggressiveness but can punish those who push their luck too far.
2018 Outlook — We continue to luck out with the weather this year, with another great forecast for this week. There doesn’t appear to be significant wind at all, and gusts are set to stay under 10 mph for all four days. Thursday is set to be the coldest day with a high only in the low 70s, so the morning crowd could see a cold start, but otherwise, a draw bias is very unlikely at this point. As always, check the weather again Wednesday for any changes.
Last Six Winners
- 2017 — Marc Leishman -11
- 2016 — Jason Day -17
- 2015 — Matt Every -19
- 2014 — Matt Every -13
- 2013 — Tiger Woods -13
- 2012 — Tiger Woods -13
- Four of the last seven winners of the API recorded a finish of eighth or better in one of the Florida swing stops before their victory at Bay Hill.
- Seven of the last eight winners of the API finished the year ranked 54th or better in Par 5 Scoring in the year of their victory (exception: Every in 2015).
Par 5 Scoring
Birdie or Better Percentage
Proximity >200 yards
Since the redesign, the course has become a little easier to score on, and golfers really have needed to take advantage of the par 5s. Jason Day was second in the field in 2016 in that stat for the week, while Leishman was 15th last year. Scoring well on these holes will be important for DFS purposes, too, and it’s a stat to consider this week when making lineups.
The course carries some trouble but also should yield a lot of low scores. Birdie or Better Percentage is a stat that definitely translates. Since 2011, the lowest the winner of this event has ranked in Birdie or Better Percentage for the week is ninth (Leishman last year), and 2016 winner Jason Day led the field in this stat.
With all the par 3s playing between 200 and 230 yards this week, looking at specific stats from that yardage makes sense. Shots from 200 yards or greater (>200 yards) are the most popular range that golfers have faced in their approaches here over the years (via fantasygolfmetrics.com), so looking at proximity from that distance also should be considered.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking golfers (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section will detail a few golfers who have the best fantasy value compared to their odds of winning this week.
|Tiger Woods||7-1||$10,000||Justin Rose $11,500 and 14-1
Rickie Fowler $10,300 and 22-1
Rory McIlroy $10,700 and 19-1
|Kevin Na||55-1||$7,100||Harris English $7,200 and 175-1
Ben Martin $7,200 and 150-1
Sean O’Hair has made 9 of 11 cuts at Bay Hill, a run that includes a runner-up finish from 2009. He’s risky, but he did play well last week at Copperhead and generally is a good golfer to target on this Florida swing.
Henrik Stenson nearly won this tournament in 2015 and followed that with an impressive third-place finish in 2016. His overall results on his last eight visits to Bay Hill read as 52-47-15-8-5-2-3-MC. He might have lost some faith with fantasy owners after an MC last week, but he’s still a course horse to target.
Zach Johnson has played at Bay Hill 13 years in a row since 2005 and only missed the cut once in that span. Overall, he has four top 10s to his credit at Bay Hill, a string that includes a T5 finish from 2016. He’s started 2018 strongly and easily could put up a strong week.
Tiger Woods easily is the lead course horse this week. Overall, he has an incredible eight wins at Bay Hill, with wins here in 2000 to 2003, 2008 and 2009, and 2012 and 2013. He’ll be nearly unfadeable here at an event that he absolutely has owned over his career.
Cash Games — Woods feels like a steal this week at just $10K, and targeting him and one of Rickie Fowler ($10,300), Alex Noren ($9,200) or Tommy Fleetwood ($9,500) looks like a solid start to any cash game lineup. Other potential targets for this format include Adam Scott ($8,700), Zach Johnson ($7,700), Louis Oosthuizen ($8,200), Keegan Bradley ($7,300) and Kyle Stanley ($7,200).
Tournaments — Tiger likely will be popular this week because of a very affordable price tag, so fading him and starting with one of the top three options likely will make your lineup quite unique. Jason Day ($11,800) is the most expensive but also is the second favorite behind Tiger. I also like Justin Rose ($11,500), who has a great record here and easily could finish in front of Woods if he keeps up the great play from last week. Other potential targets for large tournaments include Emiliano Grillo ($7,600), James Hahn ($7,600), Byeong-Hun An ($7,700), Bubba Watson ($8,600), Ollie Schniederjans ($7,400) and Sean O’Hair ($7,000).
1. Jason Day hasn’t played a ton of golf thus far in 2018, but in two starts on the West Coast, he managed to find a win and a T2. It will be interesting to see if the rest killed his momentum.
2. Bubba Watson followed his miraculous comeback win at Riviera with another strong showing in Mexico, where he finished T9 and was hitting it well again off the tee. He’ll be an interesting target this week.
3. Kiradech Aphibarnrat has gone win-T5 over his last two starts. His win came in a very weak field over in Asia, but the T5 in Mexico against a WGC field gives him serious momentum heading into this week.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green from Last Week
1. Patrick Reed
2. Tiger Woods
Top Strokes Gained: Putting from Last Week
1. Sam Burns
2. Justin Rose
MY PICK: Rickie Fowler ($10,300)
Instead of going with the obvious play this week (eight-time Bay Hill winner Tiger Woods), I’m going to highlight another top-priced option whom I think could make a run here. Fowler has started 2018 slowly, but he might be starting to get his game in shape. Two weeks ago in Mexico, he had three solid rounds but only could manage a T37 finish. Still, Fowler ranked T9 for the week in Strokes Gained: Approaches there, and he now comes back to Florida, where he has played some of the best golf of his career (wins at Honda and The Players). The return to Bermuda grass should help, too, as Fowler was uncharacteristically bad around the greens in Mexico, which featured Kikuya rough.
Overall, a strong course history at Bay Hill (T3 in 2013, T12 in 2017) and the motivation of wanting to win the King’s tournament should be a good mix for Rickie, who will look to overtake Tiger at his favorite course.
MY SLEEPER: Sean O’Hair ($7,000)
It’s a good feeling to be able to write up my personal favorite value play/tournament target for the first time in 2018, and there’s optimism that a good week could be ahead. O’Hair’s game has been scattered in 2018, but last week at the Valspar, he finally showed some of the consistency that helped him amass six top-10 finishes last season. O’Hair was eighth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green last week and 12th in Approaches, and he now comes to a course on which he has performed well over his career (see Course Horses section).
Even though his career has been marked by inconsistency, O’Hair has played a lot of his best golf in Florida (near misses at Valspar, Bay Hill and The Players), and he should be on the radar for players looking for an inexpensive tournament target this week.
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