5th - 8th March
The PGA Tour heads over to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge this week, where the Arnold Palmer Invitational forms the second leg of a part of the PGA Tour schedule known as the Florida swing. This will be 42nd time Bay Hill has staged the event, so punters have plenty of form to peruse for clues to help them find the winner this week.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge is situated in Orlando and is a Par 72 measuring over 7,400 yards. Water is in play on 50% of the holes, whilst 84 bunkers are strategically placed. However, scoring tends to be decent, with the last eight editions providing winning totals of between –11 and –19. Length is perceived as an asset, with par-5 scoring an important statistic.
Another thing to note this week is the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens that can run as fast as 13.5 on the stimpmeter. This will be first-time some players will have played on greens like this for a while, especially those that didn’t play last week.
Francesco Molinari is the defending champion and the Italian loves it at Bay Hill Lodge & Club with form figures of 35, 5, 17, 9, 7, 26, and 1. However, his form was trending nicely in the build-up to last year’s event and his coaching team will have had to have worked a miracle if he’s to defend his title on the back of his current run of form of MC, MC, MC, and 52nd.
Rory McIlroy is the favourite with the bookmakers this week, and it’s easy to make a very strong case for backing him each-way. He won here in 2018 and collected place money for many of his followers by finishing fourth in 2017 and sixth when trying to defend last year. He’s also finished in the places on his last three starts, and he’ll surely add another win to his CV soon. The negative is it’s the Players Championship next week, and McIlroy may have one eye on back-to-back wins at Sawgrass after claiming that title last year.
The fact it’s the Players Championship next week also means John Rahm, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Cantlay are all absent this week. World number three Brooks Koepka does play but he has no course or current form to recommend him.
That leaves Adam Scott as the third-highest player in the world rankings. Whether he can put the demons to bed of blowing a 7-shot lead here in 2014 remains to be seen. However, Scott has already won twice this season and that form suggests 25/1 looks decent value. That makes Scott our first free tip for the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
There will be plenty of punters willing to give Tommy Fleetwood another chance this week after going close to breaking his PGA Tour duck last week, and his current form figures of 2, 11, 18, highlight his chances of going two places better than when third last year.
But Bryson DeChambeau is preferred at a similar price. He showed he plays the course well when second here in 2018 and comes here in decent form having placed in his last two tournaments. His tee-to-green game looks in excellent nick and, as it’s his putting that has cost him dearly in those events, the return to Bermudagrass greens could be just what he needs to get back in the winner’s enclosure.
DeChambeau has also added 30-yards to his drives this year after an extensive regime of body building and that means he’ll also be primed to take advantage of the par-5s.
It will be interesting to see if last week’s winner Sungjae Im can kick-on after claiming his first PGA Tour Title, whilst Patrick Reed also plays after winning a WGC two-weeks-ago. But the other two players that complete our Arnold Palmer Invitational free tips this week are Henrik Stenson and Mark Leishman.
Stenson loves this tournament and next week’s Players Championship and, though he returns from a break, he looks to have targeted this period of the season. Six top-5s in his last six visits here makes him look a decent each-way play this week.
Leishman has nowhere near as consistent a profile as Stenson but knows how to win, as proven by a win already this season and his win here in 2017.