The PGA Tour moves to Orlando in Florida this week where the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard takes place at its traditional home at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
The sponsors will be disappointed by the late withdrawal of Tiger Woods, due to a back problem, but a purse of $9.1 Million and a first prize of £1.6 Million has still attracted a high-class field. The betting is headed by the 2018 winner Rory McIlroy and he’s joined by world number two Justin Rose, as well as a host of other stars like Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, and Brooks Koepka.
At over 7,400 yards, the Bay Hill Club & Lodge is a challenging venue, with winning 72-hole scores being as low as –5 when Tiger Woods won in 2009. However, the winning score has also been as high as –19.
The trophy has more than its fair share of big-name winners on it, including the likes of Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and Jason Day. However, quite a few outsiders have also triumphed here such as Rod Pampling and Martin Laird, whilst Matt Every had the audacity to win it back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.
Back-to-back winners are actually quite common at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with Loren Roberts putting his way to success here in 1994 and 1995, whilst Tiger won it four years in a row between 2000 and 2003, notched up another double in 2008 and 2009, and again in 2012 and 2013.
That’s why it’s easy to see Rory McIlroy defending his title this week. The world number six arrives in better form than last year, having finished in the top-5 in his last four tournaments in top-class fields. He was also fourth here in 2017 having again not been in the greatest of form coming into the event.
His second at the WGC Mexican Championships two weeks ago was also a notable effort as, though he finished five shots behind the absent this week Dustin Johnson, he was also five shots clear of the rest of the field. The bookies may only be offering 8/1 about McIlroy this week but it’s going to be a major disappointment if he doesn’t at least fill one of the enhanced each-way places on offer.
However, there are several worthy opponents at the market that McIlroy might have to overcome this week that deserve a mention, with several of them priced-up at under 20/1.
Bryson DeChambeau’s fantastic run of form over the last 18 months included a second here last year and this classic layout has a lot of similarities to the type of courses his wins have come at during that time. He could easily add a first victory in this event to his C.V. this year, but the worry is his form is trending the wrong way having finished 1/6/15/56 in his last four events.
Justin Rose also has several high-profile finishes to his name at Bay Hill but his four-week absence from tournament play since he missed the cut in Saudi Arabia must be a worry. Koepka does arrive in form having been tied second in last week’s Honda Classic but, whilst there’s no reason why Bay Hill shouldn’t suit his game, he’s yet to show enough here in three previous visits to warrant backing him this week.
However, I am adding Rickie Fowler to this week’s portfolio. He also finished strongly for a tie for second last week but, unlike Koepka, he also has some decent course form having finished third in 2013 and posted top-12 finishes in each of the last two editions. A winner three starts ago, he also looks worth backing with lots of places on offer this week.
The other player I want on side this week is Marc Leishman, as the Aussie has a decent mix of course and current form. He won this event in 2017 and backed that up with a creditable seventh-place finish last year when trying to defend his title. He was also third here in 2011. Add in the fact that his form this season has been excellent, as he’s posted four top-4 finishes in his last six events, and he deserves to be backed each-way with any bookies offering enhanced each-way terms this week.
Arnold Palmer Invitational 2019 Free Tips
Rory McIlroy 3 Points (8 places Each-Way) @ 7.50 Betfair SB, PaddyPower
Rickie Fowler 1 Point (8 places Each-Way) @ 13.00 Betfair SB, PaddyPower
Marc Leishman 1 Point (8 places Each-Way) @ 26.00 Betfair SB, PaddyPower