It’s rare that a $6,800 player wins, but Adam Hadwin was the exception last week. The Canadian earned his first PGA Tour victory and sees a huge bump in salary this week, but more on him later. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is played at the Bay Hill Club in Florida. The course is a Par 72 that plays just over 7,400 yards. If the tournament’s history is any indication, ball striking will lead to better finishing position than distance off the tee.
High-Priced Studs ($10,000+)
There are the usual, familiar faces up at the top. Rory McIlroy ($12,000) leads the field in salary and Vegas odds. Henrik Stenson ($11,500) is fresh off of his T7 finish at the Valspar. Jason Day ($10,600) is making his first appearance since withdrawing from the WGC Mexico Championship. Hideki Matsuyama ($10,300) has cooled off a bit but continues to see salaries above $10,000.
Henrik Stenson will most likely be the highest owned play this week. Stenson is one of the best ball strikers on the Tour. Unfortunately, everyone knows that and I’m projecting that he’ll be the highest owned in this range. He’s a fine play, but differentiation through the rest of lineups with Stenson will be the key to success.
Rory McIlroy is the most expensive play this week for good reason. In this range, he’s the best combination of greens in regulation and scrambling. McIlroy might not see high ownership because of his salary.
Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama are both fine plays this week. Between the two of them, though, I prefer Matsuyama. With Day’s recent history of withdrawals and mediocre play, I want to see him compete for a week before paying $10K+. Matsuyama comes in just behind McIlroy for greens in regulation this year. He finished in the Top 25 both times he’s competed at Bay Hill, including a 6th place finish last year.
Mid-Range Plays ($8,000-$10,000)
Rickie Fowler ($9,900) has made his last 3 cuts and finished no worse than 16th in those starts. Fowler has played the Arnold Palmer Invitational before and has a 3rd place finish on his resume here. His greens in regulation and scrambling stats are the best in the price range. He will be a staple of many of my lineups this weekend.
Adam Hadwin ($8,400) saw a huge jump in salary following his win at Copperhead. He will see much more ownership this week. It’s incredibly difficult to win on the PGA Tour in back to back weeks. Hadwin is in good form but from a game theory perspective, he might not be worth the play.
Paul Casey ($8,800) is an interesting play this week. He’s 6th in this price range for GIR% so far this year. Casey finished 9th in this tournament last year. Louis Oosthuizen ($9,300) is another golfer in play this week. He has only played this tournament sporadically in the past but he finished 9th in 2015. He also hasn’t missed a cut since July. Consider Oosthuizen a cash game lock this week.
Value Plays ($8,000-$7,000)
Tommy Fleetwood ($7,200) provides a lot of value this week. At $7,200, he has the 41st salary but has the 18th best odds to win according to Vegas. Fleetwood hasn’t played this tournament before but his game seems well-suited for Bay Hill.
Kyle Stanley ($7,400) and Billy Horschel ($7,000) also have solid approach statistics coming into this week. I prefer Horschel because of his course history here. Horschel has made 4 straight cuts at this tournament and has improved his finishing position in each of those years. Stanley, on the other hand, has missed 3 of 4 cuts in his starts here.
Bargain Play (Sub-$7,000)
Our bargain play hit big last week with Adam Hadwin winning it all. Charles Howell III ($6,900) is going to be the uber-chalk this week. It’s dangerous to fade him considering he’s made 9/10 cuts at Bay Hill in his previous starts. But if you’re going to fade him, Lucas Glover ($6,700) is worth a look. He’s had mixed results here in the past making 2 of the last 4 cuts. Glover has yet to miss a cut so far in 2017 though and should warrant some consideration.