Arnold Palmer Invitational: Molinari will have it all to do if he’s to retain his title

It's the final event on the PGA Tour ahead of The Players Championship so who will come out on top at Bay Hill this weekend? David Kristiansen has made his picks...

David Kristiansen

Francesco Molinari returns to Bay Hill to defend last year’s win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard in the latest leg of the Florida Swing and the final event before The Players Championship.

But if he is to do so, he’ll have to top world No.1 – and 2018 champ – Rory McIlroy as well as recent World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship winner Patrick Reed.

Meanwhile, Rickie Fowler will be looking to rebound from a missed cut at The Honda Classic, his second in his last three starts while notable Orlando residents Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, and Graeme McDowell are all in the field

Honda Classic Recap

Im Honda Classic

Last year’s rookie of the year on tour Sungjae Im clinched his first victory after an impressive ball-striking display on Sunday, becoming the fifth player 22-years of age or younger winning for the first time in the last 8 months along with Wolff, Morikawa, Niemann and Hovland.

The South Korean got pressured by Brendan Steele and world number 10 Tommy Fleetwood but when they both put their second shot into 18 in the water the victory was secured.

It wasn’t the week for our picks with Koepka missing the cut and Lowry, while hanging around all week never, found that 3 or 4 under round that would have at least secured him an each-way place.

Course/Field

Bay Hill

Course: Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Length: 7400 yards (Par 72)
Greens: Bermuda
Opened: 1961
Architect: Dick Wilson

The Florida swing continues with The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill just outside of Orlando and even though Tiger isn’t showing up the field is one of the strongest of the year with Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Bryson Dechambeau and Tommy Fleetwood all teeing it up at Arnold’s place.

Bay Hill is the course on tour where the players hit most 200+ yard approaches so a good long iron game is essential to contend this week.

Tommy Fleetwood

It helps to be long, but it is not a necessity to be an absolute bomber as three of the last five winners have ranked outside of the top 50 in driving distance in the year that they won.

With long par 3s, some though 4s and three of the four 5s being over 550 yards good scrambling will also be an important quality.

With this being a par 72 we will have four par 5s so par 5 scoring should also be taking into consideration this week. The greens are big, fast and some of the purest Bermuda greens on tour.

Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:

  • Strokes gained approach
  • Scrambling
  • Proximity 200+ yards
  • Bermuda putting
  • GIR
  • Par 5 scoring

2019/20 Season overview:

Wagered: 103 units
Won: 149.66 units
Result: + 46.66 units
Outright winners: Hero World Challenge: Henrik Stensson 25-1 & Farmers Insurance Open: Marc Leishman 50-1

Picks

Rory McIlroy Golf

I’m afraid Rory McIlroy just wins this week, but I can’t get myself to back him at 6.00* so will go a little down the odds board so that if the Northern Irishman does run away with it, we will at least have some shots at a couple of decent each way pay-outs, with that said here’s my guys this week:

Max Homa 67.00 0.7 pts EW 

Homa is in the best and most stable form of his PGA tour career having not finished worst that 14th in any of his last four starts with the  Californian’s sole tour victory coming on the east coast at the Wells Fargo in North Carolina and on Bermuda.

His game seems well rounded at the moment having gained strokes off the tee, on approach and putting in his last four starts and he ranks in the top third in all individual stats categories I’m looking meaning the bookies could be undervaluing him this week.

Don’t forget that it wasn’t a bunch of nobodies that he beat to win last year it was McIlroy, Rose, Garcia and Fowler, so I think he can add another high-profile win to his resume.

Kevin Na 81.00 0.6 pts EW

I will go back to one of my favourite characters on tour this week, the veteran American who has won twice in the last year comes of a T9 at WGC Mexico where he gained multiple strokes on approach, around the green and putting.

He has a couple other top-20 finishes in his last five starts and in my short-term model (12 rounds) he ranks in the top 30 in approach, par 3 200-225 yards, scrambling and proximity from 200+ yards.

He has had three top 6 finishes here in the last decade, so he definitely likes this course.

Maverick McNealy 101.00 0.5 pts EW

Our next pick is another California kid and while Hovland is the talk of the town after his win a couple of weeks ago you shouldn’t sleep on another former no 1 ranked amateur in the world.

After starting off his first full season on tour with two missed cuts, Maverick McNealy has now made the cut in ten straight and it has only gotten better with his last three starts being: 15th at Farmers, 5th at Pebble Beach and 11th last week at the Honda where he gained over five shots on approach.

Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks 2nd in Scrambling, 9th in proximity from 200+ yards and 17th in par 5 scoring and though e might need a couple of more times in contention before he can breakthrough, but at these odds, I definitely see some each-way value in the 24-year-old.

How to watch

Justin Rose

Arnold Palmer Invitational
Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th of March
Sky Sports Golf at 19:00

 

*Odds subject to change | Each Way = 1/4 the odds, 5 places

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