Arnold Palmer Invitational Betting Tips: Tyrell Hatton heads our six picks for the Bay Hill Club
PGA National really is a superbly devilish venue. Rarely have I had so little to be critical of in selections which reaped no rewards. That all because of the brutal nature in which the slightest of missteps are punished in the Honda Classic.
We had a thrilling outcome regardless of my own frustrations, as Daniel Berger relinquished a lead which had stretched to six-shots at one point on Saturday, to end up finishing 4th. Ireland’s Shane Lowry looking like coming through and being the beneficiary of Berger’s troubles, but it was Austria’s Sepp Straka who had the final say and walked away the victor, picking up his first PGA Tour title in the process.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips
- Tyrrell Hatton 33/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1.5 pts ew
- Marc Leishman 30/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1.5 pts ew
- Max Homa 50/1 – 1/4 5 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Billy Horschel 50/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew
- Luke List 66/1 – 1/5 8 places (Betfair) – 1 pt ew
- Troy Merritt 125/1 – 1/5 8 places (Betfair) – 0.75 pts ew
The Florida Swing continues as we head to Bay Hill Club and Lodge for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Actually one of two events on the PGA Tour this week, with the Puerto Rico Open playing opposite the API as an alternate event.
An event not quite possessing the brutal difficulty which the players were faced with at PGA National last week but this is a high quality, challenging championship level course in its own right. Possessing an average winning score of just over -13 over the last ten renewals.
A par 72 measuring 7454 yards, this Dick Wilson original has been renovated multiple times by Arnold Palmer and is essentially his design now.
It’s a real ball-striker's course. All par 3s are tough and long, with three measuring over 200 yards, the 7th hole the only one measuring below at 199 yards. Par 4s offer further challenges, with many of the tree-lined fairways doglegging and requiring a tee-shot that isn’t only in the fairway but in the right part of the fairway, to avoid any obstructed views.
The par 5s are all good scoring opportunities. None more so than the 16th hole, which at 511 yards you’re essentially giving away a shot to the field by just making par.
Even though the fairways aren’t that difficult to hit here, the doglegs aren’t the only things that can cause you problems off-the-tee. The rough is thick, with an abundance of clever bunkering and tree trouble for the most wayward of tee-shots.
This all without mentioning we’re at another venue where water plays a huge part, in-play on nine holes in total. Perhaps the most notable is the par 5 6th hole, where Bryson DeChambeau famously drove the ball to within 70 yards of the green last year, taking a more direct line right over the water. It’s a hole which really tests your bravery, will you take the tighter line to give yourself a shorter shot into the green or bail out right which brings other dangers into play?
The bermuda greens offer their own challenges in addition to the bunkering and water in play across the rest of the course. These huge putting surfaces are heavily undulating and possess run-off areas aplenty. Set up to play firm and fast, despite the size of them, they regularly rank amongst the toughest greens to hit on tour. Even more so when you’re not playing from the fairways, as it ranks as the toughest course in which to hit the greens from off the fairways, of any regular tour event over the last six years.
There’s no denying that when you do hit these greens, you have to putt them well. Doing so has so often been a prerequisite to success here. Each of the previous six winners ranked no worse than 21st in putting for the week, with four of those winners ranking 6th or better.
Strength off-the-tee has also been hugely important in recent years. DeChambeau led the field off-the-tee last year when winning, as did Molinari in 2019. With McIlroy, one of the best drivers on the planet over recent years, the winner in 2018.
Scrambling has also been important, with DeChambeau the outlier last year, as the only winner of the previous six not to rank top 20 in getting it up and down. McIlroy in 2018 leading the field in this regard.
Wind can often cause problems here. We saw that in the 2020 renewal, where Tyrrell Hatton won in brutally tough conditions at -4, the highest winning score in the event since 1981. We could get some troublesome conditions this week, with the wind looking like kicking up from Friday-Sunday after a gentler breeze on Thursday.
We have a strong field teeing it up here in Orlando. Defending champion, Bryson DeChambeau makes his first start since his withdrawal in the Saudi International a month ago. Sitting on the sidelines since then, citing hand and hip injuries.
He’s joined by four of the world’s top 10, including #1 Jon Rahm, who’s making his debut in the event. #4 Viktor Hovland, #5 Rory McIlroy and #6 Scottie Scheffler rounding off the quartet of the world’s very best players.
I am surprised to find Jon Rahm still at single digits this week. That isn’t to say he can’t win, nor that he shouldn’t be favourite, he is after-all achieving some good finishes despite not being at his best. But this is his debut here and I’d definitely need to see a little movement in that number to make me fearful of missing out on him. As it is, at 9/1 I’m happy to leave him out and will not feel like I’ve missed out if it all does indeed click and he returns to winning form.
2018 champion, Rory McIlroy appealed more and follows him at 14/1, though I’ve long lost that necessity to bet McIlroy at these prices in strong fields. Viktor Hovland comes next at 18/1 and would’ve been the most likely of the bunch to make the selections this week if it wasn’t for an underwhelming record in the event in three starts.
Instead I’m going to start this week’s selections with 2020 API champion, Tyrrell Hatton. He won in really tough, windy conditions that year and after some good ball-striking displays to kick off his year in the UAE on the DP World Tour, comes here in good form.
On those first two starts of the year, that saw Hatton finish 6th in the Abu Dhabi Championship and then 4th in the Dubai Desert Classic, his long game was in fine shape. Producing his best performances off-the-tee and in approach since his 2nd place finish in the Palmetto Championship in June of last year. Also putting well and if it wasn’t for a lack of sharpness around the greens, he could well have picked up a title there.
His record here at Bay Hill is excellent outside of that win in 2020. He’s made the cut every time in five visits, finishing 4th on debut in 2017 and managed a 21st place finish here last year despite a poor and frustrating week on the greens. This an isolated incident as he’d putted excellently in his four previous visits.
As well as his strong record here, he possesses a 4th place finish in the Honda Classic, which is often a great pointer to people who can succeed here at Bay Hill. Two Florida courses that are tough tee-to-green on speedy bermuda greens.
An 8th place finish at Colonial in the Charles Schwab Challenge also reads well, a place where strong drivers have often gone well. A huge amount of past winners there; Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Justin Rose, Chris Kirk and Adam Scott all have strong records here at Bay Hill.
Hatton’s been hugely encouraging in this early part of the year, with his ball-striking and putting looking in better shape than it did for much of the latter part of 2021. I expect him to bring that form stateside now and this week continue to show his affinity for this course with another strong performance.
Australia’s Marc Leishman has been knocking on the door for the best part of six months. Every part of his game seems to be firing and with his excellent record here, which includes a victory in 2017 and runner-up finish in 2020, he once again has a great opportunity to pick up that title much of his recent play has warranted.
Leishman kicked off the 2021/22 in great form at the end of last year. Finishing 4th in the Fortinet Championship and then 3rd in the Shriners Open. With a 38th place finish in the CJ Cup and 19th in the Houston Open rounding off a strong end to 2021.
He’s carried that form into this year, taking his run of made cuts to 13 and has finished no worse than 36th on his five starts this year. The most recent of them a 15th place finish at the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago.
During this time, every part of his game has been firing with 15th in putting and 32nd in approach for the season, the standout areas. Having said that, 85th off-the-tee is also hugely encouraging, an area of his game that was causing the most problems, ranking outside the top 150 on the PGA Tour in the previous two seasons. He’s managed to gain strokes off-the-tee in five consecutive events.
His record here, as mentioned, is superb. He won in 2017, then finished runner-up to Tyrrell Hatton in that brutally difficult 2020 edition. He also possesses two other top 10s, courtesy of a 3rd place finish in 2011 and finished 7th in 2018. Only missing three cuts on his twelve trips to Bay Hill.
Most notable about his performances here has been the quality of his approach play and putting. Indeed he’s gained strokes on these greens in seven of his last eight visits, which include last year’s poor ball-striking induced missed cut. Few of these players putt the greens at Bay Hill as well as Leishman.
Now with his ball-striking not only getting back to what he’s capable of but in the case of his driver, actually showing improvements, one of these is going to drop for him sooner or later. With his proven record at this event, he looks a huge danger to make that recent form count this week.
Max Homa is another that has enjoyed a good start to the 2021/22 season. With his ball-striking now starting to fire and the putter looking in excellent shape, I think the Californian can improve on an already strong record at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Homa’s strong start to the year was one which saw him pick up a victory in the first event of the 21/22 season, when he ran out winner of the Fortinet Championship with an excellent all-round display of golf.
After a couple of misses followed that in his last few events of 2021, Homa has re-found his form in this early part of 2022. With finishes of 15-MC-14-10 in his four starts so far.
As mentioned, the putter looked in excellent shape last year and that’s continued to be the case this, currently seeing him ranked 31st on tour on the greens this season. Ball-striking has also been solid in this time but it’s off-the-tee where he usually excels and indeed in his 14th place finish at the Phoenix Open two starts ago, Homa produced his best driving performance since the 2020 US Open.
In two visits to Bay Hill, Homa has finished 24th and 10th. A strong approach performance was the key to the 24th place finish on debut in 2020, though he did also putt well. It was a different story last year when he finished 10th, he was good off-the-tee but once again showed his ability to putt these surfaces well, leading the putting stats for the week.
Homa has built up a bit of a reputation for himself as a player who plays the tough courses well. Victories in the Genesis Invitational and at Quail Hollow in the Wells Fargo very much backing this up. With that he’s also gone well at Muirfield Village in the Memorial Tournament, finishing 6th in 2021, another long, ball-striker's course. 6th in the Valspar also standing up well as another Florida based event that poses significant questions tee-to-green and has bermuda putting surfaces.
Homa looks in a good place right now and with all the right parts of his game firing, he can continue his attractively trending form at this event by recording a win this week.
Billy Horschel has had a good start to 2022, though over those first few starts, his performances were very much engineered by his short game. Now with his ball-striking starting to come together, gaining strokes in his two most recent starts, particularly excellent last week when finishing 16th in the Honda Classic, ranking 5th both in approach and off-the-tee, he looks primed to go close in his home state.
Ironically, the reason Horschel wasn’t able to really contend last week was because of his short-game, the area of his game that had fired so well in his first three starts, failing him.
Horschel’s record is strangely underwhelming here. He’s only missed one cut in nine visits, which came last year but has only hit the top 20 twice, with a 13th place finish in 2017 his best effort. He predominantly putts the greens well and is solid enough with the long game, issues around the greens seem to have been the one area stopping him from going closer.
There’s no discernible reason for this, these greens don’t rank amongst the hardest of which to get up and down and Horschel is a good enough scrambler, ranking 32nd on tour this season.
Further evidence as to his potential to go well here is found at correlating events. He possesses multiple top 10s in the Memorial and the Honda Classic. Also possessing a solid record at Colonial, having not missed a cut in four visits.
It seems like Horschel’s game is peaking at just the right time. If able to combine the quality he’s shown in his ball-striking the last two weeks, with the quality he’d shown with his short-game in his previous three starts of the year, he’s certainly playing well enough to put right that mediocre record he possesses here in Orlando.
With ball-striking looking key this week, there’s few players in the field as good with the long game as Luke List. Now a PGA Tour winner, thanks to a victory in the Farmers Insurance Open back in January, List has the right skillset to pick up a 2nd title in quick succession.
That victory was engineered by quality approach play, not a surprise as he ranks 18th on tour this season and has consistently been one of the best ball-strikers on tour in recent years. Backing up that approach play with even more high class play off-the-tee, where he ranks 7th. Though rather surprisingly, as it is his achilles heel, he also putted well.
Having said that, List has a really good history of putting these greens well at Bay Hill, gaining strokes in three of his four starts here. This, combined with his superb ball-striking, is why he’s been able to amass a strong book of form in the event, with finishes of 17th, 7th, 10th and 63rd in those four starts.
His win at the Farmers has to give credence to his chances here, as a long championship course. He also possesses a 2nd place finish in the Honda Classic, as well as another top 10 and has also finished top 10 at Muirfield Village in the Memorial. Adding more confidence to the already strong case that can be made for List.
There’s no doubt List has the potential to cause immense frustration on the greens, but those concerns are alleviated slightly with his good record at putting the greens at Bay Hill. With a new-found level of confidence taken from his victory at Torrey Pines, I think List can once again ball-strike his way to a good finish in Orlando.
With a good record here and after a good start to the season, where his ball-striking has looked in generally good shape, I think Troy Merritt is an interesting outsider at Bay Hill this week.
He’s not the renowned ball-striker of some of those mentioned above, which makes his stats this season even more appealing, ranking 19th in approach and 40th off-the-tee. Complemented by 10th in scrambling which is often important around here.
This has helped him to four top 25s in nine starts this season, three of them top 10s and a best finish of 4th in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He’s forgiven a poor ball-striking week at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational, such has been the quality of his long game in previous starts.
He’s played three times here at Bay Hill, making the cut each time. An excellent 3rd place finish on debut in 2016 has been followed by a 56th place finish in 2017 and 24th in 2020. In each appearance he’s putted the greens excellently, whilst also showing quality around-the-greens and driving it solidly. With his iron play the only area that’s failed to fire at all.
Along with that, Merritt has a hugely encouraging book of correlating form. He’s twice finished top 10 at the Valspar Championship, has recorded a 2nd place finish at TPC Southwind, another difficult course tee-to-green, a top 10 at Colonial and two top 25s at Muirfield Village in the Memorial Tournament.
His good record here encouraged me all the more as the area of his game which had failed to fire in his previous three visits, his iron play, is the area in which he’s currently impressing the most. If he can transfer that here this week and forget his poor showing at Riviera last time out, Merritt is capable of throwing his name amongst some of the more illustrious ones which are bound to dominate the top of the leaderboard this week at Bay Hill.