It is just over a month away from the first Major of the year. The Masters is firmly on the horizon and that means that the fields will tend to strengthen as we move through this month.
That isn’t necessarily the case this week as we have some notable absentees at the Arnold Palmer Invitational 2020 and that’s a shame for many reasons. Named for one of the greatest men to have ever picked up a club, this is also one of the most established events on the Tour.
Inaugurated in 1966, it has attracted some world class golfers and the current number one gets us underway.
As an invitational event, invites are sent far and wide to the world’s best golfers but many have declined. The weakened field leaves us with a clear favorite in Rory McIlroy (+550 or 11/2 with Bovada offshore bookie for Americans) who was a winner here in 2018.
In terms of form and record in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, many will find it hard to see beyond Rory this week. The Northern Irishman comes into Thursday on the back of six top 5 finishes and at Bay Hill, he has a perfect record of five from five including three top 6s in succession from 2017.
Not surprisingly, McIlroy tops the Power Rankings this week but where will the main challenge come from?
Tommy Fleetwood (+1400 or 14/1) was the favorite to win the Honda Classic last week with the online sports betting sites for USA players and the Englishman remained in contention, right up until the closing holes on the fourth day. Fleetwood has now been relegated behind McIlroy but he heads up the main challenge and will get plenty of support this time around.
Tommy has two top 10 returns in this tournament and is showing signs of the form that made him a Race to Dubai winner on the European Tour.
Behind Fleetwood, there is a further gap to Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele (both 18/1) followed by Hideki Matsuyama (20/1) and Adam Scott (25/1). Of those four, DeChambeau was the sole runner up to McIlroy in 2018 while Scott is a recent winner on Tour and has a solid record in this event.
Interestingly, Schauffele is making his debut in the Arnold Palmer Invitational but he has good, relevant stats and is one to watch.
Also to be considered are Sungjae Im, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka. Some big names may be missing but clearly there is depth to this field and we could have another long-priced winner this week.
Tony Finau, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler (circa 33/1) are in longshot territory and there could be some value in any of those three. Finau returns for the first time since 2017 but some solid form at the start of the year makes him a live contender. Like Finau, Fowler and Day have made little impact in this tournament and both need an uplift in form if they are to challenge over four days.
In contrast, one man who has enjoyed success in the Arnold Palmer Invitational is Australia’s Marc Leishman. A winner by one stroke in 2017, Leishman can boast three top 10 finishes overall and he is a confirmed tip for another single digit finish this year.
Others to consider include Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Billy Horschel, Viktor Hovland, Ian Poulter and Harris English. Both Rose and Stenson are former runners up but the form golfers could be Hovland and English who have been in good touch in recent Tour events.
Our Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview’s Course & Betting Trends with Predictions & Picks Verdict
The Arnold Palmer Invitational has been held at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge since 1979. Over in Bay Hill Florida, this is one of the longer courses on Tour with a par 72 that comes in at 7.454 yards. Distance hitters can, therefore, gain an advantage in places but there are many more challenges along its 18 holes.
Last year’s winner Francesco Molinari isn’t known for his power off the tee but the Italian returned some interesting stats on his way to a two stroke victory over Matthew Fitzpatrick. Molinari co-led the field in strokes gained: Off the tee and he was third in fairways hit so clearly some accuracy needs to be married to the distance hitting. Scrambling can also be key while greens at 13.5 on the Stimp are the quickest on Tour.
There are some value betting picks at long prices here and this preview is torn between two golfers. Rickie Fowler looks a solid option at distant numbers but, while we had a mere hunch on Fowler, Xander Schauffele has some more promising Tour stats. Among those numbers, a fourth on Tour in scrambling, allied to three straight top 25s coming into Thursday suggests he is ready to produce something special. These are our Arnold Palmer Invitational predictions: