clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fantasy Golf Picks — 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks, Predictions, Rankings and Sleepers

Pat Mayo breaks down the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational, making his picks and rankings for the event while previewing the course and key stats.

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks.

API Wednesday Update: DraftKings Picks, Final Bets, Weather

2023 API — Picks & Preview | Info & Research | Stats/Tools

Get link to PME RAKE FREE DraftKings Contest

2023 API — DraftKings Picks | Player/Course Notes | Own Projections

Subscribe To the PME — YouTube | Apple | Spotify | Insta | Twitter | E-Mail

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Field

Field: 120 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, March 2
Defending Champ: Scottie Scheffler

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is now offering up $20M in the kitty, which means all the top PGA TOUR players will be in attendance at Bay Hill. Most of the elite have made consistent to sporadic cameos in this event over the years, with some notable expectations.

Patrick Cantlay and Tom Kim are getting their first crack at the course. Jon Rahm (T17), Xander Schauffele (T24), Justin Thomas (T49), Jordan Spieth (T4), and Cameron Young (T13) have only seen this course once apiece over the the past eight seasons. Collin Morikawa (T9), Tony Finau (MC) and Brian Harman (MC) each made their last Bay Hill start a week before the pandemic commenced in 2020.

Representing international tours, Ryan Fox, Adrian Meronk, Min Woo Lee and for the first time on US soil, World No. 83 Thriston Lawrence will all be at Bay Hill. Plus, we’ll get a look at top ranked amateur, the Swede, Ludvig Aberg.

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Approach
  • Proximity 200+ Yards
  • Opportunities Gained
  • Par 3s Gained 200-225 Yards

Mayo’s Key Stats powered by

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Course

  • Course: Bay Hill
  • Yardage: 7,466
  • Par: 72
  • Greens: Bermuda

Par 3s

  • Average length (216.5 yards), the shortest is 199 with the other three all checking in at 215 yards or longer
  • These were four of the six toughest holes last season in terms of birdie rate (all under 11%), with Hole 2 being the toughest in that category (7.8%)

Par 4s

  • Average length (421.8 yards), while the average length is what you’d expect, there are three holes measuring 400 or fewer yards and three that top 460.
  • Par 4s at the end of each nine take back strokes (Hole 18 was the toughest a season ago and Hole 8 was second — both notching a bogey-or-worse rate north of 25%).

Par 5s

  • Average length (557.5 yards), the shortest is 511 with the other three all checking in at 555 yards or longer
  • The four easiest holes on the course, all carrying a birdie rate over 30% a season ago (Hole 16 had a crazy 5% eagle rate, nearly matching the 6.4% bogey rate).

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Past Winners

  • 2023: Scottie Scheffler -5
  • 2021: Bryson DeChambeau -11
  • 2020: Tyrrell Hatton -4
  • 2019: Francesco Molinari -12
  • 2018: Rory McIlroy -18
  • 2017: Marc Leishman -11
  • 2016: Jason Day -17
  • 2015: Matt Every -19
  • 2014: Matt Every -13
  • 2013: Tiger Woods -13

2022: Scottie Scheffler (-5, one stroke clear of Tyrrell Hatton, Billy Horschel and Viktor Hovland)

  • Highlight: He was just a stroke under par through two days, but a 68 on moving day proved to be plenty (a combined 20 strokes better than the three that tied for second on the final leaderboard in that round).
  • Note: The top-10 finishers all gained with the putter, with four of them picking up at least six strokes on the field.

2021: Bryson DeChambeau (-11, one stroke clear of Lee Westwood)

  • Highlight: He was the only player to go under par in all four days, his best round coming on Thursday with a 67 that put him one off the pace).
  • Note: DeChambeau may have won, but he was one of just three golfers that finished top-9 on the final leaderboard that gained distance off the tee on the field.

2020: Tyrrell Hatton (-4, one stroke clear of Marc Leishman)

  • Highlight: A pair of rounds in the 60s to start the event allowed Hatton to cruise to the finish line (over par in both weekend rounds).
  • Note: Matt Every went full Keegan (65 in Round 1 with an 83 in Round 2). Of note, 11 of the top-12 finishers gained on proximity in that 100-125 yard bucket (nine of them lost in either the 175-200 or 200+ range)

2019: Francesco Molinari (-12, two strokes clear of Matt Fitzpatrick)

  • Highlight: Molinari was two strokes better than anyone in the field on Sunday with a 64 (seven strokes better than Fitzpatrick).
  • Note: Six of the top-7 for the week in SG:OTT cashed top-10 paychecks when all was said and done.

2018: Rory McIlroy (-18, three strokes clear of Bryson DeChambeau)

  • Highlight: Like Molinari, it was a Sunday 64 that got the job done (he was -13 over the weekend after a less impressive -5 start through two rounds).
  • Note: McIlroy road a red-hot putter (+10 strokes on the field), and four of the top-5 putters for the week finished T7 or better on the final leaderboard.

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Notes

This is your yearly reminder to consult the weather report before submitting lineups or making any wagers. A clear wave stack due to wind may emerge and you’ll want to take advantage of that. If the gusts are up, that will dramatically change the type of player you may want to target this week. The wind is up at this course as a default and it may not be too big of a deal.

Then there was 2020. Weekend wind made the course a scoring death trap for the field. Matthew Fitzpatrick (69 in Round 4) was the only player to crack 70 on the weekend. Tyrrell Hatton was the first player since Geoff Ogilvy at the 2006 U.S. Open to fire two rounds over par on a weekend and still win. Last year, Scottie Scheffler charged from the pack Saturday when the leaders started to get dealt treacherous conditions. Obviously, the forecast can change as the week goes on, but early indications show Friday may be an absolute bloodbath.

Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari both staged at least six-stroke Sunday comebacks in 2018 and 2019, so no one is ever dead at Bay Hill. This can provide an excellent live betting opportunity if you have the guts to believe in a massive comeback from someone not necessarily showing the form in the moment.

Water ripples in the eye line of almost every shot and sand is ubiquitous (84 bunkers), not to mention that the rough tends to be longer than the opening in Deer Hunter. That wedding sceen makes The Neverending Story feel like a pulp novella.

Similar to Riviera a few weeks back, Bay Hill actually plays longer than its 7,419 yards. With the prevalent water and series of doglegs, the holes have more distance to carry than they are actually measured on the scorecard. More so when you consider the average drive is over five yards shorter than the average PGA TOUR event (277 yards to 283 yards). While there are only nine officially listed water hazards, the wetness directly affects those nine holes in an impactful way. Fortunately, the greenside bunkers at Bay Hill are some of the easiest on the PGA TOUR annually, so bailing out to the non-water side of the greens is the preferred option on the longer approaches.

Players are forced to lay up off the tee to keep dry or set themselves up for a clean look at the green, the reason driving accuracy at Bay Hill (65%) is over four percentage points above the PGA TOUR average (61%). Do that, or risk paying the price — like on the par 5 sixth hole. You can take the water on to save some distance (RIP Bryson DeChambeau in this event) and try to get on the green in two, or you can end up carding an 18 like John Daly in 1998. Since 1983, No. 6 has produced 23 scores in the double-digits. That’s the most on PGA TOUR by a large margin.

If you’re someone who leans on stats and modeling to make decisions, beware of the international players whose primary tour is not the PGA TOUR. Small samples, strung across myriad years for some, will yield insufficient results — both good or bad. With the wind playing a factor, there has been an inordinate amount of international players who’ve succeeded over the years at Bay Hill. That may be less so in 2023 now that the API is an elevated event featuring all the best players, but the ability to navigate the wind and scramble from all over have proven to be valuable skills which are simply more practiced on DP World Tour courses.

Strokes Gained: Approach has been over two times as influential on the Top-5 finishers as SG: Off The Tee, and three times more impactful than SG: Around The Green. The gap between each of the SG stats shrinks if expanded to the top-20 finishers. Looking at winners only, SG: APP is 2.7 times more impactful than SG: OTT and 4.2 times against SG: ATG. Yes, SG: APP is always the most important stat to look at, however it’s more pronounced this week with so many approaches coming from beyond 200 yards. Historically, around 30% of approaches will come from that distance, one of the largest distributions of approach shots from 200+ yards of any course on the PGA TOUR.

Much of that has to do with the Par 3s, as they average over 215 yards in length. Patrick Rodgers, Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim, Sam Burns and Joesph Bramlett are the top players on holes from this length over the past 36 rounds.

The greens at Bay Hill have annually played extremely quick in comparison to most courses. The players with the most Strokes Gained: Putting per round on fast + LIGHTNING greens per round over their past 36 rounds are: Andrew Putnam, Taylor Montgomery, Beau Hossler, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Max Homa, Sam Burns, Jon Rahm and Harris English.

Isolating those fast and lightning greens to just Bermuda putting surfaces: Thomas Detry, Taylor Montgomery, Ben Taylor, Kevin Kisner, Sam Burns, Tyrrell Hatton and Sam Ryder lead all players.

Marc Leishman and Jason Day have won both at Bay Hill and Torrey Pines in the past seven years. Other Farmers champs Justin Rose, Luke List and Max Homa have multiple Top-10 results at Bay Hill as well. Tiger Woods historically dominates both courses. That’s everywhere but Riviera, though.

Rory McIlroy, Chris Kirk, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im and Tyrrell Hatton have the most Strokes Gained: Total in the past five years at Bay Hill.

Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Kirk, Corey Conners, Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Charley Hoffman and Tommy Fleetwood have posted Top-20 finishes in each of their past two starts at API. In only one appearance from the past three years, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa boast Top-10 finishes.

DraftKings Lineup Notes

FIELD/CUT LINE: Of note, the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational is smaller than the standard PGA TOUR event meaning, at least 53% percent of players will make the cut. This allows for more flexibility when building DraftKings lineups at the bottom end of pricing, especially when the very bottom features players who have almost no chance of seeing the weekend, even in an elevated field. Take that into consideration and that shrinks the field even more. It’s good prep for The Masters, as the field at Augusta National is a more extreme version of this scenario with the field being even smaller.

BIRDIE-STREAKS Streaks: Good luck with that. Holes 17-18-2 were three of the four hardest on the course last season, so you’re not going back to front. Front to back? Maybe a little easier with Hole 10 being the fifth easiest, but Holes 8-9 both played over par and were above average in difficulty. That’s the path of least resistance. It’s just not a path of no resistance.

DraftKings Lineup Construction

2022: This tournament was dominated by every type of build? Of the 14 golfers that reached 70 DK points, seven came from the $7,500-$8,900 range. But you could have gotten away with a stars and scrubs approach. A lineup with two guys over $10,500 and four sub-$7,000 options, also cracked that top-14 in DK scoring

2021: Bryson won as the second most expensive golfer of the week ($11,000). Five of the next six on the DK leaderboard cost you $7,300 or less (shoutout to Richie Werenski at $6,100 for finishing fifth on the DK board).

2020: Three of the top seven in pricing finished in the top seven in scoring, but two of those golfers (Fleetwood and Scott) didn’t play the weekend.

2019: Eighteen players scored north of 75 DK points. Rory McIlroy was the only one of the top eight in DK pricing to do so (although Tommy Fleetwood and Molinari were the top scorers at $9,100 and $9,000 respectively).

2018: Chalk dominated this time around. Six golfers scored over 90 DK points and four of them cost you at least $8,900 (Rory McIlroy and Rose were both in the top three in pricing and final finish of the DK board).

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Will Zalatoris

The concerns over Zalatoris’ health appears to be over after his ball striking performance at The Genesis two weeks back. We’re always looking for courses which won’t require the winner to breach -20, and Bay Hill certainly qualifies. The winner hasn’t been better than -12 in any of the past four years, with two single-digits under par. Although Will Z. has been pretty brutal on the greens in his career, his lag putting has been notably good, and a great fit for the giant greens, and his short game remains quite underrated. The faster the greens and harder the course the better chance Zalatoris has of victory.

Get link to PME RAKE FREE DraftKings Contest

Sam Ryder

It’s somewhat worrisome that his driver has gone south in his past two starts which has been masked by his putter, but it’s difficult to argue with his form. After his near miss and T4 at Torrey Pines, he handled himself quite well in the two elevated events and finished T20 in both. In three appearances lifetime at API, he’s gained on the greens in all there trips while the irons have been decent. It’s a big ask to keep this up, but as long as he keeps putting better than the field, and continues to smash his long irons, he’s a player deeper on the board who can linger.

Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2023 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Podcast of the Year and was a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time.

Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy, and Traditional Season Long Fantasy).

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.