Arnold Palmer Invitational: Course Notes, Daily Fantasy Golf Picks, Win Simulations, and Best Bets

We're just one week away from THE PLAYERS, and we've got another tough Florida track on tap beforehand.

The PGA Tour heads to Bay Hill Club & Lodge for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at a course where only two golfers finished 10-under or better a year ago.

Four of the world's top-10 golfers are in action this week after Bryson DeChambeau (the defending champion) withdrew.

What all should we know about the setup and the field this week? Let's break it all down.

You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.

Course Information and Key Stats
Golfers With Great Course History
Win Simulations
Best Bets
Daily Fantasy Picks

Bay Hill Club & Lodge Course Info & Key Stats

Par: 72
Distance: 7,466 (long:~ 90 yards longer than the average par 72)
Average Green Size: 7,500 square feet (large: ~125% of the PGA average)
Green Type: Bermuda
Stimpmeter: 12 (average-to-fast for PGA Tour)
Past 5 Winning Scores: -11, -4, -12, -18, -11
Past 5 Cut Lines: +2, +3, +1, +1, +3
Key Stats: Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Around the Green, Bogey Avoidance, Course History

Bay Hill rates out as a long par 72, and as follows, driving distance shows up as more important than at the average PGA Tour course. So is accuracy, though. Therefore, an overall emphasis on strokes gained: off the tee is justified.

If you take a more granular look, a lot of the added length comes from long par 3s, three of which are 215 yards or longer (the PGA average being 197 yards). There are some short-to-average par 5s, though, so distance still checks out as a helpful characteristic (though not a pure must if shorter hitters can still pick up strokes off the tee).

Back to those long par 3s, they have to play part in showing Bay Hill as a tough place to gain strokes from approach.

The short-game overall is about average (if not easy), so we can justify bumping up ball-strikers.

Last year, only 3 of 17 golfers to tie for the top 10 (there was tight scoring dispersion at a tough track), lost strokes from approach. Further, 6 of 17 lost off the tee.

Golfers With Great Course/Event History

Past winners in the field include Tyrrell Hatton (2020), Rory McIlroy (2018), Marc Leishman (2017), Jason Day (2016), and Martin Laird (2011). That's quite the list.

The following golfers have at least 8 rounds at PGA National with an adjusted strokes gained average of at least 1.5, via DataGolf: Rory McIlroy (+2.69), Sungjae Im (+2.52), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+2.10), Sergio Garcia (+1.98), Keith Mitchell (+1.93), Matt Wallace (+1.93), Henrik Stenson (+1.87), Tyrrell Hatton (+1.85), Max Homa (+1.73), Tommy Fleetwood (+1.69), Troy Merritt (+1.60), Luke List (+1.59), Marc Leishman (+1.55), and Justin Rose (+1.50).

Win Simulations

Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their FanDuel Sportsbook win odds.

Golfer FanDuelSalary Win% Top-10% MadeCut% FanDuelSportsbookWinOdds

Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets

This field is loaded, yes, and Jon Rahm (+800) is still a big favorite. He's as likely to win in my simulations as his sportsbook odds suggest he is. Given that, Rahm isn't a bad bet, but I'll be looking elsewhere due to the 8/1 opportunity not fitting my usual aesthetic.

The other options at the top do seem to be a little overvalued. That list includes Rory McIlroy (+1000), Viktor Hovland (+1400), Scottie Scheffler (+1600), and Hideki Matsuyama (+2000).

The model isn't actually displaying value until we reach Sam Burns (+4100) and Paul Casey (+4100) with Russell Henley (+5000) and Seamus Power (+6500) also popping up as viable outrights.

As always, Aaron Wise (+10000) and Taylor Moore (+12000) seem like fine dart throws based on long-term form.

I'll circle back with any shifting outrights and top-10s that catch my eye.

Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the Arnold Palmer Invitational

All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.

Best of the Best

Rory McIlroy (FanDuel Salary: $11,900 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +1000) - Is McIlroy a better play than Jon Rahm ($12,100)? Not outright, no. However, Rahm has never played Bay Hill before, and it's a track that rewards course history more than most. Given that, I'll be okay going to McIlroy just as often as Rahm. Rory is seven-for-seven with made cuts at Bay Hill with a win and five consecutive top-10 finishes. Rory is in form right now with three top-12 finishes in 2022. It's putting-fueled to a degree, but the ball-striking is there as well.

Sungjae Im ($11,300 | +2900) - It's possible that Sungjae -- like Rahm -- gets a a bit forgotten. He popped a few weeks ago, didn't win, is now in a good field again, and is listed at an elevated salary. That works from a game theory standpoint, though. Im ranks in the 91st percentile in ball-striking and also the 87th percentile in short game. He's one of five with a salary of at least $10,000 to sit in the 85th percentile in each of those. Im's results at Bay Hill read T3, solo-3rd, T21.

Others to Consider:
Jon Rahm ($12,100 | +800) - Still the best play of the week; just no form to speak of at Bay Hill.
Scottie Scheffler ($11,700 | +1600) - Ball-striking guru; 15th here in his only try.
Sam Burns ($10,700 | +4100) - A bet to get right on a lengthy bermuda track after three missed cuts; has made 3 of 4 at Bay Hill.
Keith Mitchell ($10,200 | +4100) - 9th last week, good at Bay Hill, in form.

Mid-Range Picks

Corey Conners ($9,600 | +5500) - If we care less about putting this week so that we can emphasize ball-striking, then Conners is a poster boy candidate. He ranks in the 92nd percentile in adjusted ball-striking over the past year and can still remain relevant by finding fairways while not hitting it totally short. Conners finished third here last year.

Luke List ($9,200 | +6500) - The same case that we just made for Conners can be made for List. List rates in the 90th percentile in adjusted ball-striking and is also in the 80th percentile in around-the-green play. He just doesn't typically putt well. He's figured things out at Bay Hill, though, and has finished 17th, 7th, 10th, and 63rd in four tries.

Others to Consider:
Russell Henley ($10,000 | +5000) - Making cuts in 2022 (2nd, 14th, 33rd, 33rd); iffy form at Bay Hill but better form now than then.
Sergio Garcia ($9,900 | +5000) - Hasn't played here since a W/D in 2013 but in solid form now.
Seamus Power ($9,500 | +6500) - A balanced player in all facets but a course debutant or else he'd be a core play.

Low-Salaried Picks

Thomas Pieters ($9,000 | +6500) - Pieters nukes it off the tee and has the best long-term form by a comfortable margin among all options at or below a $9,000 salary. He is trending back up over the long haul, despite his missed cut at the Genesis. He has a 2022 win in Abu Dhabi, a T12 in Dubai, and a T24 in Saudi Arabia. Pieters has finished 76th and cut at Bay Hill -- but those were all the way back in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Tom Hoge ($8,700 | +8000) - The Hoge train has been stop-and-start in 2022: cut, 2nd, cut, win, T14, cut. He's been more good than bad at Bay Hill (T26, T15, and then cut last year with poor putting). Statistically, he is the fourth-best ball-striker in this salary range. Hoge also has had good success on long par 3s lately, which might be flukey -- but it's worth noting for this week. We can get back on board.

Others to Consider:
Kevin Na ($8,900 | +9000) - Cut-maker in 3 of the past 4 years here despite a lack of distance; best short-game in the field right now.
Lanto Griffin ($8,800 | +6500) - Generally a balanced player but also 95th-percentile in bogey avoidance; two straight made cuts here.
Pat Perez ($7,600 | +21000) - Tons of course history, though win juice is scarce here, which applies to all value golfers in a field like this.