Golf Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cameron Champ
The PGA Tour’s Florida Swing continues this weekend with the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Rory McIlroy is +700 to defend his title, making him the favorite. Justin Rose (+1000), Brooks Koepka (+1200), Rickie Fowler (+1200), Jason Day (+1400) and Bryson DeChambeau (+1600) round out the top tier.
Tiger Woods was originally priced at +1000 but was forced to withdraw due to a neck injury.
Here are our staff’s favorite picks for the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Charles Howell III Top-20 Finish (+170)
If you’ve been tailing this section lately, well, I apologize for the ulcers.
Two weeks ago, my favorite bet was Tiger Woods to top-10 in Mexico – and he finished T-10. Last week, my fave was a three-favorite fade of Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler against the field – and the last two missed a playoff by a stroke.
Here’s hoping this week is a little easier to stomach.
I’ve always believed that top-10/20 bets shouldn’t necessarily be congruous to a player’s chances to win. Howell is a great example. He’s only finished in first place three times in a lengthy PGA Tour career, but he’s become a top-20 machine, especially recently.
And yet, books will still list him and others based accordingly on their winner’s odds.
Howell has finished top-20 in six of his last seven PGA Tour starts, which suggests there’s a lot of value in getting him at 1.7-1 this week. And despite going five years without a top-20 at the API, he was T-14 last year and has shown he can post some solid scores at Bay Hill.
Francesco Molinari Top-20 Finish (+120)
Molinari has shown the ability to play well here in the past, finishing inside the top 20 in four of his last five starts. The one time he missed, he was still 26th, so Bay Hill suits his eye.
He’s also coming off a solid tournament with the approach game in Mexico where he finished 17th in that elite field. So the current form should be fine as well.
These type of top 20s have been the bread and butter for me in this spot. It didn’t hit with Webb Simpson last week, but finding a guy just outside the elite part of the field on a track he’s comfortable usually works out. Especially at plus money.
I feel comfortable with these plays cashing more than half the time.
Cameron Champ over Kevin Kisner (+105)
After backtesting every metric in the FantasyLabs Trends tool, Champ is the superior course fit for Bay Hill compared to Kisner. The top four metrics that backtested favorably for golfers involve greens in regulation (GIR), par-5 scoring, driving distance, and eagle-scoring. And, Champ has better metrics in all of them:
- GIR: 71.9% vs. 64.7%
- Driving Distance: 329.8 vs. 291.1
- Adjusted strokes on par 5s: -5.6 vs. -3.9
- Eagles per tournament: 0.6 vs. 0.4
- Birdies per tournament: 14.5 vs. 12.0
Additionally, over the past 12 months, Champ has finished in the top 10 and top 25 in 23% and 39% of his rounds, compared to 14% and 23% for Kisner, per Data Golf. Over that same timeframe, Champ is averaging 4.80 birdies per round, which is nearly 1.5 more birdies per round than Kisner’s 3.35.
Champ appears to have far more upside than Kisner. I would bet this down to +100.
Jason Day (+115) over Rickie Fowler
Of these two players, I prefer Day because of his numbers in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
Over the past 75 weeks, Day and Fowler both have a 68.1 adjusted round score. For the past six weeks, Day has the better mark (67.1 vs. 67.9).
In Justin Bailey’s daily fantasy breakdown, the importance of greens in regulation (GIR), driving distance and birdie scoring is noted. Fowler has the superior long-term GIR (69.7% vs. 65.9%), but Day has the edge in the other categories.
- Driving distance: 309.0 vs. 300.5
- Birdies: 16.7 vs. 16.1
Fowler has the better par-4 scoring (-2.1 vs. -1.9), but Day bests him in par-5 scoring (-5.3 vs. -4.8), which will probably be more important this week, given that Bay Hill is relatively long at 7,419 yards and has more par 5s than most tracks.
Day has six top-20 and three top-five finishes in his past six tournaments (since the PGA Tour Championship). Over that same time, Fowler has played in seven events with three top-five finishes but also two outside the top 35.
Given Day’s steadiness and superiority in some key metrics, I’d bet him down to +105.
Hideki Matsuyama (-130) over Francesco Molinari
Bay Hill is one of the toughest courses on tour, and it’ll test several areas of golfers’ games. It’s super long but also requires precision into greens.
Based on past data, the three metrics that best predicted overperformance relative to expectations were 1) Long-Term Greens in Regulation, 2) Recent Par-5 Scoring and 3) Long-Term Driving Distance. The ability to make eagles was also important, and I continue to believe that metric is one of the best proxies for “upside.”
Given all of that, I want the best tee-to-green players in the world with huge birdie- and eagle-making upside.
That describes Hideki, who is third this season in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Molinari, meanwhile, is 158th in that department and likely just doesn’t have the distance to really compete here. Matsuyama is just massively underpriced in the market right now; I like this prop even up to -160, and I’ll be taking some shots at his to-win and top-10/20 odds, too.
Sung-Jae Im (-115) over Keith Mitchell
We have been bullish on Sung-Jae Im since he was the money leader from start to finish on the Web.com tour last season. Now we have perfect spot to back him vs last week’s winner in Keith Mitchell.
I am bearish on Mitchell coming off the win in his hometown. I am speculating a bit but I am guessing he participated in quite a few extracurricular activities after the win.
In addition, the added media attention and work always weigh on first time winners. I believe Sung-Jae is a superior player and I am happy to short Mitchell this week.
Charles Howell III -1.5 (+105) over Bubba Watson
There are few golfers in the world having a more consistent season that the man Chucky 3 Sticks.
In 2019, Howell has one win and seven top 20’s in only 10 starts. In fact, he has finished in the top 20 in six of his last seven starts. Combine those stats with the fact that Bay Hill hasn’t been particularly nice to Bubba Watson, who hasn’t finished better than 34th at this venue in the last five years, and you got yourselves a hell of a money making situation.
Load up on Chucky and thank me later.