Perry’s 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational Betting Guide & Picks: Molinari, Burns Stand Out at Bay Hill
Jeff Gross/Getty Images. Pictured: Francesco Molinari
In typical fashion, our sweat for last week came in Puerto Rico, where local hero Rafael Campos nearly pulled out the longshot win before Branden Grace’s chip in eagle on 17 put him in the driver’s seat.
The focus now shifts to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In recent years, the field has looked more like a high-level European Tour event rather than a stop on the PGA TOUR. Tiger Woods and Matt Every are the only Americans to win here in the last 15 years, albeit six times between them.
But when we look at the oddsboard, six of the top eight players hail from overseas as the US talent has turned this into an off week ahead of the jam-packed schedule that leads into Augusta next month.
Usually, Bay Hill, which measures just over 7,400 yards for a par 72, is the longest course we will see during The Florida Swing, but The Concession took that title this year by a handful of yards.
With the added length and extra par 5s, this course is more generous to bombers than many of the other courses we see in Florida. That said, water is in play on about half of the holes, so they aren’t just free to blast it anywhere here. If the wind blows, Bay Hill can play pretty tough, but there are a lot of birdies available if you can stay out of trouble.
Scoring is all over the place depending on the weather. Past champions Jason Day and Rory McIlroy finished just short of 20-under par when the weather was calm. Then last year, Tyrrell Hatton won at 4-under par when things got more difficult.
Bookmakers installed Rory McIlroy as the favorite this week at +900. Bay Hill has been a great spot for him in recent years as he’s finished sixth-or-better in each of his last four appearances, including a win in 2018. Rory’s game has been scuffling for at least a year now, but this would be as good of spot as any for Rory to get right again.
Viktor Hovland and Bryson DeChambeau are next in line around +1200. DeChambeau was second to McIlroy in 2018 and fourth a year ago, so he obviously sets up well at this course, but there is a lot of trouble lurking considering how volatile he can be off the tee.
Hovland continues his rise up the ranks. He’s probably riding the best form of anyone heading into the week, finishing sixth-or-better in four straight events.
Defending champ Tyrrell Hatton slots in right behind them at +1600. He was high on my radar last week, but didn’t really show much at The Concession to make me interested in this price.
Sungjae Im, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama and Paul Casey close out this range in the +2000s.
Im has finished third here twice but struggled with the approach game again last week, so I’ll pass there. For me, it’s Matthew Fitzpatrick that piques my interest the most attention at +2500. He’s in a great run of form and is heading to what’s probably been his best course on the PGA TOUR. Fitzpatrick has finished inside the top-15 in three of the last four years, including a 2nd in 2019.
Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen were the two names I honed in on in this range, but I ended up settling on Molinari at +3500 at DraftKings. It’s possible his number dips lower, but there are a couple of reasons why the Italian is definitely worth circling. He’s in good form with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts and he’s had a lot of success at Bay Hill with a win, four top-10 finishes and seven made cuts in seven starts.
I’m also going to back Sam Burns one more time at +5000 on BetMGM. He’s been playing the best golf of his career and played solid golf on Sunday at Riviera after sleeping on a two-shot lead. Burns shot a 69 in Round 4 at The Genesis and most years that would have been good enough to close it out, so I’m not concerned about him letting the win slip away. Burns also has played his best golf on the East Coast and his putting numbers tick up on Bermuda.
I’ll also play Cameron Davis at +8000 at DraftKings. Davis has been on the card quite a bit in the early part of the season, but with a lot of the starts taking the week off I see no reason not to try him again here. His ball-striking has been solid for a couple months now, but his short game continues to run really hot or really cold. At this price, I’ll take a chance he’ll have a good putting week.
This event hasn’t been all that kind to longshots in the past. Matt Every is the only triple-digit winner in the last decade and he was the defending champion when he accomplished that feat.
I do think that Alex Noren is worth a play at +14000 (FanDuel). Noren finished 12th at Riviera thanks to his best ball-striking week since the 2020 Sony Open. With this event basically playing like an honorary Euro Tour stop over the last few years, I’ll take a stab on Noren rolling that form into a good result at Bay Hill.
The API Card
- Francesco Molinari +3300 (1 unit)
- Sam Burns +5000 (.66 units)
- Cameron Davis +8000 (.41 units)
- Alex Noren +140000 (.26 units)
Total stake: 2.32 units