2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks: Our Best Outright Bets at Bay Hill
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Paul Casey
When it comes to betting there are few courses out there that are more fun than Bay Hill. It’s long, features plenty of water, has lightning-fast greens and, if the wind picks up, can play like a beast. That’s the type of chaos we love here at GolfBet.
Which players are best suited to take on Bay Hill? Here are our favorite outright bets for the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational:
Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2500)
This one just makes too much sense. In the past two weeks, since returning to the U.S., the world’s 16th-ranked player has finished T-5 at Riviera and T-11 at Concession. Granted, weekend rounds of 71-72 at the latter left something to be desired, but he’s still trending in the right direction.
Fitzpatrick has also fared very well at Bay Hill, finishing runner-up to Francesco Molinari two years ago and T-9 last year, when he posted the aforementioned lone sub-70 score on the weekend. This was the site of his first PGA TOUR start back in 2014, so there’s an obvious comfort level. Then there’s his penchant for playing some of his best golf in tougher conditions.
Last year, following a solo third-place finish at the Memorial Tournament, where he was again the only player to post a final round in the 60s, he said, “I much prefer it when it’s tough. Guys aren’t necessarily too happy when it’s tough and level par can move you up spots, which is what I like. You’ve got to grind, and I’d rather stick in rather than just being sort of relaxed and going at every pin. I don’t like that type of golf.”
The harder things get at Bay Hill this week, the more we should expect Fitzpatrick to be in the mix.
Francesco Molinari +3100
Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen were the two names I honed in on in this range, but I ended up settling on Molinari at +3100. 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.
Patrick Reed (+2100)
I know all about the narrative: No Americans have won the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 2015. That said, Patrick Reed is decent value to break that trend.
Reed seems to have the perfect game to match up with everything you want around Bay Hill as the right-to-left holes fit his draw, and his elite short game will make up for any misses around these difficult-to-hit greens.
The most encouraging aspect of his game lately has been his consistently solid ball-striking, especially on approach where he gained 5.4 strokes on the WGC field last week. He seems to have filled that gap and is now challenging the top of the leaderboard week in and week out, and we know he can compete in difficult conditions like is often the case at Bay Hill.
I truly love the combination of form and course fit for Reed, and expect him to be in position to get his second win of the year on Sunday.
Paul Casey (+2200)
Paul Casey has been playing some excellent golf in 2021. Since winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in late January he has had finishes of 12th (Saudi International) and 5th (Pebble Beach). The Englishman has also played some of his best golf in the state of Florida having won the Valspar Championship (Copperhead) in both 2018 and 2019.
The forecast is indicating some wind coming this weekend and that should increase the difficulty of Bay Hill. When the winds picked up last year, Tyrrell Hatton won at -4. Paul Casey is a similar European player who is at the top of his game and plays well when the conditions get dicey. Casey gains on average 1.0 strokes on the field in “difficult” conditions.
Additionally, all three of Casey’s PGA TOUR victories have come with winning scores between -8 and -11, which is where I anticipate the winning score will be this week. History has shown that Bay Hill rewards gritty European golfers who can win in tough conditions. Few fit that mold better than Paul Casey.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1200)
I realize I’m not going out on a limb here with this selection, but it does feel like this tournament is teed up perfectly for DeChambeau. His history lines up, as he has a fourth-place and runner-up finish in two of his four trips to Bay Hill. It’s also worth noting that both of those performances came before he transformed his body and playing style.
Off-the-Tee play is extremely correlated to success at the API, and DeChambeau ranks No.1 in this field in SG:OTT over his past 48, 36, 16 and 12 rounds. There will be a lot of chatter this week on what he decides to do on the par 5 sixth hole, where it’s potentially possible to reach the green in one if you carry the water hazard about 330ish yards.
Regardless, getting 12/1 in this spot provides a bit of value when you consider McIlroy hasn’t been winning much these days. We know DeChambeau putts well on these fast Bermuda greens, and if he can just stay out of trouble he has as good a chance as anyone to post his eighth career TOUR victory.
Sungjae Im (+2500)
You get only one chance to waste a first impression, so I’m not going to get cute in my debut, at least not in singling out a value pick to prevail. It’s a treat to be here, gang! If you’re not familiar with me, I’m in my 12th year as the Fantasy Insider at PGATOUR.com. In addition to a handful of shorter-term projects the fantasy world and its offshoots, I put eight years in at Rotoworld through 2015 and I’ve played fantasy golf privately since 1994. Your pleasure is my pleasure, so reach out to me publicly or privately anytime on Twitter at @RobBoltonGolf.
Despite my experience, this is my first opportunity to hop into this space in earnest. I’ve long wondered what it’d be like. So far, I’m digging the view. I arrive with curiosities and considerations that require time to shape.
The API extends a solid bone on which to cut my teeth because of the depth of the field and other variables that project success. If a golfer I endorse is featured in my Power Rankings at PGATOUR.com, it’s going to be a coincidence because one of my goals here will be to focus only on value that matters to you.
With that in mind, as a 25-to-1 shot, Im is positioned right at where I thought I’d be centering my interest. He’s finished third in both previous appearances (in very different weather conditions), has a victory on challenging PGA National (also in Florida, obviously) and he’s adjusted his schedule in recent weeks to arrive sharp (not that he tires, also obviously). Bay Hill also demands a full skill set, which he possesses.