DraftKings: Preview for Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
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Written by Reid Fowler @DraftKings
Daily Fantasy preview for Arnold Palmer Invitational
The next tournament in the Florida swing is the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard (API) at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. The course will play as a par 72, measuring 7,466 yards and will be putt on Bermudagrass greens.
Some of those traveling to Bay Hill include 2018 Champion Rory McIlroy ($11,100), Hideki Matsuyama ($10,300) and world No. 1 Jon Rahm ($11,400), who is making his Arnold Palmer Invitational debut. Defending champion Bryson DeChambeauhas withdrawn from the tournament, still recovering from his hand and hip injuries.
Since 1979, Bay Hill has played host to the event and is a staple during the TOUR’s trot through the Sunshine State. Golfers will have another tough test in front of them this week, with winning scores averaging just above 12-under par since 2016. Over the previous five seasons, 67% of the holes have played over par, so it’ll be virtually impossible to avoid bogeys. Like last week, those who mitigate the mistakes and avoid the big numbers should be the golfers we consider in our lineups. With a 32% increase in approach shots coming in from 200-plus yards, long-iron proximity will also be vital this week. There are five par 4s measuring 450 to 500 yards, four of which play in the top 6 in difficulty scoring relative to par, and three of the par 3s measure 200-plus yards.
Best fantasy golf lineups should consider players coming in with good course history or who play well in Florida. Four of the top five golfers in Strokes Gained: Total here have either won or finished runner-up in one of their previous six starts here, TPC Sawgrass, PGA National or Innisbrook.
The best fantasy golf sleepers can be found when we go against the prevailing narrative, which is to roster golfers who are great Off-the-Tee and can hit it far. While it’s a valid strategy, we’ve seen Lee Westwood ($7,100), Tyrrell Hatton($9,300) and Francesco Molinari — all golfers who aren’t known for their length — play well here. Past leaderboards have proven there are multiple ways to do well at Arnie’s place. While it’s not a new strategy, sleepers should include golfers who are gold around the greens and great at putting on Bermudagrass greens. Kevin Na ($7,400) has done well here while losing strokes Off-the-Tee. Both Ian Poulter ($7,200) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,700) have also done well gaining with their short game. All three don’t hit it far but have finished inside the top 7 at this event.
GOLFERS TO CONSIDER
Rory McIlroy ($11,100)
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee is paramount this week, and McIlroy ranks top 5 over the past two dozen rounds. His experience in Florida is elite, ranking first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green over the previous 24 rounds across Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass, Innisbrook and PGA National. No worse than a top 10 dating back to 2017 and a win in 2018 can be attributed to gaining strokes through ball-striking (Approach + Off-the-Tee) in each of those starts. His irons haven’t been great, but he was able to put together a nice final round at Riviera CC a couple of weeks ago, gaining 1.27 strokes through approach. He’s first in Strokes Gained: Total here since 2017 and is coming in with a top 10 and top 3 in his last two worldwide starts.
Sungjae Im ($9,900)
What is the best strategy to win at daily fantasy golf? Game theory. One of the best ways to zig while your competition zags is to choose golfers who were heavily rostered last week and missed the cut but still set up well for the course. Sungjae’s early departure at PGA National was due to poor putting, losing close to three strokes over two days. Conversely, he was second in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+2.86) over the first two rounds. Sungjae’s Florida finishes include a top 20 at TPC Sawgrass, a top 5 at Innisbrook, two top 3s at Bay Hill and a win at PGA National. While Sungjae might still be heavily rostered, it might not be what it should or would’ve been had he made the weekend at PGA National.
Adam Scott ($9,000)
After a season-opening 38th at the WM Phoenix Open, Scott quickly notched his second top-5 finish of the season and first of the calendar year at The Genesis Invitational. Although he missed the cut here in 2020, Scott has been impressive at Bay Hill with a top 12 in 2016 and a top 3 two years prior. He’s been positive Off-the-Tee in his last five starts here and gained 5.9 strokes with his irons to go along with 7.2 strokes on the greens in California a couple of weeks ago. Scott ranks 35th in putting on Bermudagrass greens and par-5 efficiency over the last 24 rounds.
Jason Kokrak ($8,400)
A top-8 finish last time out at Bay Hill and a win in his previous four starts is the right combination of course history and current form we want to back this week. Kokrak projects well on challenging courses in scoring relative to par, ranking top 25 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green over the previous 50 rounds. A top 10 at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession to go along with a top 15 at Valspar last season proves he can play well on the Florida swing. Ian Poulter ($7,200) also deserves consideration at his price this week. Poulter’s made 11 straight cuts at Bay Hill with a 26th last season, four top 25s, a top 12 and a third-place finish in 2012. Last week was tough sledding for the Englishman, but he finished his last six holes in 3-under par, hopefully giving him some momentum into a course he loves.
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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.