The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard marks the conclusion of Segment 2 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. As usual, the field at Bay Hill is rich with talent, so you shouldn't have any problem in determining a lineup even if you're out of starts on Rory McIlroy and other popular investments who are busy. In fact, you're likely to have more than six on your short list from which to choose.
As I stated in my comment in Expert Picks, deep fields favor chasers. Because ownership dispersion will reflect the value, gamers hoping to close margins and even erase deficits stand a better chance with the unlikelihood to be stymied with chalk. Of course, you have to get lucky, but league leaders also hope not to get unlucky. With the wind blowing and the fastest greens on the PGA TOUR poised to punish loss of focus and imprecision as much as they will reward skill and execution, it's a great week to make some noise.
Over the years, I've been questioned when my winner (as stated in Expert Picks) isn't in my fantasy lineup. This week, for example, I have not rostered McIlroy. In most cases, this can be explained one of two ways.
1) I'm out of starts. See: McIlroy, Rory.
2) I'm chasing and have chosen not to accept the push.
The only other instance in which I could foresee not burning a start on my projected winner is if I've already mapped out all three of his starts for the Segment. Let's face it, McIlroy very well could sit atop my Power Rankings in at least four tournaments in one Segment.
Years ago when this column was geared to Yahoo!'s old game for which you were allowed 10 starts per golfer for the season, I wrote a special piece on where to slot Tiger Woods 10 times because gamers had to narrow it down given how frequently they'd want to invest. We could engage in a similar conversation on a per-Segment basis with McIlroy today.
This perspective speaks to how my analysis and advice is dependent for every gamer who reaches out. Because all fantasy is relative, every answer could begin with, "It depends." That's why the filter of these three questions is important:
1) What format do you play?
2) Who are the others on your roster, if applicable?
3) Are you pacing or chasing?
Based on answers to those questions, it's possible that I'll endorse the same golfer for one gamer and not for another, just as I do for my own lineup.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard (in alphabetical order):
Byeong Hun An
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Wyndham Clark; Bryson DeChambeau; Brian Harman; J.B. Holmes; Sungjae Im; Rory McIlroy; Maverick McNealy; Alex Noren; Patrick Reed; Xander Schauffele
Driving: Bryson DeChambeau; Harris English; Tommy Fleetwood; Billy Horschel; Sungjae Im; Rory McIlroy; Ryan Moore; Collin Morikawa; Doc Redman; Xander Schauffele; Brendan Steele
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Lee Westwood … Once a staple at Bay Hill, he hasn't teed it up here since he was a PGA TOUR member in 2014, yet this marks his 13th appearance. The course has changed considerably and he traded moderate success with forgettable experiences, just as he has almost everywhere else, but the 46-year-old arrives with enough form to generate buzz in our world again. A renown ball-striker throughout his career, he finished second in Strokes Gained: Putting and third in scrambling en route to a T4 at last week's Honda. In another reminder for long-term investors who are hopping aboard now, although he's a two-time PGA TOUR winner, he's not a member, so he is ineligible for the FedExCup Playoffs.
Matthew Fitzpatrick … He hasn't missed a cut in the U.S. in 13 months and only once elsewhere in the interim, so he's everyone's insurance at Bay Hill where he was the runner-up last year. At the same time, he's gone four consecutive starts worldwide with no better than a T30 at Riviera. It's his longest drought without a top 25 in nine months.
Kevin Kisner … He can make us look foolish in a weekly game, but he pops onto leaderboards too frequently to care about our feelings. His record at Bay Hill includes a co-runner-up in 2017 and a T23 in 2019. He sat a respective T1 and T3 after 54 holes in those editions, so he's still after some payback. He gives himself chances to score with precision off the tee, and then leans on his go-to power as a confident putter.
Max Homa … He won the Wells Fargo Championship 10 months ago, but he's never been on the kind of roll that he carries into his debut at Bay Hill. Since a T9 at Torrey Pines, he's added a T6 at TPC Scottsdale, a T14 at Pebble Beach and a T5 at Riviera. Multiple-course sites and different grasses haven't disrupted him. Putting remains his strength, but you can't dispute that his most valuable weapon right now isn't confidence.
Brendan Steele … Amid persistent struggles last season, he still figured out how to finish T17 at Bay Hill with four rounds of par or better. At PGA National last week, he led the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, finished T2 in greens hit and co-led in par-3 scoring, which is no small feat with a pair of par 3s on The Bear Trap. Because of his inconsistency week after week, stick with him fractionally.
Billy Horschel … After consecutive T9s, he settled for a T42 at PGA National. It bounced him from consideration for the Power Rankings, but he can't be ignored at Bay Hill where he's 7-for-7 with a pair of top 20s.
Tyrrell Hatton … Given how rapidly he recovered from surgery on his right wrist to finish T6 at Chapultepec, no matter his previous success on that course, it was a welcome bonus in his 2020 debut. So, keeping it simple, we must expect another dynamite showing at Bay Hill where he's 3-for-3 with a T4 in his debut in 2017.
Brendon Todd … A two-time winner this season can't slot as a Sleeper, but with an 0-for-3 record at Bay Hill (2012, 2014, 2016), gamers won't be rushing to the window, so he's a contrarian in DFS. He's connected nine paydays since the Houston Open and he'll keep his ball in play this week. His short game and putting will pay it off.
Collin Morikawa … This is a cool endorsement. As illogical as it sounds given his youth and inexperience, he's as safe as it gets to make the cut on ball-striking alone – he's 19-for-19 as a professional! – but this is the time of the season when the courses toughen. We haven't seen him perform enough on challenging tracks to rely on him entirely. If you feel that this is a harsh criticism, it's actually a reflection of how high his ceiling extends. Many fantasy leagues will be won with him out front sooner than later.
Keegan Bradley … Throughout his career, he's owned the kind of profile that's rewarded at Bay Hill. As a long and relatively straight driver, he's always in the conversation. To wit, since 2013 he's 7-for-7 with a pair of podium finishes that sparked the streak. Coming off missed cuts at Riviera and PGA National, cautious gamers who misunderstand his fit here will miss out.
Adam Long … Although he's missed four of his last six cuts, he's proven to match up well with tough tests. It's due in part to his precision tee to green and general course management. Placed T10 in his debut at Bay Hill last year on the strength of steady ball-striking and short game. If you'll excuse the invisible reach, from an analytical standpoint, there's a feel that he lets the courses come to him. He rarely seems to get in his own way.
Charles Howell III
Francesco Molinari … He presents the classic example that something will give. The defending champion is perfect in seven consecutive appearances, four of which going for a top 10, and his scoring average is 70.18 at Bay Hill. However, his only payday in four starts in 2020 resulted in a T53 at the no-cut WGC-Mexico Championship. He'll be overvalued in DFS and the field is too strong to even consider stowing on the bench in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf.
Justin Rose … After missing the cut as the Wild Card last week, he gets the full treatment here for the API. Struggling mightily tee to green, Bay Hill will expose it further. Even though his tournament success is considerably strong – three podium finishes among seven top 15s – he's also finished outside the top 55 five times. Unownable in DFS.
Brooks Koepka … You're already familiar with the absence of form upon arrival, but he's also just 1-for-4 at Bay Hill with a T26 six years ago.
Rickie Fowler … The good news is that he's planning on playing six of seven weeks beginning with last week's missed cut at PGA National. The bad news is that he's working on not-so-significant swing changes that could take time to take hold and under pressure especially. Bay Hill has been good to him, and that level of comfort could yield a dividend this week, but he's only for the bold in every format.
Phil Mickelson … His inconsistency continues to scare us. He'll emerge as a short-term play on occasion, but his value has regressed to that of a complement in full-season formats.
Charl Schwartzel … It was a rarity to connect with him in a weekly format at PGA National, but he's played well there throughout his career. It's with that in mind that it's time to lay off. In three cuts made in four trips to Bay Hill, his best result was a T45 in 2017.
Danny Willett … Hasn't found the touch in four starts worldwide in 2020 and his only notable result in three tries at Bay Hill was a T29 back in 2015.
Lucas Glover … Last week's missed cut at PGA National was his eighth straight finish outside the top 35, so he's a trap for course-history buffs who can't look away from his five top 20s at Bay Hill, including last year's T10 when he was in terrific form.
Matthew Wolff … Similar message as last week's advice in this section before he finished T58 at PGA National. He's still finding his legs at this level, so sit him out again. There's more than enough value to go around at Bay Hill, anyway.
Matt Wallace … He placed T6 in his tournament debut last year, but his form has been suspect for months. The added layer this season is that he's a first-time PGA TOUR member, so without something special and relatively soon, pressure could be compounded as he juggles his commitments in the U.S. and abroad.
Si Woo Kim
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – THE HONDA CLASSIC
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Billy Horschel T42
2 Tommy Fleetwood 3rd
3 Gary Woodland T8
4 Harris English T17
5 Rickie Fowler MC
6 Viktor Hovland MC
7 Brooks Koepka MC
8 Charl Schwartzel T17
9 Erik van Rooyen MC
10 Emiliano Grillo MC
11 Daniel Berger T4
12 Matthew Nesmith T38
13 Wyndham Clark T11
14 K.H. Lee T38
15 Talor Gooch T38
Wild Card Justin Rose MC
SLEEPERS RECAP – THE HONDA CLASSIC
Sam Burns T64
Harry Higgs T58
Russell Knox MC
Jhonattan Vegas T27
Tim Wilkinson MC
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
March 3 … Patton Kizzire (34)
March 4 … Seamus Power (33); Denny McCarthy (27)
March 5 … none
March 6 … Ben Crane (44)
March 7 … none
March 8 … none
March 9 … Vaughn Taylor (44)