Apologies for the delay of about 12 hours or so in getting this edition of the FI for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard to you. It’s just one of those weeks. It happens a couple of times every year, but we saw this one coming, so I alerted readers of the Power Rankings of it. Thank you for your patience.
And it’s been a week already. So much has gone down since Collin Morikawa’s final putt did the same at The Concession on Sunday, and a part of it includes yours truly.
But first, the conclusion of last week’s doubleheader determined all but one automatic qualifier for THE PLAYERS Championship next week. If you haven’t already reviewed the exempt field, Qualifiers is updated. The final exemption is reserved for the winner at Bay Hill.
On Tuesday in a delayed Rookie Watch, I wrote an extended recap of the doubleheader and the table was expanded to include a few more targets on our radar. It all has value in varying degrees for fantasy purposes and don’t sleep on Brandon Wu qualifying for The Honda Classic via his top 10 in Puerto Rico.
Late on Tuesday, GolfBet’s version of expert picks for the API published. Note that I’m now advising on actual betting lines. This will apply to DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM. You may already have noticed that my byline in Sleepers and the FI recently has changed to include GolfBet, but I’ll be contributing to its homegrown content regularly. Other than my byline here, nothing changes at PGATOUR.COM.
With so much swirling, it doesn’t suck that the API concludes Segment 2 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. The objective is simple: If you have starts on your faves, use ‘em or lose ‘em. All golfers are reset to three starts when we launch into Segment 3 at next week’s PLAYERS.
As I mentioned in my comment in Expert Picks (linked below), the API is the first of 20 consecutive tournaments with a cut contributing to PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. Because you’re not burdened by the stress of rationing starts, use it as an exercise in targeting cuts made. While I’m always confident about my selections, naturally, it’s why I’ve rostered Billy Horschel specifically. He’s perfect in eight appearances. His recent form is a timely bonus.
Lastly, this is my first promotional message for the annual Bracket Challenge for the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, but it won’t be my last. The five-day competition is scheduled to be contested on March 24-28. It was among the tournaments canceled by the pandemic last year.
Two primary considerations for it right now are as follows:
• It is a stand-alone game with its own prizing, so it does not contribute to your performance in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. It’s optional to play.
• Your registration for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf automatically carries over, so you will not need to register separately to participate.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard (in alphabetical order):
Bryson DeChambeau (+1200)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2200)
Tyrrell Hatton (+1800)
Billy Horschel (+3500)
Sungjae Im (+2200)
Rory McIlroy (+850)
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Sam Burns; Matthew Fitzpatrick; Tommy Fleetwood; Viktor Hovland; Kevin Kisner; Jason Kokrak; Patrick Reed; Justin Rose; Brendon Todd; Cameron Tringale
Driving: Keegan Bradley; Sam Burns; Paul Casey; Tommy Fleetwood; Emiliano Grillo; Viktor Hovland; Jason Kokrak; Matthew NeSmith; Henrik Norlander
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Hideki Matsuyama (+2800) … There are any number of ways to come at the 29-year-old from Japan. I choose to put my faith in his ability to play difficult courses very, very well. Just this season, he has a T17 at Winged Foot, a T2(!) at Memorial Park, a T13 at Augusta National and a T15 at The Concession. No, it’s not stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of stuff, but it’ll do. He’s also perfect in six trips to Bay Hill with a scoring average of 71.63. Sits 23rd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and T19 in par-5 scoring.
Odds sourced on Wednesday, March 3 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Rickie Fowler (+6600) … As detailed in the GolfBet matchup with Harris English, Fowler angles in nicely. On top of his unquantifiable personal relationship with Arnold Palmer, Fowler has a T3 among four top 20s among eight paydays in nine appearances at Bay Hill. He’s deserving of consideration in DFS and perhaps a spot on your opening bench in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf.
Tommy Fleetwood (+4000) … In Tommy we trust, right? Gotta go back a year to find his last top 15 on the PGA TOUR. It was a solo third at The Honda Classic. It’s also his only top-15 finish on TOUR in the last 18 months. Despite that specific drought, he’s not in a slump, so the belief now is that he’ll heat up as he always has. More than enough experience at Bay Hill with a pair of top 10s in four tries, so he’s poised to remind us why we love him so. Simply an ideal under-the-radar play (based on recent form) in all formats.
Brendon Todd (+8000) … As the TOUR’s rabbit in fairway hit and fifth in Strokes Gained: Putting, it’s a slight that he was omitted from the Power Rankings. Perhaps most impressive is that he’s 223rd in distance of all drives but 10th in par-5 scoring. T18 here last year on the shoulders of an opening 68.
Justin Rose (+7000) … Even without the recent co-runner-up in Saudi Arabia, he deserves our confidence at least once more, but the sun is setting. If you’re old enough to remember his dreadful start as a pro after what was an inspiring T4 at Royal Birkdale in 1998, you’ll take a moment to come to grips with the terms that he’s now 40 years of age. No, it’s not news but sometimes the perspective of time is necessary to appreciate the success. We know that he’s done it all, but he’s come only this close to victory at Bay Hill with a runner-up (2013) and a pair of thirds among five top 10s in 15 appearances. Tough to say if he’s ever cornerstone material because of his limited schedule – I don’t recall writing more that he has been – but he’s a solid complement nowadays.
Andrew Putnam (+15000) … Came through on his expectation in Puerto Rico (see Recap below), so it’s just a matter of letting it ride. Top 10s in two of his last four starts.
Zach Johnson (+10000) … Every time Bay Hill rolls around, I think of the cursory review I shared years ago about him in Florida. It’s not inspiring but it singles out the API as the most consistent site to give him a spin. He’s 16-for-17. Given how his fantasy value has decreased, you can figure out how to make room in DFS without much assistance.
Alex Noren (+9000) … Started with him as my Longshot in the GolfBet preview linked at the top but pivoted to his countryman, Henrik Norlander, because the data was more supportive. But honestly, Noren passes my eye test on tough tracks. It takes a certain amount of moxie to slide from conditional status to fully exempt status as an international dual-tour member in a truncated season, as he did in 2019-20. Quad-top 20s this season to sit 90th in the FedExCup.
Byeong Hun An
Max Homa (+4500) … Shame on me but someone needs to point out that this is his seventh consecutive start. It’d be disingenuous to cite that he’s been “on the road” for as long because he won at home at Riviera, but the rigors of the schedule have to catch up with him, even as a spry 30-year-old. That’s my only concern as he honors this commitment. It’d have understandable if he took a breather in between the late spot start at The Concession, where he delivered a T22, and next week’s PLAYERS.
Jordan Spieth (+2800) … How quickly he’s gone from automatic fade to, “Rob, really?” Indeed, but that’s a relative compliment, is it not? His game off the tee will struggle to get him past the cut, much less in a position to contend. In his recent T4-T3-T15 burst, he ranked a respective 66th, T57 and T38 in fairways hit. His greens-in-regulation splits were much better, but Bay Hill the longest course of the run and he’s a first-timer. In fact, he usually sits out the Florida Swing save THE PLAYERS annually. He’s a former champ at the Valspar Championship (2015) but in his only appearance at Copperhead in the last three editions, he missed the cut in 2018.
Harris English (+4500) … It’s impossible to ignore the freefall after he captured victory at Kapalua to open 2021. T9 at Bay Hill last year but still chasing the golden carrot at that point.
Shane Lowry (+12500) … Still 40th in the Official World Golf Ranking despite only one top 10 worldwide in almost 14 months. That reflects the bump and the gradual slide after his breakthrough at The Open Championship in 2019. Also 0-for-3 at Bay Hill.
Danny Willett (+12500) … The 33-year-old has been a moving target on worldwide stages but still more reliable while not committing to PGA TOUR events. Laces up for his first event in the U.S. since November with five straight cuts made abroad, but he lines up as nothing but a contrarian in DFS, and fractionally at that. Instead, use this week as an exercise in observation because even seasoned gamers might need an encore to invest.
Si Woo Kim
Erik van Rooyen
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Brian Harman … After nine consecutive appearances since his rookie season of 2012, this is the first time that he’s taking a pass. So, he’ll roll into TPC Sawgrass having survived six consecutive cuts and 17 of his last 18.
Nate Lashley … Playing pretty well in 2021 so there’s no sense getting beat up at Bay Hill (where he’s 0-for-2) before his official debut at THE PLAYERS. He qualified for the first time last year.
Davis Love III … Finished T33 at the Cologuard Classic, so he’s healthy enough to compete, but he hasn’t made a cut on the PGA TOUR since a 66th-place finish at the 2020 API. Three times a groomsman at Bay Hill and 27 appearances since his rookie season of 1986.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession
1 Dustin Johnson T54
2 Xander Schauffele T39
3 Tony Finau 14th
4 Jon Rahm T32
5 Viktor Hovland T2
6 Tyrrell Hatton T22
7 Daniel Berger T35
8 Rory McIlroy T6
9 Bryson DeChambeau T22
10 Patrick Cantlay DNP
11 Webb Simpson T6
12 Justin Thomas T15
13 Matthew Fitzpatrick T11
14 Patrick Reed T9
15 Brooks Koepka T2
16 Cameron Smith T11
17 Kevin Kisner T41
18 Louis Oosthuizen T6
19 Max Homa T22
20 Will Zalatoris T22
Wild Card Collin Morikawa Win
SLEEPERS RECAP – World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession
Laurie Canter T64
Thomas Detry T28
Rasmus Højgaard 67th
Chan Kim T35
Danie van Tonder 71st
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Puerto Rico Open
1 Emiliano Grillo T11
2 Ian Poulter T35
3 Andrew Putnam T5
4 Matt Wallace MC
5 Greyson Sigg MC
6 Brandon Wu T7
7 Thomas Pieters T15
8 Ollie Schniederjans MC
9 Patrick Rodgers T30
10 Jhonattan Vegas 2nd
OTHERS TO CONSIDER RECAP – Puerto Rico Open
Scott Brown T53
Rafael Campos T3
Tim Wilkinson T27
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
March 2 … none
March 3 … Patton Kizzire (35)
March 4 … Seamus Power (34); Denny McCarthy (28)
March 5 … none
March 6 … Ben Crane (45)
March 7 … none
March 8 … none
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