The best field in professional golf since last summer’s Open Championship has assembled in Orlando for this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, which begins Thursday at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Fifty years after “The King’s” final PGA Tour victory, 43 of the top 50 players in the world are in this week’s field for the fourth designated event of the season. There is a record $20 million purse at stake, and our golf experts break down the event along with their favorite prop picks and best bets to win this week.
ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL Location: Orlando, Fla., March 2-5 Course: Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge (Par 72, 7,466 yards) Purse: $20M (Winner: $3.6M) Defending Champion: Scottie Scheffler FedEx Cup leader: Jon Rahm
HOW TO FOLLOW TV: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (GC), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC) Streaming on ESPN+: Thursday-Friday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 7:15 a.m.-6 p.m. Twitter: @APinv
PROP PICKS –Tyrrell Hatton to Finish Top 10 (+300 at DraftKings): In a star-studded field, it’s easy to overlook Hatton, who is coming off a T40 at Riviera. However, he won the event in 2020 and tied for second last year. Bay Hill is one of the tour’s toughest non-major tracks and Hatton knows it well. He did post a T6 in Phoenix last month and opened the year with at T7 in Abu Dhabi.
–Jon Rahm to Shoot 69 or Lower Round 1 (-130 at BetMGM): There were 20 opening rounds of 69 or better at Bay Hill last year. Rahm wasn’t one of them, and he failed to break 70 over the course of four rounds. He did manage a T17 and picked up a ton of course knowledge along the way. With the forecast calling for high 80s and moderate wind, look for the red-hot Rahm to come out of the gates firing at pins.
–Sam Burns to beat Will Zalatoris (+125 at DraftKings): Count Burns among those who is likely thrilled to be moving on from the West Coast swing and back to Bermuda greens. He’s coming off his second consecutive missed cut at Riviera. After arriving in Orlando following three consecutive missed cuts last year, the Louisiana native finished T9 at Bay Hill before winning two of his next six starts. Zalatoris is a popular pre-tournament pick, providing enticing odds in this tournament matchup.
2023 Prop Picks Record: 9-12-1
BEST BETS –Jon Rahm (+650 at BetMGM) is coming off a victory at Riviera and has won five of his past nine worldwide starts. While he leads the field with 11 percent of the total bets and has been backed by 10 percent of the handle at DraftKings with the same odds, Rahm has drawn just 3.9 percent of the handle at BetMGM. –Scottie Scheffler (+900) is the defending champion and has finished no worse than T12 in his past seven starts, including a win in Phoenix. He is third at BetMGM with 5.4 percent of the total tickets backing Scheffler to win. –Rory McIlroy (+900) owns a 70.31 scoring average at Bay Hill, the second-lowest of any player on record (Woods, 69.97). He has finished lower than T13 just once in his past eight event starts. His odds have shortened from opening at +1000 and McIlroy is BetMGM’s biggest liability this week, having been backed by the most money at 29.8 percent as of Wednesday. –Will Zalatoris (+1800) is the second-biggest liability at the sportsbook, having drawn the most total bets at 8.8 percent and is second to McIlroy with 8.9 percent of the money. He leads the field at DraftKings, drawing 11 percent of the handle at +2200. –Max Homa (+1800) is a career-best No. 8 in the world rankings following his runner-up to Rahm at The Genesis and already has two wins this season. His odds have lengthened since opening at +1800. –Viktor Hovland (+2500) tied for second last year and has four top-10s in his past 11 worldwide starts. He opened at +3000 at BetMGM but those odds shifted as the public backed Hovland with 4.6 percent of the money. –Jason Day (+3300), the 2016 event winner, is riding a streak of three consecutive top-10s and has seen his odds shorten at BetMGM from opening at +4000. –Matt Fitzpatrick (+4000) has finished T10 and T9 at Bay Hill the past two years and is the third-biggest liability at BetMGM with 5.6 percent of the money supporting him. –Chris Kirk (+5500) is coming off his first victory in more than seven years and is one of only two players to record top-10s at Bay Hill each of the past two years, including T5 in 2022.
NOTES –The field includes the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings and all 14 winners on tour this season. –Bay Hill ranked as the hardest non-major on tour last season with a scoring average of 1.886 shots over par. –Rahm is the first player to win three times in a calendar year before March 1 since Johnny Miller in 1975. Miller is the last player to win four times before April 1 (1974). –Scheffler and Rory McIlroy have each spent time at No. 1 in the world rankings this year and have opportunities to regain it from Rahm this week. –Scheffler is seeking to successfully defend a title for the second time after winning the Phoenix Open three weeks ago. The last player to successfully defend two titles in a season was Tiger Woods, who did so four times in 2007. –World No. 4 Patrick Cantlay is making his event debut. –Payne Stewart holds the tournament scoring record of 264 set in 1987. Scheffler won with a score of 5-under 283 last year. –Pierceson Coody, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2022, is in the field after making last week’s cut.
–Field Level Media
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