This week the PGA Tour heads to Orlando, Florida for the distinguished Arnold Palmer Invitational. This event is held at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, better known as “Arnie’s Place” since being purchased by Mr. Arnold Palmer in 1974.
This venue has been host to some incredible tournaments, including 8 Tiger victories, with real potential for a 9th this week. After posting a Sunday score of a 3-under 69, Marc Leishman found himself atop the leaderboard at -11 last year. This course tends to play pretty difficult and does not yield low scores with an abundance of birdies. Players will need to be strategic in their game plan in order to position themselves for a win.
You may have noticed the word “Invitational” in the title of this tournament, not something that is seen too often on tour. This alludes to the fact that the field selection does not follow the standard PGA Tour criteria. There are also only 120 players in the field, with the top-70 and ties making the cut. This is a noticeably smaller field than the standard 156 player, making a players cut probability slightly higher than normal.
With that being said, this is an absolutely loaded field from top to bottom, which should set up for a great week. Some notable names at the top:
- Jason Day
- Justin Rose
- Rory McIlroy
- Rickie Fowler
- Tiger Woods
- Hideki Matsuyama
- Alexander Noren
- Tommy Fleetwood
- Henrik Stenson
Bay Hill Club & Lodge is a 7,419 yard par-72 with four par 3’s and four par 5’s. In addition to its’ length, Bay Hill is known for an abundance of sand and water on just about every hole. If avoiding the bunkers or a bath wasn’t enough, the rough is also known to be long and punishing.
The hazards challenge the players to think strategically about each shot they will take, especially off the tee. Players will often club down in order to improve their accuracy and position themselves well for their approach shots.
The bermuda greens are not known for being small, but they are sloped and can play fairly fast, averaging around a 12 on the stimp meter. This is the first time in a while players are getting bermuda greens on back to back weeks, maybe a bump to lasts weeks field?
Although accuracy off the tee is going to be important, the fact that players often club down skews the importance of that stat directly. These will be the stats I am considering the most:
- Strokes Gained Approach – A weekly staple and differentiator for success
- Strokes Gained Ball Striking – Avoiding the hazards will be crucial for success
- Proximity 200+ – clubbing down off the tee will leave long iron shots into the green
- Strokes Gained Par 5 – Players will need to score on the par 5’s to be in contention
- Strokes Gained Tee to Green
- Birdie or Better %
As I mentioned above, this is a loaded field with a ton of incredible golfers. They are also very expensive and hard to play more than one of in the same lineup. I think this will lead to a more balanced approach from a roster construction standpoint.
I think the most popular build will be to take one top guy and then fill out the rest of the roster more balanced. I think there is a lot of merit to this build and you can still go this way and differentiate other ways.
With that being said, there are some lower priced golfers that I think rate out pretty well for this course. This could allow for taking more of a stars and scrubs approach, but I do not think that is necessarily optimal this week.
I do not hate the final option of fading the $10k+ group and starting my roster in the $9k range. I am thinking this will allow for maximizing the consistency of your roster and still does not sacrifice much upside since the field is so loaded. As of today, I think this will be the way I try to build my rosters, if I can stomach fading the big guns.
As always, it is crucial to differentiate your roster in order to avoid having any duplicates. The easiest way to do this is to leave some money on the table. I tend to leave $100-$400 depending on the tournament I am playing in. On average about 50% of the field uses the full salary cap, so by leaving a little money on table you are automatically cutting your chances of duplication in half – a no brainer.
Also notable for this week, Tiger Woods. He played great last week at the Valspar with a legit chance to win, coming down to the 18th. He has dominated this tournament in the past and will most likely be highly owned this week. Draftkings did a god job of pricing him up and making you pay the play him, but I have a feeling he will still be popular. A high owned, $10k golfer is not necessarily the start you want to have, but it’s scary to fade Tiger here.
Pay attention to ownership throughout the week and use it as a tie-breaker for players you are close on.
*Disclaimer – these are done early in week and may be subject to change as ownership projections evolve*
$10k+ – All great players but you want to pick the right ones to pay off price, choose wisely.
Jason Day ($11800)- will hopefully be less owned due to being the highest priced golfer. Has not played in a few weeks, but this course should suit his skill set.
Justin Rose ($11500 – model for consistency and played well last week at Valspar. He tends to not soak up the ownership he deserves.
$9k – I love this range
Hideki Matsuyama ($9700) – Great player. Great History. Big savings from top guys.
Alexander Noren ($9200) – Seems to be in contention each week he has played. I do not hate the idea of a Day-Noren playoff for the second time this year.
Henrik Stenson ($9100) – People will most likely be off of him due to his poor performance last week. It hopefully will not take much to be overweight on Stenson and he has great history (minus last year).
Adam Scott ($8700) – he is an addiction I cannot quit, but has been playing really well recently. I do not see why that would change this week.
Luke List ($8100) – Also has been playing really well this year and breaking his mold of just a bomber.
$7k – this is where tournaments are won, also really like this range.
Zach Johnson ($7700) – does well at tournaments where length is not the most important attribute. Also does well in tough field events. Not the most exciting play, but he is consistent.
Emiliano Grillo ($7600) – Dude has been in great form all year-long and I don’t expect that to change now. He does have a long way to travel, but his form and history will trump that for me.
Kevin Chappell ($7300) – Rating out extremely well in my model and I think he is very under-priced.
Francesco Molinari ($7300) – Has not been off to a great start this year, maybe that will keep ownership down. My model likes him a lot and his course history matches that.
$6k – a few darts
Hudson Swafford ($6900) – Slightly under-priced and has good history, I like my chances with him.
Bryson DeChambeau ($6900) – I think long-term he is a better player than this price and provides some decent upside down in this range.
Yuta Ikeda ($6700) – this is a true GPP dart throw but he rates out well with the key statistics I like.
Early Week Top-20 per Model (last 24 rounds)
I think this should be an awesome tournament and I am really looking forward to playing. Just going through the player pool I know it is going to be tough to narrow it down. It is important to settle on a core of guys you want to be over exposed too and then spread it out around them.
You will not be right every week with your picks, but you want to maximize your upside when you are right. I have already been playing around with different roster constructions and there is no wrong way to go. I will be monitoring ownership throughout the week and this will likely help me determine my preferred path.
Thanks for reading!