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Handicapping

Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview and Picks to Win
Dates: March 16-19,á2017
Course: Bay Hill ľ Orlando, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com

There is a lot of banter today about who the best golfer is of this generation and plenty of beers can be had once you start talking about the best of all time. No matter what camp you fall into, the truth is that there has never been a better ambassador for golf than Arnold Palmer. Arnie captivated a nation with fierce battles against Nicklaus and Player but his reach went so far beyond his on-course achievements. He made golf approachable for the common man when it previously felt elite. His "army" backed him with appropriately unwavering support. Even after his competitive days were well behind him, he enjoyed unending and universal support as he made his final trips around places like Augusta and St. Andrew's. The TV never even showed his scores in many of those final events, they didn't need to. The story was always the man himself, a seemingly simple sort of man who combined a calm nature with a warrior's thirst for competition. He loved golf, he wrung every drop from what the game gave him and for that, we loved him. The world lost Arnie last September and it will be sad to not see him greet the winner after the last hole this weekend.

Time marches on, so even with a bit of a heavy heart we welcome the 2017 edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The host, the course and the invitational status has always given this event a special feel and this year is no different with a very strong field in attendance. Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy highlight a field that is very top-heavy with international superstars. Nine of the top twelve players in terms of odds to win are non-American with Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker representing the best chance for a U.S. win according to the online betting sites. Jason Day defends his 2016 title and this event has been kind to previous winners with Ernie Els and Matt Every each winning here on multiple occasions and don't forget Tiger and his eight Palmer victories. Expect this to be a close fought tournament as six of the last ten editions have been decided by just one stroke.

Bay Hill has been Arnie's place for so long that the course itself simply became part of the Palmer lore. The 7,419 yard, par-72 layout is Florida golf at its best according to Arnie and that was before he even started tinkering with the design over the years. You can't mistake yourself in any other locale with all the well-placed sand and water. Palmer was never one to be heavy-handed with overtly difficult elements in his designs so low scores will be had but errant tee shots and approaches will not lend birdie looks like some other "easy" Tour courses. The strong play that is so often associated with this event is due to the talent of the players. Great shots score, good shots play and poor shots produce bogeys. Pretty simple really and very representative of the man that watched over things for so long.

Each week, we take a look at MyBookie Sportsbook and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win the event and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at any golf betting outlet. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Hideki Matsuyama (14 to 1 odds to win)
Matsuyama is coming off a missed cut and a T25 in his last two stats. That is the limit to his rough stretch this year as the previous six starts produced two wins and two more runner-up finishes. He has two Palmer starts in his record with a T6 last year and T21 the first time around. I think he is prepped for another win this week based on his 6thábest tee-to-green performance overall. He should be in position to get birdies and while his overall average is 46th, his green in regulation average is 16th. He makes putts and more importantly makes birdie putts. The winner will need to push the scoring pace this week so having a guy with a proven record of going low is almost a necessity. Matsuyama gets some nice value as well with Rory and Stenson taking up the true favorite spots on the board.

Thomas Pieters (30 to 1)
Don't feel bad if you don't know much about the 25-year old Belgian-born EPGA player. Not many do but this youngster is on the rise with three Euro wins in just a couple of years as a pro. Thomas was a team and individual champ while at the University of Illinois so he has the stateside experience that many young international players lack. He has risen to 29tháin the world rankings after top-5 finishes at Riviera and most recently in Mexico so a win on Tour is not going to be far off. He is a precise iron player and leads the Tour in proximity of approach from 150-175 yards. He is top-10 in scoring average, birdie average and strokes gained-putting with respectable distance as part of the overall package. He managed a 4tháplace finish in the Olympics and was T30 at the British Open so there has been some very serious competition for him in a relatively short amount of time. A win would feel like it was out of nowhere for most casual fans but this is not a longshot pick.

Francesco Molinari (50 to 1)
Sticking with the international theme, I like Molinari as a bit of a longshot this week. He has moved up to 33rdáin the world with a strong start to the season that has seen him inside the top-25 in each of his six made cuts with just one missed weekend overall. He has a solid Palmer record with four made cuts in four starts and two top-10 finishes including a T9 last season. Franky is a control player and enters the week third in fairways hit. He isn't the best ballstriker on the approaches but he makes up for that with a top-5 putting average on greens in regulation and nets the 8thábest scoring average in 2017. Molinari is solid if not spectacular just about everywhere else so he will need a plus week with some scoring stat to get a win but I think he is a good bet to give it fair shot from day one.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook for the widest variety of single round matches and prop bets.

Brandt Snedeker v. Paul Casey (pick to win: Snedeker)
Both men are off to solid starts this season. Casey leads in top-25 finishes (five to four) but Snedeker has been able to find the top-10 on three occasions with Casey stuck at just one. Casey is a bit longer off the tee but all of the other ball striking stats are remarkably similar. The big advantage for Snedeker comes on the greens where he is about 100 spots better than Casey in stroked gained-putting. That is a big edge and leads to a top-20 birdie average while Casey is at 96th. They score about the same when all is said and done so Casey has that ability to keep his rounds alive even with a spotty putter but I like Brandt's ability to push the pace on a scoring course and he should get a close win.

Rickie Fowler v. Justin Rose (pick to win: Fowler)
So, it does seem a little weird to me that I picked three international players to win but then jumped on the first two Americans I saw when it came to the head-to-heads. I think that is the correct call given the pairings and the best thing about Rickie is that his T16 in Mexico was his worst finish of the season. Rose was T38 at the same event and also had a T39 at Pebble so the short sample of 2017 leans Fowler right off the bat. Rickie is also doing some Tiger-level things on the stat sheet and leads the Tour in scoring average, scrambling and sand saves. He is playing well and scoring when he is hitting it well but also saving strokes when he does hit those couple of wayward shots a round. Rose is a tremendous talent but lags behind Rickie in fairways and putting average at the moment and while he can score with anyone, he is making more bogeys right now than Fowler. Stay with the hotter player in this match. Bet your Arnold Palmer Invitational predictions FREE by taking advantage of a FAT 50% bonus on your first deposit at Bovada Sportsbook! Credit cards work there!

Good luck and good golf!

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