2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational Tournament Preview – Predictions to Win

Arnold Palmer Invitational Tournament Preview and Predictions to Win
Dates: March 15-18, 2018
Where: Bay Hill Club – Orlando, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
By Evergreen, PGA Handicapper, Predictem.com

Things got awfully interesting all of a sudden with Tiger in the hunt again last week. Woods’ 2nd place finish wound up being the highest rated non-Major of the last five years on Tour and the golf world is gushing at the prospects of an again-relevant Tiger. It didn’t take long for the online betting sites to move Woods to the top of the betting board and he is the 6 to 1 favorite to win this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tiger has won eight times at Arnie’s place and the quest for nine will be a major story line throughout the week. How players are looking in advance of the Masters is the other main talking point during this time of year. Guys like Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama (wrist) have some questions to answer on the way to Augusta while guys like Phil and Bubba Watson have found at least some of their seemingly lost winning ways in 2018. A good portion of the top-25 in the world will tee it up at Bay Hill this week with plenty on the line. Just the WGC Match Play and Houston are left before the year’s first Major so it is time to get serious.

Bay Hill is a special place given Arnie’s special place in golf history. Palmer fell in love with the Orlando-area course and took over operations in the late 1960’s. Arnie constantly tailored Bay Hill over the years to keep up with golf’s changing demands and the 7400 yard, par-72 course of today is a fan and player favorite. Marc Leishman survived for a one-stroke win last year over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman with McIlroy just two back. There were only eight players within four strokes of the lead when play concluded last year and that is typical as Bay Hill can quickly separate the contenders from the also-rans. Palmer loved testing every shot in the bag at some point during a round and always included a few grade-A risk/reward opportunities.

Each week, we take a look at Bovada Sportsbook and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are most commonly featured at the various golf betting outlets. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Justin Rose (16 to 1 odds to win)
In Mexico, Rose shocked the golf world by finishing T37. The reason why that was so surprising was Rose had notched a top-10 in 12-of-13 worldwide events heading into the WGC stop, including three wins. That blip was momentary and Rose returned to contention with a T5 last week at a tough Valspar event. Rose has no peer when it comes to experience level measured against relative age and that shows in top-10 numbers in birdies and scoring despite his overall stat sheet ranking a bit closer to 20th. It means he is juicing every last bit out of his rounds and rarely letting mistakes pile up. He enters the week inside the top-20 in distance off the tee and hits enough greens to let his 11th ranked putter cash in a ton of birdies. If he stays on his current track, he will contend and any uptick should have him in the last group on Sunday.

Patrick Reed (35 to 1)
Reed has been on some uneasy ground in 2018 but came through with a sterling T2 last week on what proved to be a tough Innisbrook course. Playing well there is a good sign for taking on another challenge at Bay Hill and Reed’s putter has been keeping him from bottoming out while he has bee trying to find his best tee-to-green game. Patrick is just 109th in strokes gained with the putter but moves to 41st in overall putting average. He still has a nice birdie rate and his scrambling stat sits at 33rd due to the good work on the greens. He just proved that he can be relevant with a solid week of approaches so he should be in a similar place on the leaderboard if his driver and irons import well to Bay Hill.

Louis Oosthuizen (55 to 1)
Oosty has been good but not great so far in 2018 with a T24, a T30 and a T16 last week. He did put it all together while carding a 64 to open in Mexico but overall he has been a little off the level needed to win. That has his value at an impressive 55 to 1 this week and it could pay off big as Louis absolutely remains one of the best ball strikers on Tour. He is 42nd in total driving and bookends with the 28th best total putting stat, improving to 22nd on the greens in terms of strokes gained. All he needs is one of those weeks where he is throwing darts with his irons. He sits inside the top-20 in both scrambling and total strokes gained so there is nothing holding him back once he dials in those approach shots.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes for single round match pairings and a variety of prop bets.

Adam Scott v. Bubba Watson (pick to win: Bubba)
Scott has leveled things off after a shaky start but even his “good” results are finding him in the T13-T16 range while Watson’s last two starts have been a win at the Genesis and a T9 in Mexico. The major knock on Scott at the moment is the putter. There is simply no explaining ranks outside the top-200 in total putting, overall putting average and three-putt avoidance. His strokes gained on the greens is just 192nd while Bubba sits at 39th in that category. You can split hairs with many other stat categories between these two but until Scott sees an improvement with the flat stick, there really isn’t any way to pick him in a head-to-head, especially against a player like Watson who just won a few weeks ago.

Keegan Bradley v. Charley Hoffman (pick to win: Bradley)
Bradley is another that has been doing everything right except for his work on the greens. Like Adam Scott, Bradley is about 200th in strokes gained on the greens and that would be an automatic disqualifier but Hoffman isn’t performing much better at the moment. Bradley owns significant performance advantages in fairways, greens and overall tee-to-green metrics. Keegan outscores Charley at the moment despite that overall lack of putting success. You need to be able to get yourself in position at Bay Hill and I trust Bradley to do that more than Hoffman at this point. You are hoping Bradley can just putt near the field average and realize the gains he is getting in the tee-to-green categories.
Good luck and good golf!