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PGA Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational Predictions

by | Last updated Mar 7, 2019 | golf

Arnold Palmer Invitational
March 7-10
Bay Hill Club – Orlando, FL
The Golf Channel/NBC

2019 has been a bit odd for the PGA so far. We have seen player/caddie disputes over money and strange penalties assessed as not everyone has been able to remember some of the new rule implications. We’ve even had social media tiffs between players regarding things like “backboarding” and whether or not lifetime money exemptions should remain in use. Rose, Fowler, Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have all won already to make 2019 seem like it is going to be a year of big name winners but virtual unknowns like Adam Long and Keith Mitchell have also claimed titles. The season has been all over the map and we aren’t even to the year’s first Major.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is on tap this week and there are few names in golf history that occupy the same rarefied air as the legendary Arnie. Rory McIlroy defends his 2018 Palmer crown against a field that is a bit short at just 120 players but very strong considering the qualifications necessary to earn the invite to Bay Hill. Rory is the 6/1 betting favorite but Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and last year’s runner-up Bryson DeChambeau are all out to make sure Rory comes up short in his title defense. This event has been kind to former champs with Matt Every and Ernie Els joining eight-time winner Tiger Woods on the list of those to win multiple Palmers in recent memory. Tom Kite, Loren Roberts and Gary Koch have all won twice at this event to provide some strong evidence that Bay Hill can be figured out if you have the right shots in your bag as well as a little Arnie in your attitude. Tiger is one of the few luminaries not in attendance this week as Woods was forced to withdraw due to a neck strain. 

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Bay Hill Club is pure Palmer magic. The 7,400 yard, par-72 layout was constantly re-tailored by Arnie to keep the course relevant with the changes in the modern game. Water is in play throughout the course and the long players are rewarded if they can bomb drives in the right spots. The control players can make it happen here as well with plenty of tricky greens requiring precise approaches but long or short, the winner will have to have a hot putter as scores will trend in the mid-to-high teens under par. A red Cardigan awaits the winner and that would be a nice way to start someones road to winning a Green Jacket.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best value bets on the board. We make a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a couple of the most popular head-to-head matches available at the various golf betting outlets. This week’s odds and pairings come courtesy of Bovada. Here are our picks to win the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Odds are taken from Bovada Sportsbook. However bettors should price match with Golf sportsbooks like 5Dimes and MyBookie. 

Jason Day (14 to 1 odds to win)

Day has been playing a bit sparingly this season with just five starts but he has made the weekend in each with three top-10 finishes including T5 and T4 runs in his last two events. Day has a nice Palmer, highlighted by a win in 2016 and just one missed cut way back in his 2008 Palmer debut. I like his ability off the tee, ranking 23rd in total driving and 24th in average distance on all drives, not just measured ones. He is 34th in greens hit and a top-15 putting average on those hit greens have produced the 4th best birdie rate. Day is 6th in total performance off the tee and sneaks in the top-10 in total strokes gained. He has the complete skill set to do well here and the positive track record to win again.

Hideki Matsuyama (28 to 1)

Matsuyama has been a pick for us a couple times already this season and while he hasn’t paid off yet, he has come close with a T3 at the Farmers and has not missed a cut in any of his seven starts with five top-25 finishes. He is a perfect 5-for-5 in terms of making the cut at Bay Hill with his best finish coming in 2016 with a T6. Matsuyama is 7th in driving distance and 26th in greens hit, checking both the ball striking boxes necessary to do well here. His putting has actually been below Tour average this season but he still turns in a top-20 scoring average and his solid work around the greens is a big reason why he is so efficient in the scoring categories. The green complexes at Bay Hill are tough to negotiate so that 4th best scrambling rate will come in handy this week for sure.

J.B. Holmes (80 to 1)

I think you have to love this value considering J.B. proved he can still win against a strong field by taking the title just a few weeks ago at the Genesis Open. He has also proven he can score at Bay Hill by missing just one Palmer cut in his career and recording a top-10 finish in 2014. Holmes is 13th in driving distance and is inside the top-30 in total off-the-tee performance, total tee-to-green and total strokes gained. The putter has been about Tour average but he is fresh off a win and that confidence should carry him to another strong finish at a course that he seems very well suited for.

Head-to-Head Matches

Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Brooks Koepka v. Justin Rose (pick to win: Koepka)

Both players have kept a light schedule so far this season and that makes breaking down the match a little tough. Both have also excelled in the last year-plus so this one should be tight. I like Koepka as the bigger hitter, although Rose still knocks it out there when he needs to. They are hitting a similar amount of fairways but Brooks has the edge in greens hit and most of that is due to him almost always bombing it out there to get short irons on approach. Rose has Tour-best birdie, scoring and scrambling marks but those numbers are a little misleading as his sample set is so short. Koepka has strong scoring numbers and more events to back it up and just ran T2 at the Honda. In what should be a close competition, give the bomber Brooks a win by just a stroke or two.

Phil Mickelson v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Reed)

In most regards, Phil Mickelson is the modern-day Arnold Palmer, at least in the way his fans simply love Lefty. Mickelson also embodies a similar attitude and aggressiveness to vintage Arnie so you may think Bay Hill is a good match for Phil. It is to some degree but Mickelson is just a bit too boom-and-bust at this point for my liking. The win at Pebble was fantastic but Phil has been 37th and 39th in his two starts since while Reed has been a more consistent commodity with T22 and T14 finishes. Both players have been legitimately wild off the tee this season and that could complicate their chances this week but neither have ever been afraid to attack courses even while they are spraying it around. Reed is 6th on Tour in strokes gained putting with Phil quite a bit back at 79th. Bay Hill presents plenty of tricky greens and I think that putting edge will show over the course of a week. The mercurial nature of both players makes them a nervous bet but Reed is the more consistent right now and that is always a factor in head-to-heads. I’d give Lefty a slightly better chance to pop off a top-5 finish but he’s a better bet to miss the cut as well.

Good luck and good golf!

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