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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational

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After yet another exciting week on the PGA Tour, we move on to the Arnold Palmer Invitational as the build up to the year’s first major intensifies. For some, this week will be the final step in their Masters preparation, while for others it’s one of the final chances remaining to qualify. Tiger Woods heads the field here after his excellent performance last week and goes off as the favorite at 11/2.

Bay Hill is a tough golf course. It’s over 7,400 yards with fairway bunkers and thick rough that make it a very demanding test. With many long Par 4’s and Par 3’s on the course (as well as a lot of water), form and confidence with long irons is going to be critical this week, as is Par-5 scoring. Last year, Marc Leishman held off both Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner to post 11-under par and take the title by one stroke.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Tiger Woods 11/2
  • Jason Day 12/1
  • Justin Rose 14/1
  • Rory Mcilroy 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 18/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 20/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 25/1

Tiger mania is back. The man who has dominated this event is a best price 6/1 to claim title his ninth title here this week. His performance at Copperhead was enough for punters to declare that he is back, and if you subscribe to that then it’s not exactly a bad price considering his past success at this event. The one crumb of comfort for the rest of the field is that Tiger has yet to dominate the Par 5’s so far this year, something he always managed to do in his prime. If he takes care of the Par 5’s this week then I imagine he’ll win, but the price is still a tad skinny for me.

Instead, I believe there’s a lot of value with a player who was a single-digit favorite just a few weeks ago. Rickie Fowler (18/1, DK Price $10,300) has been a mixed bag so far this year. Because of his popularity he rarely has a lot of value attached to his price, but I think this week he does. At a best price of 20/1, it’s the biggest he has gone off in a long time. A lot of that will have to do with his mediocre performance in Mexico, which was a display that was entirely down to his putting. It was his worst performance on the greens in over four years, and he will be very happy to be returning to Bermuda greens this week on which he has always putted extremely well.

In his last 12 rounds, Fowler sits 15th in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and 16th in Ball Striking. In his last start in Mexico, he produced statistically his best display with his irons since last year at the Quicken Loans. He is just failing to score at the moment, something that I feel is about to change. Par-4 scoring between 450-500 yards will be important this week with six holes falling in this category. In his past 12 rounds, Fowler sits 10th for efficiency from this range.

Bay Hill is also a place that Fowler has played well in the past. He finished T3 here on his debut back in 2013, and last year he finished solo 12th. Crucially, I don’t see a repeat of what happened on the greens in Mexico. Fowler has gained 11.7 strokes over the field at this tournament on the greens in his four starts. With his iron game returning, greens he loves and now at a far more attractive price than usual, I’m more than happy to back Rickie this week.

Speaking of iron games returning, Adam Scott (35/1, DK Price $8,700) is on fire right now from tee to green. In his last two starts, he has gained a whopping 15.9 strokes over the field from tee to green. The Australian is beginning to peak at the right time, and this may be his final start before Augusta unless he has a great week and qualifies for next week’s WGC. Of course, not everything is peaking at the right time for Scott, and his putting is showing no sign of improvement. Despite his putter, he was able to finish T16 last week. Bay Hill is definitely a course that fits his eye. In his last three starts, he has finishes of 12th-35th-3rd.

Taking care of the Par 5’s this week is going to be vitally important, and Scott is ranked No. 1 in this field for proficiency on Par 5’s over his last eight rounds. On Par 4’s that measure between 450-500 yards, he ranks 3rd in the field for efficiency over his last 12 rounds. If he could just manage to putt average by his standards, he will be right there this week. The rest of his game is ready to compete, and because of that he looks an attractive price.

Another man who is showing signs of hitting top form is Louis Oosthuizen (55/1, DK Price 8,200). The South African has been quiet lately, but a T12 last week where his ball striking shone was a very good sign. Bay Hill should also suit his excellent tee-to-green game well, and it’s no surprise that he has a top-10 finish here on his resume.

Bay Hill is a big golf course, and it provides a serious test of long irons. Oosthuizen should be licking his chops at this test, as recently his long irons have been sensational. For his last 12 rounds, he is ranked 5th in the field for proximity to the hole from 200+ yards and 3rd from 175-200 yards. Overall, the South African is No. 1 in proximity in the same period. Putting has never been an asset for Oosthuizen, but encouragingly he has a positive strokes gained total on the greens of over six strokes on his previous two starts at Bay Hill. At 55/1, he seems a little too big and there are enough signs that Oosthuizen is ready to do some damage this week.

Finally, my last pick looks a very big price. Keegan Bradley (100/1, DK Price $7,300) has been lighting it up tee to green for some time, and it seems this part of his game is at the height of its powers. In his last 24 rounds, the American sits 1st in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 1st in Ball Striking and 2nd in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green. Unfortunately, he is undoing all of this great work on the greens, where he is putting horrendously. Despite this, I feel 100/1 is too big for a guy who has already placed this season at the Farmers and now returns to a track that is tailor made for his game.

In five outings at Bay Hill, Bradley has never missed a cut and has two top-5 finishes to his name. It’s a course that rewards excellent tee-to-green play, and nobody is doing that better than him at the moment. Whether he can win with his putting being so poor at the moment is questionable, but there is still enough value around Keegan in several markets including top-10 and top-5, as well as adding him to your DraftKings lineups.

Recommended Plays

  • Rickie Fowler 18/1, DK Price $10,300
  • Adam Scott 35/1, DK Price $8,700
  • Louis Oosthuizen 55/1, DK Price $8,200
  • Keegan Bradley 100/1, DK Price $7,300
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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