This week the tour heads to Bay Hill, home of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The API is one of the most important regular stops on tour. The host is the great Arnold Palmer and it features one of the more elite fields of the season. Since it’s got invitational status, the field is only 120 players and only the top 70 players from last season get automatic invites. This week the field features all three of the top 3 players in the official golf rankings.
The course this week is fitting for the prestige this tournament carries. Bay Hill is an all-encompassing test of the player’s skills. The course is a par 72 which comes in at over 7400 yards in length. It features over 80 bunkers and water is prominent on many holes, including the last 3. Since trouble is so prominent, scoring on the par 5’s (there are 4) becomes very important. Typically the winner is someone who has already been playing at a high level, as this is not a course for player’s to “find their game”.
This week I’ve focused on a couple stats to help make my selections. Birdie average and Strokes gained tee to green. The importance of staying out of the rough and trouble could not be more important this week, hence finding players who excel off the tee and fairway are important. Also, as mentioned, players will have to take advantage of scoring opportunities, particularly the par 5’s. Those who make birdies when the opportunities arise will have an advantage.
This week DraftKings is hosting two 100k guarantees once again. This is all a lead up to their huge 2.2 million dollar guarantee tournament they are hosting for the Masters. Check out our site for more information on this upcoming tournament. As well, use the strategy section to help you refine your fantasy game before the event.
DraftKings Tiered Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational
Top Shelf (10k and above)
Rory McIlroy (15,200): Having started his PGA season slowly thus far and disappointed fantasy gamers as a result, I can see why Rory may not be high on many people’s lists this week. However, consider the fact that he is making the trip to Bay Hill specifically because he holds Arnold Palmer in such high regard. Also consider that he has just been upstaged by two of the best young American players (Spieth and Reed) who put on a short game and putting clinic last weekend at the Valspar. I think Rory carries extra motivation this week and should be very hungry to stake back his claim as clear top dog on tour.
Henrik Stenson (12,500): If you can’t stomach Rory’s price, I would suggest using Henrik Stenson. Stenson has improved his position every year here since 2011, and has posted a T8 and a T5 the past two visits. Stenson is also coming off back to back 4th places on the Florida swing. More than anything, Stenson’s fantastic ball striking and penchant for hitting tons of greens really make him perfect for this course. I think Stenson makes for the safe play this week and I would not consider fading him in any cash games as a result. He’s pricy but carries as low a floor as you will see in fantasy golf this week.
Second Tier (8k to 9900)
Hideki Matsuyama (9600): I think a lot of players will be off Hideki this week given his lack of recent play and the fact this will be his first visit to Bay Hill. But to be honest, he’s one of my favorite plays. Hideki is ranked 3rd in strokes gained tee to green on the year and has shown in the past he really favours these all-around tests of golf. His win last year came at Muirfield Village, a similar course to this week’s test Bay Hill. Hideki has played brilliantly thus far this year already posting two top 5 finishes, including a T2 in Phoenix. Hideki’s game is similar to Stenson’s in that he hits his long irons and fairway woods extremely well and should be able to deal with the long par 4’s. He’s been one of the most consistent player’s on tour this year, why not use him when his price is less than some who have not matched his level of play thus far in 2015.
JB Holmes (8900): Holmes has now posted two runner-up finishes on tour this year, and for all intents and purposes has shown he has one of the best driving and long iron games on the planet. Holmes has a very nice history at this event, having made the cut in 7 out of 7 appearances. I think Holmes will come to Bay Hill with a lot of confidence knowing he can compete and potentially beat this star studded field. Moreover he should be seeking some redemption from his Doral appearance where he really deserved to win simply based on his amazing first round. I expect Holmes to be near the lead again at some point this week and like using him in all formats.
Paul Casey (8400): For me this could be the perfect week for Casey to finally break through and get his second win on tour. While the whole world expected him to do well immediately following his two near misses at the NTO and Honda, he’s now three weeks removed and had a week of rest to recuperate. Casey has only played Bay Hill twice but the way he’s been playing, I think it will suit him perfectly. Casey ranks high in greens in regulation and strokes gained tee to green on the year and also has the length to score well on the par 5’s. I like Casey coming off a week of rest to pick up right where he left off at the Honda and post another big result this week.
Third Tier (6k to 7999)
Justin Thomas (7600): Justin Thomas is another player who lacks a history at this event but who, for all intents and purposes should really suit this course. Thomas has a great tee to green game and ranks in the top 20 thus far in birdie average. He should be able to take advantage of the par 5’s while also using his superior driving and approach game to stay out of major trouble. Moreover, I really think Thomas will be inspired by last week, when his close friend Jordan Spieth was able to close out the tournament. Thomas could easily have a victory or two of his own already on tour, and should be able to use his past failures to help him this week. I really like him for his price.
Brendan Steele (7400): When looking at player’s based purely on pricing, Steele looks to be one of the best value plays of the week. Steele’s last five starts include two top 15’s and a T2. He has really improved his play this season and should be considered a threat to win whenever he tees it up. Steele carries great length off the tee and ranks highly in driving distance and strokes gained tee to green. Additionally his putting has really improved over the past two years to the point where he now can compete with the elite players. Steele finished T20 at Bay Hill last year, his best finish ever at this venue, I think he can improve on it this week.
Shawn Stefani (7200): Stefani is yet another Bay Hill greenhorn who carries the type of game that should have success on this course. Stefani has started the season very nicely with multiple top 20’s and is coming a T17 last weekend. Stefani’s length and his tee to green game should help him stay out of trouble this week if he continues to hit the ball well. For his price I think he’s cheap enough to rely on as he carries top 20 or better upside at this particular course.
Vijay Singh (6200): Singh may seem like a curious choice but really consider two things before you make your decision on him. First, Singh has actually been playing some great golf recently. He finished T10 last week and just outside the top ten at the NTO. Singh also has a great history at this event, and has made the cut here the past three years, even as his play on tour has decreased. I think Singh is such a great competitor that you can throw out the age factor a little bit with him. He still thinks he can win and will do all he can to compete. He’s got a great shot to make the cut and get you a top 30 finish, more than enough to meet value at his price.
Bottom Feeders (under 6k):
Lucas Glover (5900): Glover is a former major winner whose tee to green game has been phenomenal this year. Unfortunately his putting has not caught up to his ball striking. Glover is coming off another solid top 25 last weekend at the Valspar and has also posted a very nice history at Bay Hill, including a T14 last year when his game was really in the gutters. I am willing to chance Glover and his poor putting this week because I think he offers better upside than most for his price.
Sam Saunders (5100): I expect Saunders to be popular this week. He is the grandson of Arnold Palmer and essentially grew up playing on this course. Saunders has played at this tournament 5 times in the past making the cut in three of those attempts. But this year he comes in having earned his official PGA tour card and is coming off a T2 and T24 in his past two events. He’s playing well and he knows the course better than anyone, he makes for great value this week as a result.
David Lingmerth (4700): My other value play this week is Florida resident David Lingmerth. Lingmerth may be Swedish by birth but he played collegiate golf in Florida and has had some of his best success on tour in Florida. He’s played at Bay Hill the past two years and made the cut both times. He finished T25 in his last event and I think he could post something similar this week. Given his price, he makes for a great roster filler and a good chance at making the cut.
This week features a reduced field of 120 golfers. Given the strength of the field it is a good time to employ a more top heavy lineup as your lower priced players will have a better than average chance of making the cut. Look for the best top plays and try to pair them with value players who can get you four rounds and a solid fantasy score.