We are into the final leg of the Florida Swing as we head to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The DraftKings field this week is stronger than usual as a few more big names came out to honour the legend who passed away last year. The course this week should yield a few more birdies than last and from first glance it sounds like it’s gonna play fairly soft due to some rain over the past month so take that into account when making your picks. After a few reno’s, Bay Hill has seen the past two winners come in at -17 and -19 the past two seasons.
A gettable course?: From first glance this week the reports have been that Bay Hill is playing quite soft. This should have two effects: first the course will play a little longer than usual (it’s already semi-long and can play up to 7,500 yards as a par 72), and secondly the greens should be softer, making holding the greens on long approaches a little easier. This could make this course very gettable for some of the big hitters with higher ball flights and is something to at least track as the week progresses.
Florida Swing: We’re still in Florida for one more week and keeping track of recent results here is still a good idea. Four of the last six winners of this event had at least one top ten on the Florida swing (Valspar, Honda and the now defunct Doral WGC) in the same year they won the API.
Rory McIlroy ($12,000): One thing about the pricing on DraftKings to note this week is that it’s really hard, almost impossible, to use both of the top two players. While I think it’s a good idea to have some exposure to both (and maybe even have a few gpp lineups with both of them together) if forced to choose I would lean towards Rory. McIlroy has yet to crack the top ten at this event but his history isn’t bad. He was struggling with the putter at this time last year and finished 27th and had a couple of good rounds in 2015. He’s coming off a solid top ten from Mexico—his first tourney back after a layoff—and we’ve seen Rory excel on longer tracks that feature softer greens before (see his US Open and Open Championship wins). Given the fact he’s the betting favorite this week and only $500 more than Stenson on DraftKings, I would feel fine rostering him over the Swede if push comes to shove.
Tyrell Hatton ($9,100): Incredible record over his last ten starts: has not finished worse than 25th. Hatton doesn’t have course history here but he handled the trickier PGA National well on his first attempt. All things considered I would rather go with the in form player who has shown some Florida results than some of the more expensive options above him.
Paul Casey ($8,800): Tee to Green and around the green, Casey has been one of the best on tour this season, but he’s not been able to find his putting stroke. He ranked second to last at the Honda in SG: Putting (but still finished 11th there). I do like Casey this week however as he gained confidence with his putter in Mexico over the final two rounds (gained nearly four strokes over the field over two rounds). Good recent Florida form and solid ninth at Bay Hill last season.
Thomas Pieters ($8,700): Leads tour in Strokes Gained: Approaches on year and is another player who could absolutely blitz this course if the greens remain soft. Pieters did play at Bay Hill last year as well, which bodes well as no debutant has won this event since Robert Gamez in 1990. Pieters is also 11th in Birdie or Better percentage which always makes him great for DraftKings play.
Others: Francesco Molinari, Henrik Stenson
Tony Finau ($7,600): Top 30 in birdie or Better for the year and coming off his best finish ever in Florida which should give him some confidence. I don’t want to oversell the soft course angle but Finau would absolutely benefit from slightly slower/softer greens. Led the field in SG: tee to green last week and should benefit from wider fairways at Bay Hill. Gives you great shot at the eagle bonus on DraftKings this week with the four shorter par 5’s.
Russell Henley ($7,000): Played great in three of four rounds last week and was also T4 in birdies for the week. Has really improved off the tee and approach stats this year and his putting is still elite. Henley almost always goes overlooked in DFS and is priced way too cheap this week for a player with elite tee to green AND putting stats. He should also benefit from a soft course as it would put less pressure on a somewhat shaky short game.
Marc Leishman: ($6,800): Too cheap for a player who ranks second in SG: Putting and 20th in birdie or better percentage. Leishman has been crazy consistent this year making four of five cuts and never finishing worse than 27th or better than 20th. Eventually he’ll crack a big week and he’s gone low at Bay Hill before, finishing as high as 3rd back in 2011.
Harris English ($6,700): Big time improvement after round one last week. English has a decent record at this event, which includes opening with a 66 and 68 in 2015. Has length and enough short game skill to take advantage of the par 5’s here and ranks 41st in Birdies or Better despite slow start to season.
Other: Graeme McDowell, Kevin Kisner
High Upside Tournament Picks
Rickie Fowler ($9,900): With many focusing on Stenson’s record or Rory’s return to form Rickie should be in a spot to be 15% owned or less in big gpps on DraftKings. He has a third from this event from back in 2013 and comes in with great Florida form (won the Honda event) and great putting stats on Bermuda grass.
David Lingmerth ($6,700): Lingmerth is always a player I want to target on DraftKings in the Florida swing, and even though he let me down at PGA National, he’s someone I can’t overlook for gpps this week. Lingmerth got on track at the Valspar with a 27th and hasn’t missed a cut at this event in four attempts. Isn’t afraid of competing in birdie-fest either as he’s nearly won the Career Builder twice at scores of 20 under par or better.
Anirban Lahiri ($6,700): Fits in with the theme of the week in that we want players who have some Florida form and who can make a ton of birdies for us on DraftKings. Lahari is fourth in Birdie or Better percentage in 2017 and posted a solid 11th at the Honda Classic three weeks ago. Led the field in birdies last week at the Euro Tour event in India.
Other: Sean O’Hair, Bud Cauley
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters, Tony Finau, Russell Henley, Tyrell Hatton, Marc Leishman
– Anirban Lahari, David Lingmerth, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Kisner, Francesco Molinari, Sean O’Hair, Bud Cauley
Thomas Pieters 33-1
Paul Casey 33-1
Marc Leishman 100-1
Russell Henley 66-1