This article is part of our Yahoo DFS Golf series.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bay Hill Club & Lodge - Par 72 - 7,466 yards
Field - 123 entrants
Purse - $9.3M
It's pretty crazy to think an entire calendar year has passed since the last Arnold Palmer Invitational, which served as the final completed event before the pandemic halted operations and caused all sorts of uncertainty before the PGA returned from a three-month hiatus in June. Vicious gusts accompanied sustained wind at Arnie's place throughout the 2020 edition of the API as scoring conditions were thwarted, leaving only four total entrants in red numbers, including Tyrrell Hatton, who found the winner's circle at just four-under-par.
The Bay Hill Club figures to once again show its teeth as 3.5-inch rough exaggerates the difficulty of hitting approaches into firm greens, while water comes into play on half the property. Inflating the par-72 layout's length, all four par-3s measure over 200 yards as prowess with long irons becomes even more preeminent of a factor for returning value. Lousy weather should hold off until Saturday, when precipitation is slated to soften the course before a stronger breeze arrives Sunday for the final-round gauntlet.
Key Stats to Victory
Proximity: 200-plus yards
SG: Putting (Bermuda)
Yahoo Value Picks
Based on $200 salary cap
Cream of the Crop
Rory McIlroy - $47
A return to familiar Floridian Bermuda greens at the WGC-Workday Championship allowed McIlroy to gain 2.5 strokes putting at The Concession, which marked a positive 6.8 stroke swing from the flat-stick issues that caused him to miss the cut at the Genesis Invitational one week earlier. McIlroy, who sandwiched his dominant three-shot victory at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational with a T4 in 2017 and a T6 in 2019, managed to collect another top-5 result last year at Bay Hill in much tougher conditions. He's gained an average of four feet in proximity on his approach shots from 175-200 yards over his last five measured events and he ranks second on the PGA Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee this season.
Viktor Hovland - $46
In seven international starts dating to a win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Hovland has finished outside of the top-6 just once with a pair of runner-up finishes included along this impressive stretch. The Oklahoma State product repped his signature orange during Sunday's final round at The Concession en route to a T2, ultimately ranking second in SG: Off-the-Tee while also gaining over 8.6 strokes on his approaches throughout the tournament. Hovland ranks second in SG: Approach over his past 12 rounds and he hasn't been on the negative side of SG: OTT in any showing since the PGA Championship last August, but he's also gained strokes putting in three straight events.
Tyrrell Hatton - $45
The defending champion absolutely battled throughout his final 36 holes at Bay Hill last year to pick up his maiden victory on the PGA Tour, despite playing Rounds 3 and 4 in over-par fashion. He's since ascended as high as No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, collecting additional wins on the European Tour at the BMW PGA Championship and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Hatton has gained no less than 2.2 strokes with his irons in five consecutive measured events and he's 16th on Tour in SG: Putting.
Matthew Fitzpatrick - $34
The board would exhibit more competitive balance if Fitzpatrick were swapped with Harris English at $46, as the former has no business down here in this range on Yahoo while hiking all the way up to 18/1 outright at multiple books listed on OddsChecker.com. Fitzpatrick could be the most popular selection as a result of this discrepancy in odds and form versus salary, but it's impossible to fade him despite the potential for massive exposure. He's gained strokes across the board in back-to-back starts, finishing T5-T11 at the Genesis Invitational and the WGC-Workday Championship. The Englishman thrives on bermuda greens and doesn't mind windy conditions, creating a perfect storm for continued success at Bay Hill where he's placed top-10 in consecutive years.
Billy Horschel - $34
Horschel matched the aforementioned Hovland's 15-under-par performance at the WGC-Workday Championship last week, carding just six total bogeys in 72 holes while ranking 21st or better in every Strokes Gained subcategory and T2 in GIR percentage. The former Florida Gator doesn't launch it exceptionally far with driver, but he's managed to gain a combined 9.2 strokes off the tee in his last two starts. Additionally, Horschel is 15th in putting from inside 10 feet, 18th in putting from 15-20 feet and 14th in par-3 scoring average.
Will Zalatoris - $34
My only two concerns with Zalatoris involve a lack of Bay Hill experience and a busy schedule with zero weeks off since a T7 at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, but he's one of the best ball-strikers in the API field and his $34 salary doesn't tell that story. The runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year is eighth on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green, 10th in SG: Approach, 15th in driving distance and 16th in par-5 scoring. Zalatoris posted a top-25 finish last week at The Concession despite losing nearly five strokes putting and he's second in proximity from 200-plus yards over his past 36 rounds.
Sam Burns - $29
Coming off a solo-third at the Genesis Invitational where he finished third in SG: Approach and fourth in SG: Putting, Burns has now placed top-40 in six of seven starts dating to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open while rising to a career-best 78th in the OWGR. The former first-team All-American out of LSU grades exponentially well with the flat stick on bermuda surfaces and he made the cut in each of his first three career trips to Bay Hill. Aside from SG: Around-the-Green, Burns ranks no worse than 18th in any Strokes Gained category over his last 24 rounds.
Francesco Molinari - $28
The 2019 API champion owns top-10 finishes in more than half of his total visits to Arnie's place, but Molinari's also notched three top-10s in four showings since the American Express to match his course history with quality recent form. The Italian is 20th in SG: Approach over his last 12 rounds, residing 14th in proximity from over 200 yards during this span as well. On the season, Molinari ranks 19th in SG: Around-the-Green, 21st in SG: Tee-to-Green, 25th in overall proximity and sixth in scrambling.
Cameron Davis - $25
It feels important to include an Aussie with winds expected to amplify throughout the weekend in Orlando, so Davis gets the final nod here. The lanky 26-year-old is second to none in average feet gained in proximity per approach from 200-plus yards over his last 24 rounds, while such elite long-iron play has allowed him to gain 4.3 or more strokes on his approach shots in three of his past four starts. Davis has been erratic with the flat stick in 2021, but he showed flashes of his putting capabilities with 5.4 strokes gained on the greens at the American Express and 4.5 strokes gained at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to ultimately post solo-third and T14 finishes amidst an ongoing streak of five consecutive made cuts.