GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Arnold Palmer Invitational | 4th-7th March 2021 | Sky Sports
After back-to-back runner-up places across the Atlantic, we head to a tournament that saw us clinch a 50/1
The PGA Tour's ‘Florida Swing' continues with a mainstay tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, where Tyrrell Hatton clinched his first title outside of Europe, and that meant a trend of non-Americans winning here was maintained.
Indeed, someone of American citizenship has not won this event since 2015 and not since 2005 has someone not named Tiger Woods or Matt Every clinched it for the host country.
That is certainly something to bear in mind, especially with a fairly subpar field making the trip from the Concession last week. Rory McIlroy (9/1) opens the market and wouldn't be a bad player to put all your eggs into, while he's closely followed by Victor Hovland (12/1) and Bryson DeChambeau (12/1) with Hatton (16/1) fourth favourite this time.
Long iron play is certainly key here as the four par-5s are all scoring opportunities that must be taken advantage of, while all four par-3s are between 200-225 yards, thus requiring solid approach play from 200+ yards.
A good putting week often is rewarded with success and many will welcome a return to true Bermuda grass greens.
Wind, water and bunkering are all hazards, which is why we tend to see so many Europeans contend here – there are links to the Emirates (Dubai Desert), the Earth Course (DP World Tour) and Wentworth (BMW PGA).
Back over in America, previous winners have also either won – or strongly contended – at Torrey Pines South (Farmers), PGA National (Honda), Muirfield Village (Memorial), next week's venue TPC Sawgrass (Players), Doral and many more in this neck of the woods (Florida).
Now, onto the picks…
I think his price is very reasonable given he's never won on the PGA Tour, but there are some massive similarities to him and our winning pick last year. Indeed, I'm starting the week with Matt Fitzpatrick (25/1 William Hill)
The Englishman is a reliable putter and absolutely loves these Bermuda greens, a win at the DPWT, lots of high place finishes in Dubai and a runner-up here in 2019, to boot. That's three of four visits that has seen Fitzpatrick finish inside the top-15 here.
He now arrives here in arguably his best form, very much like Hatton who had a T6 the week prior in Mexico – Fitz has gone T5 (Genesis), T11 (WGC) in two events that perhaps maybe do not suit him in terms of length off the tee, yet he's still delivered. Throw in a T3 at the Memorial and T7 at Wentworth last year, the signs say he should go well this week.
Over the last six tournaments, the Englishman ranks 2nd for scoring on these par-3 lengths and among the top 15 for approach play. 25/1 may be skinny for some, but he fits the mould in recent weeks of Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, who have finished runner-up at similar odds.
I also have to back course horse Marc Leishman (45/1 Bet365)
, who is playing some pretty neat stuff right now. Across the board, he ranks first in my model for the week, which is based on statistical fit, form, course history and performance on correlated tracks.
Granted, his performance last week was poor but I'm willing to put that down to being a new venue, whereas he clearly likes Bay Hill having won it in 2017 with a runner-up here to our man, Hatton, last year. The Aussie hasn't missed the cut here in six attempts and hasn't finished outside the top 25, including three finishes that would have drawn a return.
Again, just like Fitz, he's among the best on the par-3s in this bracket, while only eight other players have been better over the last six tournaments for long-iron approaches.
Leish has won at Torrey, has top-5s at Muirfield Village, and has breached the top-20 at PGA National. He's not delivered at Sawgrass in a long time but does own a top-10 there too. After a lacklustre WGC appearance last year, he still managed to push to within one shot of Hatton here, so clearly, this is a place he can just turn it on and I am willing to risk that at these odds.
Jason Day, Francesco Molinari and Sam Burns are all tempting in this region, but for the fellow Aussie, his approach play isn't where it needs to be while the price has gone on the Open winner. The latter is probably my pick of the bunch but I can't help but feel there is better value to be had further down the betting.
Which leads me onto Justin Rose (66/1 Bet365)
, who I think could bounce back on a course he likes. In three of his last nine visits, he's been second or third, and whilst his last two outings here were really poor, it was largely down to putting – indeed, in that same run, he's only lost strokes on approach here once. He has also led the tournament a few times too.
His form has been all over the place in the past year, but just two starts ago he finished runner-up in Saudi to Dustin Johnson (only by one shot too!) and not too long ago, he enjoyed a decent showing at Augusta, a place we know he places well, so perhaps, his game can come together here and great odds.
The Englishman certainly needs to start showing something. There's the Ryder Cup and the Olympics ahead, if he's to defend his gold medal at the latter, then he needs results.
Rose has frequently popped up on correlated courses too – four of seven visits at Muirfield have returned a top-8; three of his last five at the Honda have been inside the top five; he's won Torrey Pines; 8th at the last Players and also has a fourth there too. Not to mention countless glimpses of form over on the ET.
I certainly like him to bounce back over Rickie Fowler, even if he has more on the line in terms of qualifying for the Masters. Rose with eight places is certainly appealing, especially in a field like this.
Lanto Griffin (80/1 Betfair)
makes great appeal as he continues to go under the radar, somewhat. Only once this year has he not gained strokes on approach, and even then, it was marginal (-0.1 at the Genesis).
A seventh at Torrey was followed-up with consecutive top-26 finishes in strong fields, certainly ones that are much more elite than this week.
Again, he's another who is solid with these long irons, so should go well on the par-3s and 5s this week. It is usually his wayward driving that brings him down, but there are more than generous fairways here and that should bring him into contention, should he continue with his impressive approach game.
I'll end with two longshot bets in Henrik Norlander (125/1 William Hill)
and Matt Wallace (125/1 SkyBet)
I think the Swede could bounce back here, with that runner-up at the recent Farmers hugely impressive. That was followed up by two top 26s, and it is that missed cut at the Genesis which has potentially put him back in this bracket. He has lost strokes on approach in just two events since this tournament last year, in which he enjoyed a 6th at Muirfield.
Only three other players are rating out better for approach play in this field over the last six tournaments, while he also sits 9th for GIR. At these odds, it's hard to ignore. Even the 14/1 on Top Continental European draws some appeal.
And we cannot avoid a bet on Matt Wallace, he – unlike many at three-figure odds – is a proven winner and could find his first PGA Tour win at a venue like this – in fact, he's very similar to Hatton in many, many ways.
He was 6th here last year, and has form in rare PGA starts at Muirfield (4th) and PGA National (20th). He even has a third in the USPGA and a 12th in the US Open, both in 2019, so it shows he can certainly mix with the big boys if need be.
So, considering the weak field, he could well outplay these odds and continue the lack of American victories here.
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Matt Fitzpatrick (25/1 each-way William Hill)
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Marc Leishman (45/1 each-way Bet365)
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Justin Rose (66/1 each-way Bet365)
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Lanto Griffin (80/1 each-way Betfair)
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Henrik Norlander (125/1 each-way William Hill)
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Matt Wallace (125/1 each-way SkyBet)