What: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
Where: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Florida
When: March 15th-18th
Defending Champion: Marc Leishman
FedEx Cup Points and Purse: 500 and $8,900,000
Another incredible week on TOUR has gone by, as Paul Casey snagged his first win since 2009, and Tiger Woods gave us the show we were all waiting for. We knew Tiger had this in him, and he comes away with a great T2 finish. In back to back weeks we’ve seen Phil Mickelson break a near five-year championship drought, and now Casey broke his nine-year drought. With Tiger teeing it up again next week, you’ve got to wonder if the drought-breaking streak continues.
Last Week’s Results
We move to Bay Hill this week as the TOUR stays in Florida. Marc Leishman was the winner here last year by a score of -11. Some foreshadowing for what it might take to have success this week is the fact that Leishman led the field in greens in regulation and was second in strokes gained: putting. Although he didn’t crush the ball off the tee, Leishman got the job done with a strong iron game and great putting. Some characteristics that have really stood out the last few weeks.
At first glance, the API this year (Arnold Palmer Invitational) is stacked with powerhouses with nearly all of the world’s top-30 is competing. Since this is an invitational event, we will see some young amateur talent with names like Doc Redman, Curtis Luck, Collin Morikawa, and Sam Horsfield. All players under 21 years old. Of course, they’re not fantasy relevant, but it speaks to the diversity of the field this week.
This Week’s Picks
Tiger Woods: Finally. Tiger is an EIGHT-time winner at Bay Hill, with another six top-25 finishes. He has been increasingly better and is showing absolutely zero signs of slowing down. Tiger’s long irons and putting are good enough to get the job done this week as he continues to work on his driver. What’s very impressive is that Tiger recorded a T2 last week at the Valspar after having never played there before. Woods still may not even be that expensive in your leagues, so get him in.
Jason Day: This will be just his third start since late-January, but he’s won the Farmers and placed T2 at Pebble Beach. He leads the TOUR in strokes gained: putting and placed T11 in both of his events last October. The Aussie was the 2016 API winner and has made five cuts in a row here with another three top-25s to go along with that.
Justin Rose: At Bay Hill since 2011, Rose has posted five top-15 finishes and finished second in 2013. On the PGA TOUR this season, Rose is perfect with four cuts made with a win, three top-10s, and a T37 at the WGC-Mexico. The 37-year-old is 11th in strokes gained: putting, 17th in scrambling, seventh in scoring average, and eighth in birdie average. This would be his fourth worldwide win in 10 starts.
Tommy Fleetwood: Fleetwood finished T10 at the API last year, and that was even with a round-one finish of 78. He has zero missed cuts in his last 13 starts worldwide, which includes a win and seven top-10 finishes. Since the Genesis Open, his alternating finishes of T37, fourth, and T14 leave something to be desired, but that’s the whole reason why he should be in your lineups this week. Fleetwood is fourth in adjusted scoring on TOUR this season.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The 28-year-old Thailand native hasn’t missed a worldwide cut in 18 events. This run includes three wins (one from last weekend by a six-stroke margin on the Asian Tour), another five top-5s, and another five top-25s. He’s placed T6 in both of his appearances at the API and is perfect with three cuts made this season. He’s also coming off a T5 at the WGC-Mexico in his last PGA event.
Alex Noren: In six PGA appearances this season, Noren has not finished any worse than T31. Oh, and he’s made all of his cuts. This strong play includes five top-25s with a solo second-place finish, a solo third-place finish, and four other top-21s. The Swede has just one appearance at the API, which was a T49. Some encouraging metrics from Noren’s season so far are that he is eighth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, fourth in strokes gained: total, third in scoring average, and fourth in strokes gained: Even his 21st rank in strokes gained: putting is encouraging for this tournament.
Hideki Matsuyama: It’s odd to rank such a talented golfer this low on a weekly preview, but the recent wrist injury for Hideki is a little scary. His best finish at the API is a T6 in 2016, and he’s posted two top-5s and an additional T4 this season. It’s hard to take a risk in a salary-cap points league (especially since WD’s get you no points on Fantrax’s game), but if you’re willing to do it, then Matsuyama could pay off greatly. It’s a classic boom or bust. He’s fifth in strokes gained: tee-to-green and second in strokes gained: approach-the-green.
Emiliano Grillo: Grill has been playing well lately after some questionable play in 2017. He owns a T8 and a sixth-place finish in his last two starts around the world. What’s held Grillo back is his inability to finish lately. At the Hero Indian Open where he finished sixth, he actually led the tournament after the first two rounds. And although he finished T7 at the API last year, he crumbled with a third-round 78. Grillo does rank in the top-20 in strokes gained: putting, however.
Adam Scott: In nine API appearances, Scott has placed in the top-25 four times and in the top-15 three times. Scott has shown us some nice finishes lately with a T13 and a T16 his last two times out. He ranks sixth on TOUR in strokes gained: approach-the-green, but what sets him back a bit this week is whether or not his early-season putting struggles can be corrected. Scott’s best finish here is third place, which he recorded in 2004 and 2014.
Francesco Molinari: In four trips to the API, the Italian has posted three top-10s to go along with a T17. He’s coming off a very nice T25 at the WGC-Mexico that could spark some momentum after a missed cut at the Genesis. Prior to that missed cut, he finished T46, eighth, T45, and T40 from October to February.
Jason Kokrak: Kokrak is the perfect sleeper this week, as no one really realizes how well this guy is playing. If you can believe it, he has already played a whopping 11 events on TOUR this year and has missed only one cut. This includes six top-25s and three top-10s. Highlights include a T7 at the Sanderson Farms and two T8s at the CareerBuilder and Valspar. He’s also shown finishes of fourth and T6 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, at the API. Kokrak ranks 21st in scrambling, 18th in scoring average, and has posted the sixth most birdies on TOUR this season.
Brandt Snedeker: It’s not often a well-known golf name falls into a sleeper list, but Brandt is definitely pushed out this week with all of the other firepower in front of him. Snedeker has made a monstrous 12 starts at the API with just two missed cuts. It was an unfortunate final-round 78 that saw him drop to T31 at the Valspar, but he played great the rest of the week. Snedeker also ranks 12th in strokes gained: putting. See if you can sneak him into your lineups this week!
Here are some other names to consider since we are going to see a great field this week: Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, and Tyrell Hatton.