If someone told me a few years ago that three Canadians would win on TOUR before Graham DeLaet, I’d tell them they were crazy. I would have also assumed David Hearn was one of them. Instead, we now have Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, and Mackenzie Hughes as PGA TOUR winners while DeLaet is still stuck on ZERO.
On the bright side, that is another win for a breakout candidate. On the flip side, I thought Hadwin was a good golfer to swerve last week due to high ownership and terrible metrics at Innisbrook Resort. Instead, we saw the Copperhead Course play in calm conditions, and lose a bit of its bite. That may be the reason the leaderboard looked like a glorified Web.com Tour leaderboard, or maybe it was due to all the stars being fatigued/ill from their week in Mexico. Whatever the reason I’m ready to regroup and move onto the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The story line for the week so far is golfers skipping this event, the first year after the death of Arnold Palmer. The people who are upset about this are also the same people that tell you that you’re an awful person for voting for a particular candidate and also try to tell you what beer you should drink. I like stouts and porters but I don’t mock you if you drink a disgusting IPA. I also won’t mock any golfer that doesn’t honor the King (Arnie, not Elvis) this week in Orlando.
Check that, as I was writing this, FanDuel officially launched their golf product, so that will be the story line, for DFSers, anyway.
Onto the good stuff. This week’s course is Bay Hill Club & Lodge. It’s a par 72 course that plays over 7,400 yards. Pretty lengthy just by the raw yardage. Then you look at a few of the holes and realize it plays even longer. The par-4 5th and par-4 13th pretty much force a layup off the tee while the par-4 10th and par-4 11th also invite golfers to club down to less-than-driver. There are also five par 4s over 455 yards. Combined, this tells us that long-iron play will be key this week.
We want golfers that can excel on bermuda greens, but more importantly we want Florida specialists. These golfers are able to deal with water hazards and heavy bunkering.
It’s no cakewalk once you reach the green, either, as these greens are typically running 12-to-12.6 on the stimp. Have a look at Fast Green Specialists. A few years ago, G-Mac said this, “I heard a comment to where Arnie kind of wants it to play as a U.S. Open off the tee and Augusta-esque around the greens.”
We should also remember that the greens suffered worm damage ahead of the 2015 edition so they weren’t up to usual speeds that year. Last year, they were playing on fresh TifEagle Bermuda, but as we know from the past, baby grass often needs a few years to mature and get up to PGA TOUR standards. For that reason, I would weight course history over the last few years a little less, especially if a golfer gained most of their strokes on or around the green.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more course details and/or tournament info.
When browsing for correlated events, the five that stood out were Doral, THE PLAYERS, The Masters, The Memorial, and the U.S. Open.
Players to Watch
Henrik Stenson… The Swede can be summed up here by this one quote he had last year when asked why Bay Hill fits his eye, “Lot of mid-to-long irons both on par 3s and into the par 4s and also on the par 5s a lot of times you got long irons and that’s one of the strengths of my game when I’m playing well, I hit good mid-to-long irons and that’s what you got to do around here to give yourself birdie chances. It’s a good course for me in that sense. The same as last week in Tampa, really. It’s two good weeks for me.” Sleeping in his own bed this week, Stenson will be heavy chalk this week, but for a very good reason.
Jason Day… Skipped Mexico due to a plethora of illnesses (what’s new?). It turned out to be a great move. Even if he wasn’t ill, there is no way he would have escaped Mexico, considering his fragile immune system. Now he’s back as the defending champ here. If DJ and/or Spieth were in the field, Day might have gotten the cold shoulder, making him an appealing play. However, I’m guessing he will be popular in DFS since DJ & Spieth are sitting this week out. That has me on the fence.
Kevin Na… Really crapped the bed last week in Tampa. That was after he sat out the Pro-Am due to illness. Perhaps the weekend off is just what he needed to get all the Mexico out of his system. I love him as a low-owned bounce-back candidate this week.
Rory McIlroy… He’s had some ups and downs at Bay Hill, swallowing SIX double bogeys last year but also carding TWO eagles in his closing round. The double bogeys were spread out throughout the week but the pair of eagles both came in round four. On the bright side, this will be the first year he’s playing this event where the greens should be normal (worm damage in 2015 and newly laid in 2016). Hard to argue with Rory, especially in the birdie/eagle-heavy DK scoring. On FanDuel, he may be one to slightly swerve if we think he’ll be popular.
Francesco Molinari… Has top 20s in each of his past three visits here. The Italian also has top 20s in eight of his last nine starts worldwide.
Hideki Matsuyama… Don’t let the robot slip through the cracks this week. With a strong track record at Muirfield Village and Augusta, it’s clear that he likes quicker greens. Those fast greens should be on tap this week, allowing his ball-striking to shine.
Amateur Hour… The man-bunned wunderkind Curtis Luck is in the field this week. We will see him next month at Augusta where he will likely be playing his last event as an amateur. He’s already played a nice schedule overseas and that’s allowed him to play with (and against) some nice competition. He’s stacked up alright, making him an interesting sleeper this week. Another amateur you’ll find near the top of any ranking is Matthias Schwab. He’s a senior at Vandy, currently ranked 4th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and 8th on the Sagarin College Rank Ratings. I think both are worth a look this week but expectations should also be kept at a reasonable level.
Other youngsters (but no longer amateurs) that should not be lightly glossed over include Robby Shelton and Ryan Ruffels. Both have the pedigree but no status on TOUR right now.
Sean O’Hair… Want to roll the dice a bit? O’Hair is coming off a mid-tournament WD w/ a neck injury. However, he is 9-for-11 here at Bay Hill with all nine paychecks landing in the top 40.
Jason Kokrak… In 14 rounds at Bay Hill, he’s gained 14.9 strokes approaching-the-green. He’s posted three top 20s in four visits, despite losing strokes on the putting surface. If he can find his flat stick for one or two rounds, then he could finally find the winner’s circle. That would be another Canadian-born golfer that does so before Graham DeLaet.
Zach Johnson… Much like Na, he plays surprisingly well on lengthy par 72s. Sometimes we can chalk that up to great long-iron play, but sometimes it’s just course management. ZJ knows how to plot his way around a golf course. I like him more on FanDuel, but he’s definitely one to consider this week.
Alex Noren… His game has never really translated to North America, but a smart play might be to hop back on Noren this week. His play over the last few years on the Euro Tour certainly warrants the attention.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational
1. Henrik Stenson
2. Rory Mcilroy
3. Justin Rose
4. Hideki Matsuyama
5. Jason Day
6. Zach Johnson
7. Paul Casey
8. Rickie Fowler
9. Kevin Na
10. Francesco Molinari
11. Tyrrell Hatton
12. Louis Oosthuizen
13. Charl Schwartzel
14. Keegan Bradley
15. Marc Leishman
16. Brandt Snedeker
17. Emiliano Grillo
18. Billy Horschel
19. Graeme Mcdowell
20. Ryan Moore
21. Harris English
22. Chris Kirk
23. Jason Kokrak
24. Charles Howell III
25. Wesley Bryan