The Florida Swing is known for producing entertaining golf tournaments which is certainly what golf fans were treated to last week at the Honda Classic. Sungjae Im managed to hold off the challenge of Tommy Fleetwood and Mackenzie Hughes to earn his first PGA Tour title thanks to a typically aggressive display of flag hunting. The South Korean remains in Florida for another crack of the whip but will compete against an even stronger field this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Hideki Matsuyama is of the big name players in the field this week who has played well at Bay Hill before and is all set for another big week. He has beaten world class fields before and the quality of his long game suggests he’s in line for another big week in Florida.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational will always be a memorial to the great man himself. You’ll hear plenty of mentions of Palmer throughout the TV coverage and although he wasn’t the original designer of the par 72 layout, he had a major impact on the way it plays. Palmer was at the head of a lot of renovation work carried out in 2009 and continued to make changes up until his death in 2016.
More recently, Chris Flynn has made some restorative changes to Bay Hill with the aim of taking it back to the original design. The new superintendent’s handiwork will be seen this week but they are relatively minor so this remains an incredibly fair, well-balanced test of golf.
Few courses on the PGA Tour are held in such high regard as Bay Hill. The event organisers allow the rough to get as long as four inches so hitting the fairways is important whilst the greens at Bay Hill are some of the toughest to hit on the PGA Tour. Therefore, a top class display of approach play and a solid short game are required to score well. Finally, the greens can run to as fast as 13 on the Stimpmeter so confidence with the putter is a necessity to avoid those damaging three putts.
|Bay Hill Club and Lodge||Bay Hill, Florida||7,454 Yards||$9,300,000|
Bay Hill is a proper test of golf but as the list of recent winners below shows, it’s a course at which top class golfers can score well. In many ways, Francesco Molinari is a typical winner of this event. He was absolutely wonderful from tee to green last year and putted with real confidence. Longer hitters such as Rory McIlroy and Jason Day have put their power to good use by following up their drives with top class irons and wedges into the greens whist Matt Every earned a second surprise win in as many years in 2015.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2019||Francesco Molinari||-12||2 Strokes|
|2018||Rory McIlroy||-18||3 Stokes|
|2017||Marc Leishman||-11||1 Stroke|
|2016||Jason Day||-17||1 Stroke|
|2015||Matt Every||-19||1 Stoke|
Analysis: Look for Value from the Top of the Betting
Matt Every is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to recent winners at Bay Hill in as much as players towards the top of the betting have a good record in this event. The quality of the field, the importance of this prize to so many players and the challenge of the course means that it makes sense to focus on the top section of the betting market once again.
Matsuyama Coming to the Boil Nicely
One of the most important elements for success in the Arnold Palmer Invitational is previous form at Bay Hill. It’s a tricky course which takes supreme skill for it to be mastered and experiencing the course a few times can really help. That was the case for Francesco Molinari who played well at Bay Hill before his win and we may see something similar this week with Hideki Matsuyama.
The Japanese superstar has played in each of the last five editions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, making the cut on each occasion. His best performance came back in 2016 when he finished sixth but Matsuyama arrives at Bay Hill playing better than he has for some time so now may be the perfect time for him to get over the line.
The stats look good for those backing Matsuyama at 20/1 with bet365. He ranks third for strokes gained tee-to-green, sixth for strokes gained approaching the green and seventh for strokes gained around the green. The only glaring issue is his putter but if he holds it together on the greens, his all round game may well prove to be good enough for him to earn the win.
Fitzpatrick to Contend Again
Like Matsuyama, Matt Fitzpatrick has played five times previous at Bay Hill. His lows are lower than Matsuyama with two missed cuts but his highs are higher too with a runner up finish last year. The 25 year old hasn’t really fired in America lately after a very good run of form on the European Tour but there is a feeling that his best game is tantalisingly close.
Billy Foster is one of the main reasons behind Fitzpatrick’s very good play over the last year or so. He was relatively new on Fitzpatrick’s bag at Bay Hill last year and the two are an even more formidable duo this time around. He has everything required to compete again and looks a good each way bet at 50/1 with Betfred.
Final Verdict: Hideki Matsuyama to Win
Matt Fitzpatrick is looking very good for a repeat of his performance from 12 months ago but the best way of supporting him in the betting is with an each way bet at 50/1 with Betfred. When it comes to a straight win bet, Hideki Matsuyama represents very good value towards the head of the market at 20/1 with bet365.
About the Arnold Palmer Invitational
The PGA Tour is one of the most successful organisations in all of sport. The best golfers in the world are genuine superstars and earn millions of dollars every year. It is a million miles away from the tour that Arnold Palmer joined in 1954 but he is the man who many credit as being the spark for the modern game.
Palmer was one of the most widely respected and adored golfers of all time. It was his victories in 62 PGA Tour events and seven major championships that earned him that respect but it was the force of his personality and his character that earned him the adulation.
Without Palmer’s swashbuckling style that entertained millions and saw the formation of his loyal band of followers known as Arnie’s Army, the PGA Tour would not exist in its current format. He paved the way for future stars such as Tiger Woods and his legacy very much lives on, including with the tournament that bears his name, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
A Top Class Tournament at Arnie’s Place
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of just five invitation-only events on the PGA Tour, with others including the RBC Heritage and the Memorial Tournament. The criteria for getting a place in the Arnold Palmer Invitational ensures a high class field. It starts with the previous 20 winners of the tournament, includes the last five years’ worth of major champions and Players Championship winners, PGA Tour winners in the last year and the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
The high tariff of entry only works because this is such a well-regarded event. The draw of playing in Arnold Palmer’s event and the prize fund which reached $9.3 million in 2020 are both important factors, but arguably the biggest draw of all is the chance to play at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
Bay Hill is among the most popular courses used by the PGA Tour, largely because it is such a fair, all round test of golf. Unlike some courses which reward power or putting above all other elements of the game, Bay Hill tests every facet of a golfer’s game during a round. That much was ensured by Palmer who bought the Florida club in 1974 and was famed for making constant changes to the layout to ensure it was up to the rigours of hosting top level golf tournaments.
Although Palmer sadly died in 2016, Bay Hill remains in his family and there are memories of the great man all around the course. From his golf bag including his clubs and featuring his trademark umbrella logo on the corner of the driving range to pictures and memorabilia of his career, you can’t miss the fact that this is Arnie’s event at Arnie’s place.
Every’s 19,800/1 Double
Arnold Palmer used to ensure that he was always in town to host his tournament. That led to the much loved tradition of the host shaking hands with the winner as they walked off the 18th green. Matt Every was one of the lucky few to get to take part in that tradition, in fact he managed to do it twice in two years.
It’s fair to say that Every was not everybody’s idea of a likely winner before his first win in 2014. He was yet to win on the PGA Tour and was best known for being arrested for marijuana possession. He wasn’t even fancied by the bookies at the start of the weekend but made the most of some good luck on his part and horrible luck on the part of Adam Scott to claim his maiden PGA Tour win and get that much coveted handshake.
Every’s form pretty much fell off a cliff after his 300/1 win in the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational so when he returned to Bay Hill he was priced at 66/1 with the bookies to win again. However, he played even better than in 2014, finishing with a score of -19 which was enough to defend his title and complete a double that would have been worth almost 20,000/1!
The Arnold Palmer Invitational will always be a special tournament for Every but it hasn’t always been kind to him. In 2020, it looked as though history was about to repeat itself as a bang out of form Every led the way after the first day’s play. His joy was short lived though as he went from hero to zero by following up his first round of 65 with an 83 on Friday that saw him miss the cut.
United States Dominates… Until Recently
Of the 55 renewals of the tournament up to an including the 2020 tournament, only 10 have been own by non-US players. The home advantage could be turning though: the five tournaments from 2016 to 2020 were all won by non-US players.