Hello again PGA family and thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller! It seemed inevitable that Sungjae Im would soon win on the PGA Tour and the "hardest working man in golf" pulled it off Sunday at the Honda Classic, as the 21-year-old thrived in what was a pressure-packed back nine down the stretch to finish one-shot clear of Mackenzie Hughes and two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood. This would appear to be the first of many wins for Im, a player that was dominant during his time on the Korn Ferry Tour and earned Rookie of the Year honors for his consistent maiden voyage on the PGA Tour last season.
It was a mixed bag for last week's Horses, as we nailed Daniel Berger and his top-five finish, as well as Wyndham Clark's strong T11. Unfortunately, both Rickie Fowler and Luke List missed the cut, while Billy Horschel logged an underwhelming T42. A course as tough as PGA National, with the windy conditions players faced last week, causes some high volatility from a DFS perspective. This week we head to another great track on the "Florida Swing" - Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club!
Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!
Arnold Palmer Invitational Overview
Sadly, Arnold Palmer is no longer with us, but one of the many ways his spirit lives on is through the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The API is an "elevated status" event, which means a smaller-than-normal field of 120, a huge purse, and a three-year exemption to the winner instead of the standard two-year status that comes with most PGA Tour wins. To state it simply, this tournament is a big deal.
The API annually draws one of the strongest fields we'll see outside of the majors, and this year is no different, as players like Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, and Xander Schauffele are just some of the stars that will be in attendance. We'll also see some of golf's most exciting young players, with Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, and last week's winner Sungjae Im all set to tee it up at Bay Hill. The field, the wonderful Bay Hill layout, and Arnie's memory always make this a special week and I'm really looking forward to it. Let's tee it up!
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The Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Par 72 - 7,454 Yards, Greens: Bermuda
Arnold Palmer fell in love with this course over 50 years ago and it still holds up in the modern era. Similar to last week's host course PGA National, water and sand are prominent at Bay Hill. It's long at just over 7,400 yards, but players can't just bomb away, as some tee shots require lay-ups and a fairly penal rough guards the fairways.
This is a second-shot golf course and those approaches often require longer irons than we normally see on the PGA Tour schedule. One of the reasons Tiger Woods has dominated at Bay Hill throughout the years is his phenomenal iron game from 200-plus yards out. We usually see this tournament play as one of the 10-most difficult courses on the Tour schedule, but while it's hard, it is still possible for golfers to go low here. Players that are great long-iron players are my priority this week, while the ability to make birdies in bunches is also a must.
Rory McIlroy (DraftKings - $11,800)
Notable Course History: T6 ('19), Win ('18), T4 ('17), T27 ('16), T11 ('15)
It took about 2.6 seconds to decide on who should be this week's Horse. It's often a decision that I struggle with, but not this week. Rory McIlroy has a sterling track record in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with a win in 2018 sandwiched between a T4 in '17 and a T6 last year.
As if his course history wasn't enough, McIlroy heads to Bay Hill in razor-sharp form. Since winning the TOUR Championship in August, McIlroy has made five starts which have resulted in one win and no finishes outside of the top-five. He's averaging a ridiculous 7.9 SG: T2G over his last five tournaments. In addition to his superlative tee-to-green play, the world's number one has also shored up his sometimes-balky putting stroke as of late, and has gained strokes putting in eight of his last nine.
Even in a field full of elite players, McIlroy still stands out as a cut above the rest this week. He leads this API field in SG: Total over both long and short-term measurements. His combination of astounding course history and unbelievable current form isn't something that we see very often. His DFS price tag is the only thing that should give us any pause about Rory this week.
Bryson DeChambeau (DraftKings - $10,400)
Notable Course History: T46 ('19), 2nd ('18), T27 ('16)
Bryson DeChambeau's track record at Bay Hill isn't as "elite" as I normally require for this article...but the combination of his very solid history in the API and his red-hot trending form makes him worth including in this week's HFTC.
The "Mad Scientist" did notch a runner-up finish in this event two years ago and has never missed an API cut in three starts - so I don't want to totally gloss over his track record at Bay Hill - but I'm definitely giving him the benefit of the doubt due to recent form that includes a top-five at the Genesis Invitational and a second at the WGC Mexico. Lots of folks (me included) have had some laughs at Bryson's expense due to his offseason "bulk up" plan, but he's currently getting the last laugh, as his plan actually appears to be working. DeChambeau currently stands fourth on the PGA Tour in average Driving Distance at 322 yards and comes in fifth on the Tour in scoring average.
While Bryson's driver is getting the bulk of the attention, his recent iron play can't be ignored. He's gained 3.5 (Genesis) and 2.3 (WGC Mexico) strokes on approach in his last two starts and will bring that form to a Bay Hill layout that always stresses great iron play.
Henrik Stenson (DraftKings - $8,800)
Notable Course History: T17 ('19), 4th ('18), MC ('17), T3 ('16), 2nd ('15)
Henrik Stenson has pretty much been off the map since a win at the Hero Challenge back in December. The Iceman has only teed it up twice in 2020 with both ending in mediocre results...so a “trending form” narrative definitely doesn’t fit with Stenson this week.
So why are we talking about Stenson? Course history baby! ELITE COURSE HISTORY. In five API starts since 2015, the Swede has THREE finishes of T4 or better. Over long-term measurements, Stenson ranks second in this week’s field in SG: Approach and 10th in Proximity from 200-plus yards, and has been perhaps the best iron player in the world for the better part of the past decade.
I don’t want to completely gloss over the lack of recent form, but we can take a bit of comfort in the fact that Stenson entered last year’s API in similar form (with similar inactivity) and played well enough to log a T17.
Tyrell Hatton (DraftKings - $8,100)
Notable Course History: T29 ('19), T64 ('18), T4 ('17)
We touched on Tyrell Hatton in this article a couple of weeks ago at the WGC-Mexico Championship. There was a bit of concern going into that event due to a lengthy winter layoff due to wrist surgery - a scary injury for any golfer - but the Englishman didn’t skip a beat in his first start of 2020, racking up a T6 in Mexico.
Hatton struck the ball beautifully at Chapultepec, gaining four strokes on Approach and over 10 strokes T2G. He brings those hot irons to a Bay Hill layout on which he’s ran off three straight made cuts, including a top-five finish in 2017. Hatton is often tough to peg statistically, but one area that does stand out is his approach prowess from 200-plus yards, an area in which he ranks 12th in this week’s field over his last 24 rounds.
Patrick Rodgers (DraftKings - $6,600)
Notable Course History: T46 ('19), T7 ('18), MC ('17), T20 ('16)
I know this is a strong, elite field, but man Patrick Rodgers feels really underpriced here at just $6.6k. His API track record is solid: three made cuts in four appearances since 2016 with a T7 and a T20.
We are also catching Rodgers in what qualifies as great form for him, as he's made six of seven cuts in 2020 with a top-10 at the Farmers. He heads to Bay Hill fresh off a T21 at the Honda last week in what was his best ballstriking performance of the year. Rodgers gained 3.5 strokes on Approach at PGA National and if he can continue that hot play with his irons this week he has a great chance of snagging a made cut for us at this drastically discounted price tag.