Arnold Palmer Invitational odds, preview, and course notes
Coming off his stunning win in the WGC-Workday Championship, Collin Morikawa, and a few other top golfers, will sit out this weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational to focus on golf’s “fifth major.”
While next weekend’s Players Championship will feature a tougher field, the 56th-annual Arnold Palmer Invitational still comes packed with competition. World No. 8 Rory McIlroy (the +800 favorite), defending champion Tyrrell Hatton, and Bryson DeChambeau headline a group of 123 players who will confront the par-72, 7,419-yard Bay Hill course designed by Dick Wilson in 1961.
2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational favorites
Arnold Palmer Invitational layout and relevant statistics
In 2009, “the King” himself renovated Wilson’s design, and re-grassed the greens with TifEagle Bermuda in 2015. Palmer’s layout features 84 bunkers, three inches of over-seeded Bermuda rough, giant, speedy greens, and menacing water hazards throughout the course.
In 2019, 94 balls found the water in the first round alone. The par 5 sixth hole has been especially penal, as it has produced 23 scores in the double digits since 1983. Famously, John Daly carded an 18 on the hole in 1998.
Approach play and putting will be especially important at this second-shot course. The past three winners at the tournament — Hatton (2020), Francesco Molinari (2019), and McIlroy (2018) — all ranked in the top 15 in strokes gained putting at this event, while they ranked in the top 13 in strokes gained tee to green, top seven in scrambling, and top three in par 3 scoring and bogey avoidance.
Bay Hill includes 10 par 4s, ranging from 382 yards to 480, four par 3s, between 199 yards and 231, and four par 5s, from 511 yards to 590.
Eleven of the last 14 winners ranked inside the top 60 on tour in par 5 scoring average and strokes gained tee to green. Twelve of the last 14 champions ranked in the top 60 on tour for birdie average.
Best bets for Arnold Palmer Invitational
It’s not unthinkable for Hatton to repeat as champion, considering back-to-back winners are somewhat common at the tournament.
Matt Every won in 2014 and 2015, and Loren Roberts went back to back in 1994 and 1995. Eight-time Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Tiger Woods scored four straight from 2000-2003, then claimed consecutive titles in 2008 and 2009, and 2012 and 2013.
Jerry Heard (1972, 1974) and Ernie Els (1998, 2010) needed a span of three years to collect two wins each.
Hatton posted a 22nd-place finish at the Workday and has achieved two top 10s (including a win) on the European Tour this season.
The 29-year-old English golfer ranks 11th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained approaching the green and is tied for 16th in strokes gained putting.
In addition to last year’s win, he scored a fourth-place finish at this tournament in 2017 and placed 29th in 2019.
Another previous Arnold Palmer Invitational winner, Molinari (+2800), could announce his comeback in style this weekend.
After a down year in 2020, Molinari has achieved three top 10s in his last four appearances on tour this season. He has also landed four top 10s and five top 25s at this tournament, dating back to 2014.
Also, look out for Sungjae Im (+2200), who finished third in his two appearances (2019, 2020) at this tournament.
How to watch the Arnold Palmer Invitational
The winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational will receive $1.674 million of a $9.3 million purse, along with 550 FedEx Cup points and a three-year PGA Tour exemption.
You can catch the action Thursday and Friday, from 2-6 p.m. ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel. NBC will provide live coverage Saturday and Sunday, from 2:30-6 p.m. ET.