Scott Shapiro's 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational preview

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March 3rd, 2021

The PGA Tour's Florida swing started last week, and Collin Morikawa put on a show at Concession.

Morikawa gained nearly 10 strokes on the field with his irons and combined that with a hot week with his putter to pull away Sunday for his fourth win on the PGA Tour. The victory in Bradenton earned Morikawa more than $1.8 million dollars, and those who backed him at TwinSpires Sportsbook were rewarded with a 40-1 outright price.

Morikawa will take this week off, with the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass next, but there is still a strong group assembled for this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

The field is led by 2018 champion Rory McIlroy, who sits atop the TwinSpires outright market at +800. McIlroy is in solid form, but his approach game will need to be better if he wants to win for the second time at Bay Hill, a course that demands accuracy off the tee and precision with long irons. The four-time major winner is likely to be in the mix Sunday, but is hard to endorse at a short price, because he has struggled to close the deal of late. He has not won since he bested Xander Schauffele in a playoff at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November of 2019.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational was the first of a couple solid scores for yours truly in 2020, as top choice Tyrell Hatton hoisted the trophy at +5000. The Englishman dealt best with the tough conditions and won the event with a winning score of just 4-under. Hatton has a serious chance to win again, but I will lean toward a couple other international players looking to win their first PGA Tour event, much like Hatton did a year ago at Bay Hill.

2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational favorites

Rory McIlroy
Bryson DeChambeau
Viktor Hovland
Tyrrell Hatton
Patrick Reed

Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2200, top 5 +550)

The 26-year-old Fitzpatrick will make his third start of the year on the PGA Tour, after a pair of top 11 finishes to kick off the 2021 season.

A six-time winner on the European Tour, Fitzpatrick not only comes into the Arnold Palmer Invitational in good form, but he has also shown an affinity for Bay Hill. He finished second to Francesco Molinari in 2019 and backed it up with a ninth-place effort last year. He is capable of winning this week under good conditions, but I love his chances even more if the wind kicks up.

Fitzpatrick has always been an outstanding putter, but what has me most excited about his chances this week is his off-the-tee game and ball striking. He has gained 1.7 strokes with his approach game in each of the last two weeks and has been positive off the tee, as well. He gained 2.7 strokes at Concession a week ago.

If he can continue to hit it straight off the tee and play this well with his irons, it is just a matter of time until he makes enough putts to earn a trip to the winner’s circle.

Cameron Davis (+7000, top 10 +650)

Davis, another golfer in his mid-20s, was on my betting card a couple weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational, and I am going right back to him this week. Like Fitzpatrick, the Australian has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but that will not last for long. He is an elite ball striker that should win plenty of events in North America.

Ideally, Davis would have experience at Bay Hill, but at this price, I am willing to take my chances, given his form coming into the week.

He ranks first in the field over the last 12 rounds in strokes gained approach, 16th in strokes gained off the tee, and third in proximity from 200+ yards. If he gets hot with the putter, he can make his first big splash in the States.