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Arnold Palmer Invitational DFS picks 2022: Why it's time to fade Jon Rahm

March 01, 2022
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The Arnold Palmer Invitational is the perfect opening act to next week’s Players Championship. This stacked field—with five of the top-10 players in the world—will face a stiff challenge as Bay Hill’s scoring average has been over par for five consecutive years.

With thick rough and a course that plays well over 7,400 yards, the setup at Bay Hill has generally benefited the big hitters, and those who can hit their irons well. It will be a major-like test ahead of the “fifth major,” and we’ll have a good idea of who’s playing stellar golf by the week’s end.

Here are my favorite plays and fades this week at the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Price range: $9,000 and above

High Upside: Hideki Matsuyama ($10,300 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)

Matsuyama has a track record of winning golf tournaments on difficult courses and with deep fields. Both of those boxes are checked this week at Bay Hill. Matsuyama has been a positive putter this calendar year, gaining 7.27 strokes putting over his first five starts, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. That’s a scary sign for the rest of the field, as Matsuyama is already one of the best ball-strikers on the planet.

Safest Option: Rory McIlroy ($11,100 DraftKings | $11,900 FanDuel)

McIlroy can seemingly roll out of bed and finish inside the top 10 at Bay Hill. He’s done just that for five consecutive trips to this event, plus his win in 2018. His elite driving ability is incredibly valuable at this course, and he enters off a T-10 at Riviera.

Most Likely To Disappoint: Jon Rahm ($11,400 DraftKings | $12,100 FanDuel)

I can’t believe I just typed Rahm’s name in this section! From a fantasy perspective, at this price point, Rahm will need to win or come really close to winning to justify a roster spot. Over his last two starts, his putter hasn’t cooperated—losing 4.93 strokes to the field over his past eight rounds. Those are his two worst putting performances in the last year. Combine that with this being his debut trip to Bay Hill, and I have to take a pause before clicking his name.

Pick To Win: Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,200 DraftKings | $11,200 FanDuel)

Orlando Ramirez

Fitzpatrick has two really exciting traits for this week: 1) He’s way better off-the-tee than you think. Over the past 100 rounds, Fitzpatrick is gaining 0.47 strokes per round, which is 22nd-best on the PGA Tour, per the RickRunGood.com golf database (even better than Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler.) 2) He plays well in big events. Dating back to the start of 2021, he’s gaining 1.07 strokes per round in events with an above-average Strength of Field. It’s easy to love the way Fitzpatrick sets up for this event.

$8,000 to $9,000

High Upside: Jason Kokrak ($8,400 DraftKings | $10,400 FanDuel)

When Kokrak shows up at Bay Hill, he expects to contend and that’s exactly what he’s done over the past eight years. Since 2014, he’s gaining 1.49 strokes per round at this course, the fourth-most of any golfer in this field with at least 24 rounds. He’s behind only Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Marc Leishman.

Safest Option: Paul Casey ($8,300 DraftKings | $10,600 FanDuel)

Since Casey has spent time on the DP World Tour and Asian Tour this winter, you probably haven’t realized how well he’s been playing. His T-9 at the DP World Tour Championship, T-12 at the Dubai Desert Classic and T-15 at the Genesis Invitational highlight a stretch of six straight events in which Casey has gained strokes on the field.

Most Likely To Disappoint: Sam Burns ($8,800 DraftKings | $10,700 FanDuel)

There are some warning signs coming out of Burns’ metrics right now—specifically his tee-to-green play. He’s lost strokes in that category in three of his past four measured events, leading to a T-19 at Kapalua plus three MCs. Now he heads to Bay Hill, which demands solid tee-to-green play. In his four trips to this event, he’s never gained strokes from tee-to-green.

Pick To Win: Keith Mitchell ($8,100 DraftKings | $10,200 FanDuel)

Andy Lyons

Mitchell was a fantasy darling last week at the Honda Classic, but don’t forget about him this week! He drives the ball better than most players in this field—currently gaining strokes off-the-tee in 15 straight events. His results at Bay Hill have been excellent, earning three top-six finishes in his six career starts.

$7,000 to $8,000

High Upside: Luke List ($7,500 DraftKings | $9,200 FanDuel)

The story for List has always been about his putter. Will he putt well enough over four days to win? Well, he gained 3.73 strokes putting at Torrey Pines and hoisted the trophy that week. Bay Hill has been friendly to List, who has gained strokes putting in three of his four trips to this event, producing three top-20 finishes.

Safest Option: Chris Kirk ($7,500 DraftKings | $9,300 FanDuel)

Kirk has been a fantasy-point scoring machine at Bay Hill. Since 2018, only Rory McIlroy is averaging more fantasy points per start (with a minimum of three starts) at this course. With 81 DraftKings points on average at this event since 2018, Kirk has significantly outpaced his similarly-priced peers. He also enters in great form off a T-14 in Phoenix and T-7 at the Honda Classic.

Most Likely To Disappoint: Jason Day ($7,900 DraftKings | $9,700 FanDuel)

There are two concerns surrounding Day for this week. The first: He has lost strokes on approach in six of his last seven starts. The second: He has struggled mightily in strong fields over the past few years. Over his last six events, with a “Strength of Field” over 500, Day has lost a total of 22.64 strokes to the field, per the RickRunGood.com golf database.

Pick To Win: Cameron Young ($7,500 DraftKings | $9,100 FanDuel)

Rob Carr

On paper, last week at PGA National should have been a struggle for Young, but he shined to a T-16 finish. That’s four straight top-26 finishes for Young (including the runner-up at Riviera, above), who is using his driver as a weapon and putting well enough to make some noise. This should be a better setup for him, allowing him to rely on clubhead speed to separate himself from the rest of the field.

$6,900 and below

High Upside: Adam Svensson ($6,700 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)

Svensson was outstanding for 64 holes last week at the Honda Classic, before playing his final eight at 5-over par. Despite that stretch he still finished T-9, and maybe more importantly, he led the field in SG/tee to green. There continues to be lots of excitement around the Canadian—and for good reason.

Safest Option: Nick Taylor ($6,700 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)

To start his 2022, Taylor has missed only one cut and has finished inside the top 33 in his other four starts. In the four “good ones,” he’s gained strokes on approach in each and doesn’t have one single glaring weakness. It’s reasonable to think he finds the weekend again at Bay Hill.

Most Likely To Disappoint: Cameron Champ ($6,500 DraftKings |$8,100 FanDuel)

Though Bay Hill certainly benefits those who can hit it long, Champ’s game is leaving much to be desired. He’s lost strokes on approach in four of his past six, lost around-the-greens in eight of his past 10 and lost putting in six of his past eight. Barring some type of switch flipping, it’s hard to see Champ’s path to the top of the leader board.

Pick To Win: Patton Kizzire ($6,500 DraftKings | $7,900 FanDuel)

Gregory Shamus

Kizzire has made the cut in four of his five starts this year, highlighted by a T-10 in Phoenix. The exciting part of those finishes is his approach play. He’s gained at least three strokes on approach in four of his past five events. Combine that with his historically great putting on Bermudagrass, and we’ve got a chance for Kizzire to contend at Bay Hill.

Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.