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Arnold Palmer Invitational picks 2024: Why Rory McIlroy will end the run of longshots

March 05, 2024
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up a putt on the fourth green during the final round of The Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches at PGA National Resort And Spa on March 03, 2024 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

After we finally got a top-of-the-odds board winner at the Mexico Open, it was longshot SZN once more at the Cognizant Classic, where Austin Eckroat picked up his first PGA Tour victory at 100-1. PGA Tour events in 2024 remain fully up for grabs.

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That said, we’re back on the signature event grind with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where the elite of the elite have historically donned the red cardigan on Sunday. Perhaps that will increase our chances at a second outright winner of this season. Or, perhaps we’ll finally join the longshot party. Nobody would be mad about that.

Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Arnold Palmer Invitational picks 2024: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Rory McIlroy (9-1, FanDuel) — I don’t think I have to go into detail here, but I’ll say a little. He’s a decent putter now. His stats have become above average and consistent on the greens, which is all you need to see to expect a win. McIlroy has a strong history here and is coming in with a win already in Dubai and a solid ball-striking week last week.

Pat Mayo, Underdog/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Ludvig Aberg (20-1, BetMGM) — At a course which prioritizes long-iron play over wedges, Aberg is almost an auto play at this point. Although he’s posted quality results almost everywhere, he’s gained the most strokes this season on approach at Torrey Pines and RIV as opposed to Pebble and Sony. Plus, his prodigious driving alleviates a lot of the pressures at Bay Hill. Over the past 24 rounds he sits top three in this field in par 4s gained, opportunities gained, and par 3s gained from 200-plus yards, where all four happen to land at Bay Hill.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Collin Morikawa (25-1, FanDuel) — Morikawa’s putting splits are ones I try to monitor a lot, and from within 10 feet this season, he’s above the PGA Tour average. That suggests stable putting moving forward. He’s also logged a field-best ball-striking week at Bay Hill back in 2020 when he finished T-9.

Keith Stewart, Read The Line: Patrick Cantlay (18-1, FanDuel) — Patrick Cantlay leads the PGA Tour in Round 1 scoring. When the weather breaks early Thursday morning, he’ll take that 64.6 average and attack Bay Hill. By building up a lead before the windy weekend, Cantlay will be perfectly positioned to win. Unlike Riviera, the sixth-ranked golfer in the world won’t get sick and cough it up on Sunday.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Ludvig Aberg (20-1, BetMGM) — Aberg might be the best driver of the ball in the world, ranking first in Total Driving over the past 50 rounds, per BetSperts.com. That’s such a key at Bay Hill—he’s not only long but he combines that with hitting fairways, which is crucial with the thick Bermuda rough in Orlando. I also like that he has the experience from last year as an amateur to build off. We’ve seen some of the other elite players struggle to get to the finish line this year, and as we discussed with my buddy Joe Idone on his podcast this week, Aberg might not have the same scar tissue as some of these other guys in terms of closing out a tournament.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Tommy Fleetwood (28-1, BetMGM) — Manifesting Tommy Lad in that red cardigan on Sunday evening. It’s time. All kidding aside, though, I do love the Englishman this week. He has a win, a T-14 and a T-10 in three of his last four worldwide starts, and he’s done very well for himself at Bay Hill, including a third-place finish in 2019 and four other finishes of 26th or better.

Andy Lack, Run Pure Sports and Inside Golf podcast: Viktor Hovland (18-1, FanDuel) — Despite finishing runner-up and 10th in his last two appearances at Bay Hill, the conversation on Viktor Hovland this week has been muted due to his slow start to the 2024 season. Yet a deeper inspection shows that Hovland really began to round into form at Riviera. The reigning FedEx Cup champion gained over a stroke and a half in both ball-striking categories, and his short game vastly improved for him over the weekend as well. On a course that should highly accentuate his total driving and long-iron skill, expect Viktor Hovland to pick up his first win of the season.

Past results: Ding, ding, we have a winner. Pat Mayo cashed our first outright ticket of the year with Jake Knapp (35-1) at the Mexico Open. Now it’s time for us to get HOT.

Arnold Palmer Invitational picks 2024: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win

Caddie: Corey Conners (60-1, FanDuel) — It’s a ball-strikers golf course, and Conners is the best of the best over the past five years when combining tee shots and approaches. He’s also coming off a strong 6-under performance in the last round at PGA National, which will help the confidence as well.

Mayo: Corey Conners (60-1, FanDuel) — Conners was top 20 tee-to-green at PGA National, and that was with him driving the ball worse than his weekly baseline. He’s now gained more than three strokes on approach in consecutive events now gets to tackle a course which plays against his weaknesses. Usually, you’d say “into his strengths”, but that’s not really true. The longer rough is a bit of an equalizer for a lousy short game, something which Conners overcomes a lot by simply hitting greens in regulation. And, like at Augusta, the Bay Hill greens are some of the ones which don’t seem to give him constant fits. He’s gained putting two of the last three years. Not a ton, but that’s better than his usual –3.0 per week. Sort of like low-rent Zalatoris, Conners game seems far more suited for courses and tournaments with a higher winning score in tougher conditions. Valero notwithstanding.

Gdula: Tom Kim (60-1, FanDuel) — I often like Tom Kim when I like Collin Morikawa because their profiles overlap. They’re both accurate with the driver and great iron players with putters that can heat up and fade. Kim debuted at Bay Hill last year with great ball-striking but wound up T-34 due to poor short game.

Stewart: Adam Scott (55-1, FanDuel) — For some reason, Adam Scott has always looked like an API winner to me. He’s a world class driver of the ball. Accurate from long range, Scott stacked up two third-place finishes at Mr. Palmer’s place over the years. In 2024, Adam is back playing some very good golf. He’s second in the field for birdie-or-better percentage and eighth in GIRs gained. That’s a great combination when you come to one of the tour’s toughest tests.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Luke List (110-1, FanDuel) — List finished runner-up at Riviera, another pure ball-striking test that necessitates finesse around the greens. He also possesses a 10th-place finish at Bay Hill in 2019 and has contended in Florida before with his runner-up at PGA National in 2018. It really feels like List is elevating his game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him contend again with his elite off-the-tee game and prowess with long irons, where he ranks seventh in approaches from the fairway from 200-plus yards over the past year, per BetSperts.com.

Powers, Golf Digest: Justin Rose (125-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Rose has missed three of his last four cuts here, and the only time he didn’t miss the cut in that span, he withdrew from the tournament on Saturday. However, he was right in the thick of it before pulling out with back spasms (he also made a 9 on the third hole). Pre-2020, though, Rose used to own Arnie’s place, with three finishes inside the top three between 2011 and 2018. The stats don’t look great from last week, but he did make the cut at The Cog and wound up having a strong weekend ball-striking wise. Given the slew of longshots that have won this year, Rose is worth a dart throw at 125-1.

Lack: Keegan Bradley (60-1, FanDuel) — Keegan Bradley quietly boasts a strong Bay Hill resume, with five top-12 finishes in 12 starts at the Dick Wilson design. He remains an excellent total driver of the ball and long-iron player, and has proven his meddle in strong field events, winning a signature event last season in the Travelers Championship. Ranking third in this field in strokes-gained/total in Florida over the last three years, I expect Keegan to continue his strong play in the Sunshine state.

Arnold Palmer Invitational picks 2024: Players We’re Fading

Caddie: Jordan Spieth (16-1, BetRivers) — Obviously an incredible player and ready for a big run in 2024, but I don’t think this place will be the best for him with the thick rough and need for caution into the greens.

Mayo: Viktor Hovland (18-1, FanDuel) — I don’t know if Viktor is hurt or has just entered a general malaise since winning all the money last August, but the game has not been the same in 2024. Three starts, no finishes inside the top 15, and RIV was the first time this year he gained strokes tee-to-green. It’s going to look silly when he flicks the switch and dominates again. But I’ll take my chances with a fade to win.

Gdula: Ludvig Aberg (18-1, FanDuel) — Everybody loves Ludvig. I love Ludvig. But to have him at the same odds as Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay is hard to justify, so I’m out until the number lengthens.

Stewart: Xander Schauffele (16-1, FanDuel) — I sat through Xander Schauffele’s press conference, and something just sounded unsettled. He mentioned working on his game with Chris Como – “Now, I'm speaking and talking with Chris since December, and it's been great. I think he's just sort of been trying to get some of my swing patterns back to sort of 2018, 2017-2018, and then adding in a few things that he likes to see.” I admire Xander for getting better, but while the work continues let’s just leave him off our outright card.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Max Homa (25-1, BetRivers) — Homa struggled on the West Coast, which is a sign his game isn’t quite there. He’s been just average with his ball-striking in four events after Kapalua, which is a sign he’s searching a bit.

Powers, Golf Digest: Collin Morikawa (22-1, BetMGM) — The recent results look fine (19th, 14th), until you remember they came in 70-man fields, both on courses you’d think he’d contend at in Riviera and Pebble Beach.

Lack: Xander Schauffele (16-1, FanDuel) — I’m as big a Xander fan as any, but something’s got to give with these outright prices. I understand he is priced so low in the outright market because his win odds are correlated with his finishing position odds, and Xander is always a great bet to finish in the top 10. That said, he has struggled from tee-to-green in both of his appearances at Bay Hill, and I have a difficult time correlating his win equity to such a steep price.

Arnold Palmer Invitational picks 2024: Matchups

Caddie: Patrick Rodgers (-130) over Taylor Moore (DraftKings) — Taylor has made a caddie switch, while Patrick has a veteran on the bag, and that has helped his consistency of late. Length helps here, which Rodgers has, and he’s coming in in form.

Mayo: Xander Schauffele (+105) over Viktor Hovland (DraftKings) — Xander is the opposite of Viktor right now. Four top 10s in five starts while gaining over 7.5 strokes tee-to-green in two of his past three starts and is only deflated in price because of a poor course history.

Gdula: Adam Scott (-105) over Harris English (FanDuel) — Scott holds a ball-striking advantage of nearly a full stroke per round on English over the past 50 rounds, via datagolf, and he’s also putting well— just not as well as English.

Stewart: Rory McIlroy (+115) over Scottie Scheffler (BetMGM) — A little while back Rory McIlroy gave Scottie Scheffler some putting advice in an interview. He mentioned Scottie should try a mallet putter. Upon my first look at Scheffler this week, I, like the world, witnessed him using a new mallet putter. If Scottie’s still actively searching, then I’ll take Rory at a place where he’s extremely comfortable. Both have won, but Rory hasn’t finished outside the top 13 here in seven years.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Cameron Young (-120) over Jason Day (DraftKings) — J-Day is a past winner here, but I’m spotting an edge in Young’s long-iron play against J-Day’s. Day ranks in the bottom 10 of this field in approach proximity from 175-200 and 200-plus yards over the past 36 rounds, per RickRunGood.com. Way more approaches will come from those longer distance this week, and CY is in the top 20 in both buckets. It’s not a perfect metric, but it shows that Day has struggled over a shorter and longer sample size with these longer approaches.

Powers, Golf Digest: Corey Conners (-120) over Russell Henley (DraftKings) — Henley gained seven strokes putting last week and finished ... 41st. Conners, meanwhile, lost 2.5 strokes putting and finished ... 41st. Give me the incredibly steady tee-to-green game of Conners and a possible spike putting week over Henley, who will not gain seven again on the greens and looked lost with his irons at PGA National.

Lack: Rory McIlroy (+115) over Scottie Scheffler (BetMGM) — This is a fun one. Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are the two best players in this field, and this is a tremendous golf course for them both. I’m going to give the slight edge to McIlroy based on my lack of confidence with Scheffler’s putter. Last time Scheffler made a putter switch, it got worse before it improved. Give me Rory at plus money.

Matchup Results from the Cognizant Classic: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Lowry (+100) over An); Powers: 1 for 1 (Lowry (+100) over An); Stewart: 1 for 1 (An (-130) over Im); Gdula: PUSH (Hossler (-105) over Kirk); Hennessey: PUSH (Kirk (-125) over Hossler); Lack: 0 for 1; Caddie: 0 for 1

Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Mayo: 8-1-0 (up 6.92 units); Gdula: 6-1-2 (up 4.3 units); Powers: 6-2-1 (up 3.97 units); Lack 5-4-0 (up 1.09 units); Hennessey: 4-3-2 (up 0.31 units); Caddie: 4-4-0 (down 0.51 units); Stewart: 4-5-0 (down 1.37 units)

Arnold Palmer Invitational picks 2024: Top 10s

Caddie: Wyndham Clark (+450, FanDuel) — I can’t believe the seventh-ranked player in the world has these kind of odds for a top-10 bet on a course that emphasizes length and strength. I’ll take this bet and not think twice. He has also proven he loves big moments in signature events and majors.

Mayo: Wyndham Clark (+450, FanDuel) — It’s the principle of the matter. I’m not especially in love with Wyndy C this week, but I don’t quite understand how his odds can be longer than the likes of J.T. Poston and Eric Cole. I bet on him also, but what’s separating Clark and Aberg now? You know, except for two wins in elevated events and a major championship.

Gdula: Justin Thomas (+260, FanDuel) — Thomas is doing a lot of damage lately with his around-the-green play, but that’s typical for him. He had a sporadic summer and fall, but since a more consistent schedule in November, he is second in true strokes-gained (via datagolf) among this field. Put bluntly, the data says he’s been the second-best golfer since November 1 among this loaded field.

Stewart: Patrick Cantlay (+165, DraftKings) — I’m banking on a big week from Patrick Cantlay. Throughout his press conference, Cantlay kept repeating how much he enjoyed last year. Fourth in his first trip, Patrick plays difficult courses better than the field because his game is very well-rounded. If there’s any area where the former FedEx Cup Champion really excels it is the long game and scrambling—two areas needed often around Mr. Palmer’s place in Orlando.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Rory McIlroy (+100, FanDuel) — This is probably square, but Rory is trending in the right direction and comes to Bay Hill, where he’s had so much success. Give us a neutral putter and this has to cash.

Powers, Golf Digest: Corey Conners (+400, DraftKings) — I’ve now fully talked myself into Conners after picking him in that matchup bet over Henley. He’s gained strokes tee-to-green in 12 of his last 13 starts, and he’s gone 21st, 11th and third in his last three API trips. With six consecutive made cuts but no top 10s in 2024, he’s overdue for a strong result.

Lack: Will Zalatoris (+280, DraftKings) — Coming off a runner-up finish at the Genesis Invitational where he gained strokes in all four major categories, Will Zalatoris is rounding into form at just the right time. Over the last five years, the 26-year-old ranks first in this field in SG/tee-to-green on courses with thick rough and firm greens. Zalatoris has not been discreet about the fact that tougher golf courses bring out the best in him, and I expect the challenge at Bay Hill to be right up his alley.

Top-10 results from the Cognizant Classic: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Keith Mitchell +400); Everybody else: 0 for 1

Top-10 results from this season: Gdula: 2 for 9 (up 1.5 units); Mayo: 2 for 9 (up 1.5 units); Hennessey: 2 for 9 (up 1 units); Powers: 1 for 9 (down 6.1 units); Lack: 1 for 9 (down 6.5 units); Caddie: 0 for 9 (down 9 units); Stewart: 0 for 9 (down 9 units)

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME. 

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for numberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @gdula13. 

Keith Stewart is a five-time award-winning PGA professional, a betting contributor for Golf Digest and founder of Read The Line, the premier on-site live golf betting insights service covering the LPGA and PGA TOUR. Subscribe to Read The Line’s weekly newsletter here and raise your golf betting acumen. Keith's winning content can also be found on Sports Grid, Bleacher Report and The Sporting News. Follow him on Twitter @readtheline_.

Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also the head of golf content for Run Pure Sports, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for RickRunGood.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports