Arnold Palmer Invitational picks: Our PGA Tour caddie is guaranteeing a victory for one of the favorites this week
It's not enough to be close in betting. To quote Ricky Bobby, if you ain't first, you're last.
For anyone who has placed a wager before, you know there's no prize for almost winning your bet. In fact, it can be more agonizing to come close. Two of our experts, Pat Mayo and Brandon Gdula, picked Brooks Koepka to win last week's Honda Classic. For most of the week, they looked prophetic. But Keith Mitchell's clutch 16-footer on the 72nd hole meant the Koepka was a runner-up pick, the fourth time our experts have come sooooo close to finding a winner. Of course, we have predicted five of the season's 15 events correctly. So to say we've been correct or close on most weeks this year is accurate. If you've been following our picks, you're definitely up money.
Our weekly advice also includes the ultimate inside sources at every PGA Tour event—the caddies. Every week, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network, a rotating, anonymous PGA Tour caddie is offering their analysis and insights—what they're seeing on the range and putting greens. This week, our caddie says to "chalk up a victory for Justin Rose." There's no such thing as a certainty in golf, but in terms of a prediction, this is almost as strong as you can get. And our caddies know: There's no prize for finishing second. We want the gold.
2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks To Win (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Justin Rose (11-1) — Chalk up a victory for Justin Rose. Currently ranked No. 2 in the world, this will be Rose’s first PGA Tour start since losing his No. 1 ranking and since his victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. Rose always seems to play well at Bay Hill, having finished third last year and he was also the runner-up in 2013, along with a bunch of other top finishes.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Jason Day (14-1) — Here are the reasons I feel so strongly about Jason Day this week: The Aussie’s a former champ at Bay Hill, doesn’t have a finish outside the Top 25 since last year’s FedEx Cup playoffs, and comes to Orlando with consecutive top-5 finishes. Putting is fickle, we understand this, however Day is simply one of the best on the greens. He’s prone to an outstanding week unlike few others are. Sorting with Fantasy National, in his past 75 rounds, he trails only Brian Gay in strokes gained/putting in the field, and he is gaining strokes against this field at a 63-percent clip over his past 100 rounds. Much like how we talk about the awful putters of the world, if Day can just gain a bit with his irons, he’s likely to win. In the past 75 rounds, Day is around field average in strokes gained/approach (60th) yet still rates out sixth in strokes gained on par 5s, 11th in par 4s gained, and sixth in par 3s gained in that same period.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Bryson DeChambeau (17-1) — I don’t love the pairing with Brooks Koepka, but Bryson stands out on Bermuda and grades out well in all of my key stats this week, including proximity from 200-plus yards.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Rory McIlroy (7-1) — Rory has arguably had the best possible season you could have without winning. Look at his last four finishes: T-4, T-5, T-4, second place. Final-round performance, however, where Rory is 105th on tour, is his weakness. That should change at Bay Hill, where Rory is the defending champ and is quoted as saying Bay Hill is one of his favorite courses on tour. Though 7-1 aren't the greatest odds, to me he's far and away the favorite here.
Golf Digest editors: Bryson DeChambeau (17-1) — We're willing to overlook his poor performance in Mexico, and instead we're intrigued by his past performance at Bay Hill. Last year, en route to a second-place finish (before any of his four wins on tour), DeChambeau gained an amazing 12 strokes off the tee compared to the field at Bay Hill, according to Fantasy National, a truly incredible number. Prior to Mexico, DeChambeau hasn't finished outside the top 20 since the PGA Championship. That's also incredible. Perhaps Bryson isn't getting enough credit for his elite success on tour. We think there's a bit of value here at 17-1 for Bryson to win at Arnold Palmer's place.
(Results on the season: We’ve correctly predicted five of the season’s 15 events. Gdula and Mayo nearly predicted Brooks Koepka's win last week. Pat Mayo has correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners); Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) and Phil Mickelson (25-1 at Pebble Beach). Golf Digest editor Christopher Powers correctly picked Kevin Tway (55-1) to start the season at the Safeway Open. And Lou Riccio called Rickie Fowler's win (16-1) in Phoenix.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Tommy Fleetwood (36-1) — He’s a star on the European Tour, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before he wins in the U.S.
Mayo: Rafa Cabrera Bello (75-1) — The Spaniard ranks best on tour in par-3 scoring from 200-225 yards in 2019, likely due to gaining strokes with his irons in 14 of his past 16 measured PGA events dating back to 2017. The elite results haven’t come, yet, however he’s been top 10 in par 4s gained and 200+ Proximity gained in his past 24 rounds. In his three 2019 starts, he’s gaining 10+ against the field on approaches from 200 yards and beyond. Perhaps this is his week.
Gdula: Luke List (75-1) — List has ranked 3rd and 36th in strokes gained/tee to green in his two tries at Bay Hill, which he turned into 7th- and 17th-place finishes. He can score well enough on the par 5s to contend.
Riccio: Eddie Pepperell (190-1) — These odds feel way off for a player of Eddie Pepperell's caliber. He won twice on the European Tour last year and had other respectable finishes in upper echelon fields—a T-6 at the Open at Carnoustie and a second-place at the Scottish Open. It's good to see him playing here in the U.S. before The Players, and though not the longest hitter (282 yards off the tee), he hits greens in regulation at a stellar rate.
Golf Digest editors:Si-Woo Kim (70-1) — Quietly, Si Woo Kim is becoming an elite player in the game, but the odds haven't adjusted yet. He comes off a third-place finish at Riviera and a fourth-place at Pebble Beach—both poa annua putting surfaces. Si Woo exceeds on Bermuda putting surfaces, evident in his wins at the 2017 Players, the Wyndham Championship and his runner-up last year at the RBC Heritage. Si-Woo should be more in the 40-1 to 50-1 range, so this is tremendous value for a player who's peaking right now, and who just took a couple weeks off.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Brooks Koepka (11-1) — I know, Koepka just finished T-2 just last week at Honda, but in three starts at Bay Hill, he has a WD, a missed cut and a T26. That doesn't inspire confidence.
Mayo: Rickie Fowler (13-1) — I always try and make a legitimate stand when talking about a fade, actively picking on someone the masses consider a lock. And, while it almost came back to bite me last week, I’ll fade Rickie again this week. He lucked his way into outrageous putts from off the green at Honda to pull himself back into contention, and that’s just not likely to continue. And, since he placed so well last week, his odds have remained second best of any player this week, and that’s just not right considering the strength of this field. At 11-1, the odds are implying that Fowler has a 9 percent chance of winning this event. That doesn't seem accurate. He’s more in the 5 percent range. That doesn’t sound like much, but compared to players like Francesco Molinari and Hideki Matsuyama, who have around the same win probability, you’re getting rooked on that number. You could bet those other two guys for the same amount of money you’d have to lay on Rickie, and have some left over if you wanted the same payout on each number. While predicting golf isn’t strictly about math, wagering on golf is always about math.
Gdula: Rickie Fowler (13-1) — Fowler is heating up but gained seven strokes with his short game last week and made some bailout shots. With a top-heavy field and some possible regression coming his way, I’ll avoid Rickie at these odds.
Riccio: Patrick Reed (31-1) — Reed finished T-7 here last year before his Masters victory. But before that, his performance at Bay Hill was not impressive: a missed cut and a T-52. Not great. There are other options in this range—Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Francesco Molinari—whose games are better suited to Bay Hill.
Golf Digest editors: Francesco Molinari (29-1) — Speaking of Molinari, he's our fade. And it really comes down to the putter. The Open champion has made huge strides on the greens over the past 18 months, but on really fast greens, he still struggles. According to Fantasy National, Molinari ranks 112th in this field in strokes gained/putting on fast greens over his past 50 rounds.
2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational : Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Luke List (-130) over Adam Hadwin (Topbet) — This is a course that rewards length. List is a bomber, which gives him a significant advantage over Hadwin to play well at Bay Hill. That’s why I like him.
Mayo: Ian Poulter (+100) over Lucas Glover (Bodog) — Yes, Glover’s uber hot right now, but, sneakily, so is Poulter. Problem is, Glover has been living off a hot putter the last two weeks, gaining over 8 strokes on the greens combined. That’s odds for one of the worst putter of our generation. Eventually that flips back to his baseline and he’s screwed. I’ll take the guy who’s ball striking just as well, and has over a decade of consistent putting.
Gdula: Chesson Hadley (-120) over Chris Kirk (Topbet) — Hadley leads the field in proximity gained over his past 100 rounds, via FantasyNational.com, and ranks fifth strokes gained/approach in that span, as well. He’s been putting himself in better scoring position than Kirk.
Riccio: Keith Mitchell (+100) over Sungjae Im (Topbet) — So, you're telling me I can get Keith Mitchell at even odds—the same guy who won last week? Sungjae Im is proving to be a solid player, but Mitchell excels on Bermuda greens, and he proved to be head-and-shoulders above everyone else ball-striking-wise last week. These odds just don't add up to me.
Golf Digest editors: Justin Rose (-110) over Brooks Koepka (DraftKings) — This is as much of a course history thing as it is a statistics-based pick. J-Rose leads the tour in par-3 scoring this year (2.85), which bodes well for these whopping par-3s that are nearly all over 200 yards. And he has five top-10s at Bay Hill, in addition to a T-13 and T-15. Compare that to Koepka, who has failed to crack the top 25 here in three tries. That's not to say Koepka could also have a decent week—we just like Rose's chances as they compare to Koepka this week.
(Matchup results last week: PGA Tour Caddie: 1 or 1 (Lucas Glover over Jim Furyk); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Sungjae Im over Dylan Frittelli); Riccio: 1 for 1 (Zach Johnson over Kiradech Aphibarnrat; Mayo: 0 for 1; GD Editors: 0 for 1)
(Matchup results for the year: Riccio: 6 for 8; GD Editors: 5 for 8 (and one push); PGA Tour Caddie: 5 for 8; Gdula and Mayo: both 3 for 6 with one push)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Keith Mitchell (+1000 ... bet $10 to win $100) — There’s very good value there for the guy who won last week and whose confidence must be at an all-time high.
Mayo: Nate Lashley (+2100) — Unnoticed by most, Nate Lashley has actually made every cut this season, a perfect 6-for-6. He even posted his first top-10 in Puerto Rico two weeks ago. He’s been solid on approaches, but his game seems specifically tailored to Bay Hill, where all four par 3s play extremely tough, three of them more than 200 yards. In this field, he leads all players in proximity gained from 200+ yards in the past 24 rounds, ninth in par 5s gained, 15th on par 4s, and, for the year, is a very healthy 13th on tour on par 3s from 200-225 yards. He’s a long-shot, yes, but there’s still value in his top-10 and top-20 odds this week.
Gdula: Rafa Cabrera Bello (+650) — RCB almost always hangs around in any event, and while he has never played here before, he has been a plus putter on Bermuda in his career. He has the right profile for a top-10.
Riccio: Eddie Pepperell (+1700) — For all the reasons explained above, Pepperell provides extremely good value. If you think a top-10 finish is a little too risky, his top-20 odds (+750) and top-30 odds (+430) are also quite appealing.
Golf Digest editors: Marc Leishman (+220) — Not the best odds here for a top-10 bet. But we'll gladly take double the money on what we think is a high possibility. Marc Leishman won the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-3 here last year. And Leishman had been hot this season before Mexico, where he lost a whopping nine strokes on the field in strokes gained/putting. That's an easy stat to overlook on those bumpy greens. We love the recent form and course history with Leish Daddy.
(Top-10 results last week: The GD Editors hit Lucas Glover at +500. Riccio: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1; PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1; Mayo: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: Mayo: 6 for 9; GD Editors: 3 for 8; PGA Tour Caddie: 3 for 9; Riccio: 2 for 8; Gdula: 1 for 8)
Mayo: As you can see from these, and as I discussed on my DraftKings breakdown, I see a lot of potential in the second tier of pricing this week, and how that allows you to build a complete roster instead of jamming in Rory, Rose and a bunch of scrubs. As an invitational, and only having 123 players the field, almost 60 percent of every one who tees it up will make the cut. That allows for more risk in your lineup, but I choose to add win probability to my lineups with the balanced approach. I’ve discussed the other four, but I’m also crushing on Hideki, like usual.
Matsuyama has gained on approaches in his past 10 measured events, and, per usual, will challenge for a title if he can just putt a little. He’s gained strokes putting in five of his past 13 starts; he has a top-15 finish in all five. Now, it’s unlikely Matsuyama will all of a sudden just become an excellent putter, it’s plausible Hideki can at least finish in the positives. Always lean ball striking over putting and pray for the best. Look what happened with Keith Mitchell last week. He topped everyone tee-to-green, and gained 0.9 strokes putting over four rounds. That was good enough.
Jason Day ($9,900); Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300); Ian Poulter ($8,000); Rafa Cabrera Bello ($7,500); Nate Lashley ($6,900).
Riccio: The back half of this lineup is filled with value. Eddie Pepperell, Kevin Na, Aaron Wise and Austin Cook are three players who my statistical model gives way better odds to win than their DFS prices imply. They're all in my top-20 most likely players to win this week. Pepperell, in particular, is in my top 10 on my model this week, which is why I'm so high on him. That made it easy to start my lineup with the two players who have the best odds to win, according to my model, Rory and Rose.
Rory McIlroy ($11,400); Justin Rose ($10,700); Kevin Na ($7,200); Aaron Wise ($7,000); Eddie Pepperell ($6,800); Austin Cook ($6,500)
Golf Digest Editors: We're big fans of this lineup. Rory and Leishman are two players we expect to contend and make a ton of birdies. Lucas Glover and Keith Mitchell are solid top-10 bets, and Danny Lee is coming off a solid week last week, having just faded on the weekend.
Rory McIlroy ($11,400); Marc Leishman ($9,500); Lucas Glover ($8,200); Keith Mitchell ($7,500); Joaquin Niemann ($6,900); Danny Lee ($6,600)
Gdula: This week is shaping up to be a two-stud week with so many strong golfers in the field. So take your two favorite picks at the top of the field, and find some value picks to put together a winning lineup. I’m targeting this options this week:
Jason Kokrak ($9,500), Keegan Bradley ($9,100), Luke List ($9,100), Sungjae Im ($9,000), Nate Lashley ($8,500), and Vaughn Taylor ($8,500).
Riccio: You're getting strong value here with Tommy Fleetwood, who my model gives the fourth best chance to win this week, versus his odds to win (11th best odds) and DFS value. Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are elite options that are hard to pass up, too.
Rory McIlroy ($12,200); Rickie Fowler ($11,500); Tommy Fleetwood ($10,600); Kevin Na ($8,900); Austin Cook ($8,300); Eddie Pepperell ($8,200).
GD Editors: This is a lineup mixed with elite players and consistency. Any of the first five players could easily win this week. Burgoon just needs to make the cut—he can make birdies with the best of them.
Justin Rose ($12,100); Jason Day ($11,700); Rafa Cabrera Bello ($9,900); Zach Johnson ($9,800); Luke List ($9,100); Bronson Burgoon ($7,400)
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 14-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist and earned the 2018 FSWA "podcast of the year" award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.