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PREVIEW: 2023 PGA Tour – Arnold Palmer Invitational

A stellar field will head to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Florida for the 2023 edition of the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Damien Kayat previews.

Max Homa - PGA Tour - Arnold Palmer Invitational
Image: EPA/CAROLINE BREHMAN

A stellar field will head to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Florida for the 2023 edition of the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Damien Kayat previews.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022/2023 US PGA Tour
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Florida
2nd-5th March

It says something about the LIV Golf experiment that Chris Kirk’s Honda Classic victory remained a bigger news story. The Liv Golf Mayakoba proved a massive ratings failure for the CW.

People are just not buying into Norman’s vision of ‘golf, but louder’. And they are certainly not buying into the gimmicky team vision that the LIV organisers seem so obsessed with.

Chris Kirk sealed his fifth PGA Tour title with a playoff victory over ‘Cinderella Man’ Eric Cole. It was a poignant win for Kirk, who has battled alcohol abuse and depression over the past few years.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational

The Tour’s next event on the Florida swing is one of the most iconic stops of the entire season. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is obviously a huge sentimental favourite.

The King- as he was affectionately known- is arguably still the most beloved figure in American golf.

Formerly known as the Florida Citrus Open, Arnold Palmer helped popularize this event when he won it back in 1971. He took over hosting duties in 1979 and moved the event to its current home: Bay Hill Country Club.

It was actually called the Bay Hill Invitational for some time (though not it is firmly entrenched as the Arnold Palmer Invitational). Tiger Woods has won this event a record eight times but will not be in action this week.

The battle for World No.1 continues this week, with Jon Rahm playing defence against Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy. But let’s first take a look at one of the most iconic and difficult stops on the non-Major circuit: Bay Hill.

Bay Hill & Lodge

Bay Hill was designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee in 1960. Arnold Palmer bought the course in 1976 with visions of creating his dream tournament.

He tinkered with his baby constantly (this event has played as both a par 70 and par 72 through the years). This is a real test of shot-making. Recent winners like DeChamebau and McIlroy suggest that distance off the tee is essential.

It can be useful (just look at the way eventual winner DeChambeau attacked the 6th in 2021). But then you have Molinari storming to victory in 2018.

The real key to success here is approach play. The sprawling TifEagle Bermuda greens are extremely tricky to navigate. They are sometimes prepared at a lighting fast 13.5 on the stimp.

They also feature plenty of tricky runoff areas that are reminiscent of Augusta National. Players will need strong iron play (five of the last six winners have finished inside the top ten for GIR).

Links specialists also tend to thrive around this layout (which is especially true when the wind picks up).

The Contenders

Jon Rahm will be looking to pick up his sixth worldwide win in ten starts this week. People like to throw around Tiger comparisons (a bit too freely in my honest opinion).

This is one time where that comparison is actually warranted. But he hasn’t got a whole heap of course form and his two closest rivals have both picked up victories here.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler won in Phoenix and will obviously be a factor this week. I’m not too sure about Rory. The 2018 champ has been in indifferent form (especially with his approach play).

Elsewhere, the likes of Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele have to be respected.

Past Winners

2022: Scottie Scheffler (-5)
2021: Bryson DeChambeau (-11)
2020: Tyrell Hatton (-4)
2019: Francesco Molinari (-12)
2018: Rory McIlroy (-18)

To Win Outright:

Jon Rahm 6/1 | Rory McIlroy 9/1 | Scottie Scheffler 10/1 | Collin Morikawa 18/1 | Will Zalatoris 18/1

Value Bets

Tyrell Hatton- To Win 35/1 | To Place – 77/10

Tyrell Hatton hasn’t missed the cut in six appearances around Bay Hill. He was fourth on debut before winning the event in 2020. He also finished runner-up last year. Bay Hill seems to be made for Hatton. The former back-to-back Dunhill Links champ is an avowed links expert and fits this challenge well. Hatton was second at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. He kicked off this year with a seventh in Dubai prior to an excellent 6th in Phoenix. I think he is primed for another tilt at this leaderboard.

Keith Mitchell- To Win 55/1 | To Place – 12/1

Keith Mitchell is a guy who appears to be moving in the right direction. A pair of top fives in his last three starts have propelled Mitchell to 45th in the OWGR. This puts him in an excellent position to qualify for the Masters via the top 50 exemption. He finished sixth here on debut in 2019. He followed that up with an improved T5 in 2020. He is a more complete player now and looks great value at 55/1.

The Man to Beat- Max Homa- To Win 20/1 | To Place 44/10

It’s not always the coolest look to opt for the same man this regularly (I opted for Homa when he finished runner-up at Riviera). But he just looks like incredible value at 20/1. He has won twice in seven starts this season (at the Fortinet Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open). He also finished runner-up at the aforementioned Genesis Invitational. He is probably the form dog outside of Rahm this week. His course figures of T24-T10-T17 aren’t spectacular. But he looks a completely different golfer now. He is probably the best putter in the world at present and his approach play has been sensational. He does tend to get a bit shaky in contention. But if he can handle his nerves I think he has a great shot this week.

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