PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tom LaMarre

Tyrrell Hatton of England, now ranked sixth in the world, became the fifth straight player from outside the United States to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational last season, and all five and more will be back at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla., trying to make it six.

The others are eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (2018), Francesco Molinari of Italy (2019), and Australians Jason Day (2016) and Marc Leishman (2017).

“It’s an incredible feeling to win at such an iconic venue and with obviously Arnie’s name to it,” Hatton said when he donned the Red Cardigan sweater that Palmer made famous and now goes to the winner. “Yeah, amazing feeling and it’s very surreal to win this week.

“I’ve grown up watching this event as a kid on TV, and to be sitting here next to the trophy now is an amazing feeling and very thankful I managed to hold on at the end. This is just amazing.”

And Hatton has played well lately, winning the BMW PGA Championship outside London in October and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in December, giving him 10 titles in his professional career.

The last American to claim the title was Matt Every, who won it for the second straight year in 2015 after Tiger Woods won it for the seventh and eighth times in 2012 and 2013.

Woods, who underwent his fifth back surgery in December, wasn’t expected to play in one of favorite tournaments even before he sustained serious leg injuries in a horrific accident in California last Tuesday when the SUV he was driving rolled over several times.

In the final tune-up before the Players Championship next week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Hatton and McIlroy will lead 13 of the top 25 players in the World Golf Rankings, including No. 9 Patrick Reed, No. 11 Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, No. 13 Viktor Hovland of Norway, No. 16 Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, No. 17 Sungjae Im of South Korea, No. 18 Paul Casey of England, No. 19 Harris English, No. 21 Tommy Fleetwood of England, No. 22 Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa; No. 23 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and No. 25 Kevin Na of Diamond Bar.

“Our final field has star power and includes some of the best players in the world,” said Joie Chitwood, Tournament Director for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “It’s such an honor to host these top-ranked players here at Arnold Palmer’s tournament in Central Florida.

“The competition will be strong and we are excited to see who will wear the Red Cardigan as our champion on Sunday.”

Palmer won this tournament in 1971 when it was known as the Florida Citrus Invitational, and other winners include Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Fuzzy Zoeller, Payne Stewart, Paul Azinger, Fred Couples, Kenny Perry, Loren Roberts and Chad Campbell.

One special thing missing from the API is that Palmer, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 87, isn’t there behind the final green to congratulate the winner on Sunday.

BEST BETS

  1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – It’s been 15 months since McIlroy’s last victory, but he seems to be close to winning again after a tie for sixth in the WGC-Workday, his sixth top-20 finish, including a tie for fifth in the Masters and a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open. Has four straight top-10s at Bay Hill, including a three-stroke victory in 2018.
  2. Viktor Hovland, Norway – Rose to No. 13 in the world rankings and No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings with a tie for second in the WGC-Workday, his fourth top-five finish in his last five tournaments. Hovland will be trying to improve on his two starts in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tie for 40th in 2019 and a tie for 42nd last season.
  3. Bryson DeChambeau, United States – The U.S. Open champion slipped one spot out of the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings after he rallied for a tie for 22nd in the WGC-Workday last week and will be looking to climb back in this week. DeChambeau finished solo second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2018 and wound up fourth last season.
  4. Patrick Reed, United States – Climbed back into the top 10 of the world rankings at No. 9 with a tie for ninth in the WGC-Workday after winning the Farmers Insurance Open and tying for 10th in the Masters. Reed’s best finish at Bay Hill was a tie for seventh in 2018, and he tied for 15th last season despite shooting 80 in round three.
  5. Tyrrell Hatton, England – The defending champion in the Arnold Palmer Invitational is coming off a tie for 22nd in the WGC-Workday, his fourth result in the top 25 on the PGA Tour this season, and he also won the Abu Dhabi HSBC on the European Tour. Won at Bay Hill by one shot over Marc Leishman last year and tied for fourth in 2018.
  6. Billy Horschel, United States – Was tied for the lead with Collin Morikawa in the final round of the WGC-Workday before tying for second. It was his third top-10, as he tied for fifth at Mayakoba and tied for seventh in the Sony Open. Florida native loves playing at home, but his best results at Bay Hill were a tie for 13th in 2017, a tie for 20th in 2016.
  7. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – Was in the hunt most of the way last week in the WGC-Workday, shooting 66-68 in the middle rounds, before closing with a 74 to tie for 15th. That was his sixth top-20 finish this season, including a tie for second in the Houston Open. Matsuyama’s best in the API was a tie for sixth in 2016, a year after a tie for 21st.
  8. Matthew Fitzpatrick, England – A six-time winner on the European Tour, he still is seeking his first on the PGA Tour after tying for fifth in the Genesis, tying for 11th in the WGC-Workday and tying for 12th in the CJ Cup. Fitzpatrick tied for ninth at Bay Hill last year, after taking the lead to the final round a year earlier before finishing second.
  9. Kevin Na, United States – Rallied after an opening 73 to tie for 11th in the WGC-Workday Championship. Also claimed his fifth PGA Tour victory in the Sony Open in Hawaii after tying for 13th in the Masters earlier this season. Na tied for second at Bay Hill in 2020, tied for fourth in 2012, tied for sixth in 2015 and tied for 11th in 2009.
  10. Sungjae Im, South Korea – Just missed his seventh top-25 this season with a tie for 28th last week in the WGC-Workday Championship, with his best a tie for second in the Masters and a tie for fifth in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Im obviously enjoys playing at Bay Hill, having finished solo third last season after tying for third in 2019.

 OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Rickie Fowler, United States; Brendon Todd, United States; Marc Leishman, Australia; Kevin Kisner, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Jordan Spieth, United States; Max Homa, United States; Paul Casey, England; Brendan Steele, United States.

SLEEPERS

  1. Will Zalatoris, United States – The Korn Ferry Tour points leader closed with a 73 to T-22 in the WGC-Workday, his eighth top-25, including four top-10s on PGA Tour.
  2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – Seven-time winner as a pro including three in 2020, had a 32nd in the WGC-Workday Championship. T-18 last season at Bay Hill.
  3. Matthew NeSmith, United States – Winner on 2019 Korn Ferry Tour has three top-20s in a row and six this season on PGA Tour, including T-7 in Phoenix, T-8 in Shriners.
  4. Henrik Norlander, Sweden –Two-time winner on Korn Ferry Tour finished T-2 in the Farmers and T-4 at Sanderson Farms among four top-25s on PGA Tour this season.
  5. Andrew Putnam, United States – Three-time champion as a pro finished T-5 in the Puerto Rico Open last week and also was T-7 in the Phoenix Open early last month.

For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

 

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