PGA Tour Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer is no longer with us, but PGA Tour golfers play in the tournament that bears his name in homage to the man known as “The King.” 

The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played this week at Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge as the second event of the Florida Swing, and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau was committed to play before being forced to withdraw on Monday because a hand injury that caused him to drop out of an event in Dubai a few weeks ago. 

Because the Arnold Palmer Invitational is limited to only 120 players, an optional event will be held this week in the Puerto Rico Open at Grand Reserve Club in Rio Grande, P.R., for those who did not qualify for the Bay Hill event. 

Leading the field at Bay Hill are top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, fourth-ranked Victor Hovland of Norway, fifth-ranked Rory McIlory of Northern Ireland (pictured), and sixth-ranked Scottie Scheffler. 

Also playing this week are FedEx Cup points leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Tyrrell Hatton of England, Marc Leishman of Australia, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Adam Scott of Australia, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im of South Korea, Jason Day of Australia, Lee Westwood of England, Rickie Fowler, Rory Sabbatini, Martin Laird of Scotland and Sepp Straka of Austria, who won the Honda Classic last Sunday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. 

“It’s not even the on-course stuff,” said Leishman, who won the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational. “He was one of the most successful players in the history of the game on the golf course, (but) it’s the off-course stuff that inspires me more.  

“If there are some kids who want an autograph, or want a picture, and you’ve had a bad day, I mean, how bad can it be? You’re playing golf for a living, right? You go over and do that because you think, well, what would (Arnie) have done?” 

Last year, DeChambeau closed with a one-under-par 71 to defeat Westwood by one stroke and claim the eighth victory of his career on the PGA Tour, including the 2020 U.S, Open at Winged Foot. 

“Winning Mr. Palmer’s tournament was such an honor for me as I’ve loved and respected Mr. Palmer for so many years,” DeChambeau said. “He was and still is an idol of mine.” 

Other than winning our national championship, winning at Arnie’s place probably ranks at the top of DeChambeau’s list and he said he is disappointed that he is unable to defend this title. 

BEST BETS 

1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – The fifth-ranked McIlroy claimed his 20th PGA Tour victory early this season and is coming off a tie for 10th in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera after a solo third and a tie for 12th in the Middle East. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2018 by three shots with a closing 64, one of his five consecutive top-10 finishes at Bay Hill. 

2. Jon Rahm, Spain – Top-ranked Rahm tied for 21st in the Genesis Invitational, but has three top-10 finishes this season, including solo second in the Sony Tournament of Champions, a tie for third in the Farmers Insurance Open and a tie for 10th in the WM Phoenix Open. Surprisingly, he will be playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time this week. 

3. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Followed his first PGA Tour victory in the WM Phoenix Open with a tie for seventh in the Genesis Invitational and has risen to No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings. Also finished fourth at Mayakoba and has six finishes in the top 25 this season. Scheffler tied for 15th when he made his Arnold Palmer Invitational debut last season.  

4. Viktor Hovland, Norway – Victories in Mayakoba, Bermuda and Dubai in recent months have lifted Hovland to No. 4 in the world, and he also tied for fourth in the Genesis Invitational at Rivera in his latest start by shooting 64-65 in the middle rounds. Looking to do better at Bay Hill after tying for 40th, tying for 42nd and tying for 49th in his only starts the last three years. 

5. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – The FedEx Cup points leader has slipped out of the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings because he hasn’t played as well since winning the Zozo Championship and the Sony Open in Hawaii, other than a tie for sixth in the Fortinet Championship. Matsuyama’s only top-10 finish in seven appearances at Bay Hill was a tie for sixth in 2016.  

6. Marc Leishman, Australia – Has six top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, including a tie for third in the Shriners Children’s Open, a tie for fourth in the Fortinet Championship and a tie for 10th in the Sentry TOC. Leishman claimed the second of his six PGA Tour victories in 2017 at Bay Hill, also was second in 2020, tied for third in 2011 and tied for seventh in 2018.  

7. Sungjae Im, South Korea — Has climbed to fifth in the FedEx Cup Rankings by winning the Shriners Children’s Open, tying for sixth in the Farmers insurance Open, tying for eighth in the Sentry TOC and tying for ninth in the CJ Cup at the Summit this season. Im tied for third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2019, was solo third in 2020 and tied for 21st last season. 

8. Will Zalatoris, United States – The 2021 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year came close to his first victory on the circuit a month ago when he lost to Luke List in a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open, and he also tied for sixth in The American Express and tied for 11th in the Fortinet Championship. Zalatoris made his Arnold Palmer Invitational debut last year and tied for 10th. 

9. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – After winning the Andalucia Masters and tying for second in the DP World Tour Championship late last year, Fitzpatrick has tied for 12th in the Hero World Challenge, tied for sixth in the AT&T Pebble Beach and tied for 10th in the WM Phoenix Open but withdrew from the Genesis because of an illness. He’s making his first start at Bay Hill. 

10.  Adam Scott, Australia – The 14-time winner on the PGA Tour has tied for fifth in the CJ Cup at the Summitt and tied for fourth in his last start in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where he claimed two of his 14 PGA Tour victories in 2005 and 2020. Scott’s best results in 11 starts in the Arnold Palmer Invitational were a solo third in 2014 and a tie for third in 2007.  

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Paul Casey, England; Patrick Reed, United States; Corey Conners, Canada; Jason Day, Australia; Martin Laird, Scotland; Gary Woodland, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Danny Lee, New Zealand; Matthew Wolff, United States; Sepp Straka, Austria; Billy Horschel, United States; Max Homa, United States; Tyrell Hatton, England.  

SLEEPERS  

1. Beau Hossler, United States – Held the lead after three rounds at Pebble Beach before tying for third, and also was T-16 in Fortinet and the Honda. Finished T-24 at Bay Hill two years ago. 

2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa — A seven-time winner as a pro, Bezuidenhout was T-15 at Mayakoba, T-17 in the Sony and T-14 at Pebble. He was seventh at Bay Hill last year.  

3. Cameron Young, United States – Rookie tied for second in his last two starts at Sanderson Farms and in the Genesis Invitational. Young is making his debut in Arnold Palmer Invitational.  

4. Henrik Norlander, Sweden — Two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, Norlander was T-4 at Sanderson Farms, T-18 in the Zozo this season after a T-2 in Farmers, T-5 in Barbasol last year.  

5. Adam Svensson, Canada — Three-time winner on Korn Ferry Tour was T-7 in Sony Open and T-9 in his last start in the Honda Classic. Makes debut this week in Arnold Palmer Invitational.  

For first round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html  

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