PGA Tour Picks: The 59th Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard


The PGA Tour season has gotten off to a terrific start and now things really begin to heat up, beginning Thursday with the 59th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

Then comes the Players Champion next week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla, when the first major of the year, The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., will be only a month away.

Kurt Kitayama (pictured) of Chico is back to defend his title in the Arnold Palmer Invitational after he defeated Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Patton Kizzire by one stroke to claim his first PGA Tour victory.

“I was like, slow down,” the 31-year-old Kitayama had to tell himself when he had the lead in the final round . “J.C. (his caddie) was on the putting green earlier and he said, ‘You know, just relax and just make sure to take some deep breaths and walk slow.’ So I thought of that and I was able to recognize it, luckily, and just kind of calm down enough to get the job done.

“Not finding success early (on the PGA Tour) was, yeah, it’s disappointing, but it took me somewhere else to grow. And it was growing more than just in golf, really. You get to experience the different cultures, travel. I mean, you find yourself in some interesting spots. Places that you probably wouldn’t ever go, so, I think just as a person I was able to grow.

“The sad part about winning was not being able to shake hands with Arnie (who passed away in 2016 at the age of 87) and always congratulated the winner and presented him with the famed Red Cashmere Sweater.

Kitayama, who played college golf at UNLV, captured three other professional titles around the world before he earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 23rd in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals three years ago.

This week, he will try to become the first player to repeat in the Arnold Palmer Invitational against a field that includes top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, second-ranked McIlroy, fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, seventh-ranked Wyndham Clark, eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England and 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark.

The only player in the top 10 of the rankings not playing is third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who has been suspended by the PGA Tour for signing a lucrative contract to play LIV Golf

Tiger Woods has won this tournament, which dates to 1966 when it was the Florida Citrus Open Invitation, a record eight times, while other previous winners include Palmer, McIlroy, Scheffler, Phil Mickelson, Lee Trevino, Ernie Els of South Africa, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Jason Day of Australia, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin and Lionel Hebert.

Since this is a limited field event with only 120 players, the PGA Tour will conduct an opposite-field event for those who did not qualify, with the Puerto Rico Open at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.


1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked Scheffler captured the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational for one of his six PGA Tour victories, including the 2022 Masters, and tied for fourth as defending champion. Scheffler has recorded five straight top-20 finishes this season, including a tie for third at Phoenix, a tie for fifth in The Sentry and a tie for sixth at Pebble Beach.       

2. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – The second-ranked McIlroy won the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and tied for second in the Dubai Invitational to start the year, but his best result in three starts on the PGA Tour was a tie for 21st in the Cognizant Classic. He claimed one of his 24 PGA Tour victories in this event in 2018 among six top-10 results, including a tie for second last year.    

3. Xander Schauffele, United States – Even though he hasn’t won, the fifth-ranked Schauffele is off to a strong start this season with a tie for third in The American Express, a tie for fourth in The Genesis, a tie for ninth in the Farmers and a tie for 10th in The Sentry. His best result in two starts in the Arnold Palmer was a tie for 24th two years ago and he also tied for 39th last season.    

4. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The fourth-ranked Hovland has claimed six of his 10 professional victories on the PGA Tour, including the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship last season to capture the FedEx Cup. His best result this season was a tie for 19th in the Genesis, while his best finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational was a tie for second two seasons ago.   

5. Patrick Cantlay,  United States – The sixth-ranked Cantlay, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, is coming off a tie for fourth in the Genisis Invitational and also tied for 11th at Pebble Beach in addition to tying for 12th in The Sentry this season. In his only appearance in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year, he opened and closed with 68s to wind up in a tie for fourth.   

6. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden – Aberg has four victories as a professional, including the 2023 RSM Classic on the PGA Tour, and based on his start in 2024 he’s looking for more. He finished solo second at Pebble Beach, tied for ninth in the Farmers and closed with a 68 to tie for 19th in the Genesis. Aberg tied for 24th in his only start in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last season.   

7. Jordan Spieth, United States – Spieth could be getting close to claiming his 14th victory on the PGA Tour, including three major titles, as he has finished third in The Sentry and tied for sixth in the WM Phoenix Open to start the new season. In his only career starts in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Speith finished with ties for fourth in each of the last two seasons.  

8. Max Homa, United States – The eighth-ranked Homa, who has claimed five of his six PGA Tour victories jn the last three seasons, has tied for 13th in the Farmers, tied for 14th in The Sentry and tied for 16th in the Genesis this season. Homa has four straight top-25 finishes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the best a tie for 10th in 2021, and he tied for 14th last year.

9. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The 2022 U.S. Open champion has started this season with a tie for 14th in The Sentry, a tie for 15th in the WM Phoenix Open and a tie for 21st in the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches. The ninth-ranked Fitzpatrick is making his third start in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and recorded a tie for ninth in 2022 before tying for 14th last season.   

10. Min Woo Lee, Australia – After winning the Fortinet PGA Tour Championship for his fourth pro victory and finishing third in the ISPS Handa Australian Open late last year, Lee came onto the PGA Tour and tied for second in the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches last week. Lee missed the cut in his only appearances in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the last two years.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jason Day, Australia; Justin Thomas, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Collin Morikawa, United States; Will Zalatoris, United States; Wyndham Clark, United States; Byeong Hun An, South Korea; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Cameron Young, United States; Tom Kim, South Korea; Brian Harman, United States.


1. Sami Valimaki, Finland – A seven-time winner around the world, Valimaki tied for second last week in the Cognizant Classic on the PGA Tour. Makes debut in Arnold Palmer Invitational.  

2. Seamus Power, Ireland – Has won seven times as a pro, including two off-field events on the PGA Tour —  the 2021 Barbasol and the 2022 Bermuda. Missed cut in API Invitational last year.   

2. Justin Lower, Ireland – A three-time winner as a professional, Lower recently tied for third in the Mexico Open at Vidanta by closing with 66-66-68. Missed the cut in API debut last season.      

4. Denny McCarthy, United States – The 2018 Web,com Tour champion has four victories as a pro and was in the top 25 on the PGA Tour three times this year. T-26 in 2021 was his best API.

5. David Ford, United States – The 21-year-old played on winning U.S. teams in the Walker Cup, the Arnold Palmer Cup and the Eisenhower Trophy last year, Has 10 amateur victories.    

For first-round tee times and complete results once the tournament starts, visit:  

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