The west coast swing is fun, but the Florida swing is when it really starts to feel like golf season. After last week's spicy Honda Classic, we could be in for another gem this week at Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. With a great field on hand and a big one on deck (the Players Championship next week), this week's API should be a great lead-in to the first in a seven-month stretch of massive events.
Let's take a look at this week's contest.
What: Arnold Palmer Invitational | When: March 5-8
Where: Bay Hill Club and Lodge -- Orlando, Florida
Ranking the field (odds)
- Rory McIlroy (5-1): That 5-1 number is a Tiger-like number.
- Tommy Fleetwood (14-1): I'm emboldened by (not scared of) the finish last week.
- Bryson DeChambeau (16-1): T5 and second in his last two. Kills here.
- Hideki Matsuyama (20-1): Four top 20s in his last five.
- Xander Schauffele (20-1): He's always so sneaky and quiet. Four top 25s in his last five.
- Jason Day (33-1): Hasn't finished outside the top 25 since 2013.
- Sungjae Im (25-1): T3 here last year, won last week.
- Patrick Reed (25-1): Obviously playing great and finished T7 two years ago.
- Adam Scott (22-1): Two wins in three starts.
- Collin Morikawa (45-1): Doesn't miss cuts! He's played 23 OWGR events and missed one cut (in 2016).
Field strength -- B+: With Tiger Woods -- who has won here eight times -- it would have been an A- or an A. Without him, it's a B+. Still boasts a field of Rory, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, which is always legit. But with Tiger Woods joining Phil Mickelson, it could have been elite.
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Three things to know
1. Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler bounce: They both missed the cut last week at the Honda Classic, and both need a rebound here. Koepka has been downright bad all season, while Fowler has been up and down. I'm tentatively buying Fowler stock, but I'm pretty much all the way out on Koepka right now. Do we think it's just going to click for him at a specific time with a nagging injury? I remain dubious (which means he'll win the Masters).
2. The Brandon Matthews story: This is a great one. The 924th-ranked Matthews will be making his first start on the PGA Tour this week. He was given a sponsor exemption after the way he responded in a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event when he lost in a playoff. Somebody yelled during Matthews' putt and affected the stroke. It turned out to be a man with special needs, and the API invited him for the way he responded. Here's the full story.
When a fan with special needs caused @B_Matthews12 to miss a putt during a playoff, he responded just as Mr. Palmer would have––with kindness, humility and grace. Don't miss him next week as he makes his first PGA TOUR start at #APinv! pic.twitter.com/R73NpEYuPw— Arnold Palmer Inv. (@APinv) February 27, 2020
3. Rory's floor: I've written about this over the last few weeks, but what do we think McIlroy's floor is? Top five? Top 10? His current odds are incredible.
- To win: +500
- Top five: +120
- Top 10: -160
- Top 20: -350
These are Tiger-in-his-prime numbers, and he deserves them considering he's had six consecutive top-five finishes on the PGA Tour.
Tiger Woods, despite winning eight times, because of a back that isn't ready and the desire to get more rest before next week's Players Championship and (presumably) the Masters in just over a month.
- 2019: Francesco Molinari
- 2018: Rory McIlroy
- 2017: Marc Leishman
- 2016: Jason Day
- 2015: Matt Every
Arnold Palmer Invitational picks
Winner: Bryson DeChambeau (16-1) -- I'm a big fan of "stays hot until he wins and then drops off" guy, and DeChambeau perfectly fits the mold right now.
Top 10: Rory McIlroy (-160) -- Who else? The strokes-gained race is once again going to be a rout. He's simply the best player in the world right now.
Sleeper: Wyndham Clark (80-1) -- Three straight top 20s (quietly!), and Data Golf has him as a top-75 golfer based on the way he's playing right now.
Who will win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard from the model that's nailed six golf majors, and find out.