The PGA TOUR Course Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the Fantasy Labs Trends Tool and metrics to highlight stats for the upcoming tournament.
The Honda Classic didn’t disappoint with Sungjae Im getting his first PGA TOUR win. The Florida swing continues this week with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida.
Let’s dive in.
As always, I back-tested various metrics in our PGA Models to find out those that have been the most valuable at Bay Hill. Per our Trends tool, here’s how the top 20% of golfers in various metrics have done at this course (in Plus/Minus valuation).
Historically, this course has yielded averages of 50.01 DraftKings points and a +0.44 Plus/Minus with a 51.8% Consistency Rating to the field.
Consistency Rating: The percentage of games/tournaments in which a player has reached his salary-based expectation.
Plus/Minus: A player’s Plus/Minus is his actual fantasy points plus/minus his expected points. For example, if Rory McIlroy is expected to score 92 DraftKings points this week, but he actually scores 100.25, then his Plus/Minus would be +8.25.
Metrics that tested with at least a +2.00 Plus/Minus, listed in order of those that have correlated the most with success at Bay Hill in the past:
- Long-Term Greens In Regulation: +5.96
- Long-Term Driving Distance: +4.79
- Recent Driving Distance: +4.52
- Recent Par-5 Scoring: +3.80
- Long-Term Par-4 Scoring: +3.63
- Long-Term Eagles: +3.57
- Recent Eagles: +3.23
- Recent Putts Per Round: +2.78
- Long-Term Par-5 Scoring: +2.55
- Long-Term Par-3 Scoring: +2.20
- Recent Par-4 Scoring: +2.01
Golfers will be tested at another difficult course this week. Bay Hill checks in at a lengthy 7,452 yards and is a par 72. Overall, this course ranked as the ninth-hardest course on the PGA TOUR last year, playing +0.37 strokes over par.
Given how long Bay Hill is, it isn’t surprising to see distance pop as one of the top metrics from our Trends tool. That said, it’s not entirely driving distance that matters, because average driving distance at this course is lower than an average event since there’s a fair amount of laying up on tee shots. It’s the longer approaches where some of the bombers may have an advantage.
And similar to most weeks, targeting golfers who hit plenty of greens in regulation (GIR) and have strong approach games will be key. Golfers averaged just 57.64% GIR in 2019, which ranked as the fifth-hardest last year. However, they’ve historically averaged 62% of GIR at Bay Hill, but that is still 3% lower than average PGA TOUR event (Fantasy National).
Not only will Strokes Gained: Approach be a key metric, but golfers should also have strong long irons because 32% of approach shots at Bay Hill come from 200 yards or further. I won’t completely write someone off if their long irons aren’t elite, but it’s rather notable that golfers will hit nearly one-third of their approaches from 200-plus yards.
Targeting par-5 scorers should be another focus because they’re the easiest holes on the course as all four par 5s boast birdie rates above 35%, per Fantasy National. Not only will they need to capitalize on scoring opportunities on par 5s, but minimizing the damage on the par 3s and 4s will be critical.
Over the last three years, the par 3s at Bay Hill ranked as the seventh, seventh and fifth-hardest holes in terms of par-3 scoring average. No. 2 and No. 17 will give golfers the most trouble since they ranked as the 18th and 19th hardest holes among all par 3s last year.
The par 4s can be just as difficult. In 2019, the par 4s were the sixth-hardest in scoring average and 11th and sixth in the two years before that. There likely won’t be many strong birdie opportunities on the par 3s and 4s since they have both ranked inside the top 10 in difficulty in birdie or better average over the last three years.
Strong off-the-tee play will also be a factor because golfers could struggle if they’re finding trouble with their first shot. And it’s only magnified by Bay Hill’s below-average GIR rate and long approaches. This course already ranks among the most difficult in average proximity to the hole from the fairway, but it’s even harder from the rough, ranking inside the top six in average proximity over the last six years.
If you’re looking near the top of the betting odds for this week’s tournament, Xander Schauffele at 25-1 ($10 bet wins $250) stands out as someone who is a good fit for this course. Over his last 50 rounds, he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and 16th in Strokes Gained: Approach. Additionally, he ranks seventh and fourth in par-4 and par-5 efficiency and 15th in proximity from 200-plus yards over the same time frame.
Key metrics: GIR, Birdie or better scoring, Par-5 scoring, Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Strokes Gained: Approach, Proximity from 200-plus yards.
And as usual, I like Long-Term (LT) and Recent Adjusted Round Scores (Adj Rd) as catch-all metrics. Our Adj Rd Score metrics are my favorite catch-all metric in the industry because they’re adjusted for both course and field strength to truly gauge the talent of a golfer.
Pictured above: Xander Schauffele
Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images