It was a wild Sunday at the Honda Classic as Daniel Berger fell apart when we least expected it. He blew his five-shot lead early in the round, as Shane Lowry seemingly took control. In the end, though, it was Sepp Straka who birdied the par-5 18th to post the winning score at -10.
This week, they stay in Florida for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau was forced to withdraw midweek due to injury, but it still leaves a solid field for the final event before next week’s Players Championship. World No. 1 Jon Rahm headlines the field, followed by fellow top 10 players in Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, and Scottie Scheffler.
They will look to tame the long 7,466-yard par 72, which is known for its tough conditions that get more difficult as the week wears on. Similar to last week, this is a tournament that generally produces winners short of the teens under par in scoring, and in weeks where the wind wreaks havoc, it can really create difficult scoring.
Overall, this is a tournament that has been dominated by internationals. Bryson in 2021 was just the third American winner of this tournament dating back to 2006, with Tiger Woods and Matt Every being the other two, both of which won multiple times. It is no surprise that we have a healthy international contingent set to tee it up this week with the 2022 TOUR debut of former tournament champion Tyrell Hatton as well as the return to the course of Matt Fitzpatrick.
DraftKings continues to give us a strong main GPP with the $20 Pitch + Putt with a $1,000,000 prize pool and $250,000 to first place. There are just short of 59,000 entries to beat to take home that top prize this week, so we will need to dial in on the right mix of players to make that happen. Let’s take a look at my favorite plays for the week ahead at the API.
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Jon Rahm ($11,400 DraftKings)
I’m back to Rahm this week, and I really believe he is set to be our winner at the API. He made a quiet putter change on Sunday at Riviera, and things seemed to click for him on the greens as he fired a 5-under final round. He gained 2.4 strokes on the field with that new flat stick in that round, which can easily be overlooked when we see he lost two strokes on the greens across the week.
There is some reason for me to believe that by lock, we may get some discounted ownership on Rahm too. I think some have become fatigued by him of late as he hasn’t exactly paid off all of these high price tags, and now he’s headed to a tournament he hasn’t played before. I’ll happily take any discounts I can get on the World No. 1 as I believe this course is tailor-made for his game, and we could see one of those dominant performances from him this week.
Sungjae Im ($9,900 DraftKings)
There are often times where the best spot to go to a player is right after they disappointed as chalk in the week prior. Sungjae Im definitely fits that mold as he was in the top two of ownership at the Honda Classic, but trunk slammed on Friday with a missed cut. Sungjae was unable to get much going in his opening round, which left him needing to climb back in the second round. I’m encouraged by the fact he quickly turned around his struggles on approach, from losing 2.6 shots with his irons on Thursday to gaining a stroke on the field on Friday.
We know he is a great fit once again this week, with three straight appearances to Bay Hill resulting in T21 or better finishes, including two top 3s. I’m pumped to see him priced high once again, and at $500 above the chalk of the slate in Will Zalatoris, we are set to get some nice leverage on the field when rostering Sungjae in lineups.
Paul Casey ($8,300 DraftKings)
The top-rated player in Bailey Model from the mid-tier this week is Paul Casey. He is someone I had my eye on as well as his ball-striking game is well suited for Bay Hill. This has played out in his results at the API as well, with two top-10 finishes in his last three trips to this event.
He is always a player that I want to target in the lower scoring grinds, as his ability to make par when needed is more valued this week than most that require birdies in bunches for top results. Casey will be chalky this week as this is a popular price point to pair with two of the high-end players, so we just want to be careful how we build with him in lineups.
Keith Mitchell ($8,100 DraftKings)
The true chalk of this range will come with Keith Mitchell, but I am not going to concern myself with that this week. He is too cheap for the form he is showing and the results he has produced at this event. Mitchell comes in off of a backdoor T9 at Honda, and he has two more top-12 finishes this season. He also has two top-six finishes at Bay Hill in his last three trips to this event, which really highlights his course fit.
I am always more interested in Keith Mitchell when we get to the bermuda of the southeast, and he showed that last week with a sharp putter. He also gained more than 4.5 shots with his ball-striking at PGA National, which will carry over well to the API. I really like that he continued to improve over the weekend last week, and I look for him to bring that momentum into this week. He’s a player that is a great fit for DFS, but I also see him as having true winning upside for this event.
Keegan Bradley ($7,300 DraftKings)
There aren’t many players that are more consistent at a single event than Keegan Bradley. He has made the cut at the API in nine straight trips and last year paid it off with a top-10 finish. He will be a value to any lineup this week just by finding the weekend, but it helps to know he has the upside for a solid result as well. We will always loathe watching Keegan on the greens, but his elite ball-striking makes him a strong play for the price at Bay Hill.
Sebastian Munoz ($7,000 DraftKings)
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I have a soft spot for Sebastian Munoz. He is almost always on my radar as a guy that can put up DraftKings points in bunches with his ability to score. The issue often with the Colombian is that he tends to fade on the weekends after getting out to hot starts at the beginning of the week. I’ve seen more consistency out of Munoz in recent weeks as he posted back-to-back top-25 finishes at WMPO and the Genesis.
He will be one that will be happy to be back on the bermuda in Florida as this surface is the only one where he historically gains shots on the greens. His putter was the issue that held him back in both prior events as he gained 9.7 and 8.9 shots on those fields tee-to-green but lost 3.8 and 4.3 on the putting surfaces. If he gets some comfort on the greens at API, he will be around for the weekend and in a position to crush this price tag.
Nicolai Hojgaard ($6,800 DraftKings)
I’ll take a bit of a chance on talent down low. I almost did so with Thomas Pieters up above and will likely have some of the fiery Belgian too, but Nicolai Hojgaard is my pick just below $7,000. He is a recent winner on the DP World Tour and just got his feet wet with the PGA last week at the Honda Classic.
Many were excited to roster him the first time, only to see a missed cut. His price drops $800 this week, and he makes more sense for me this time around as we know he is talented and hopefully has shaken off some of the nerves. If he can just make it through the weekend he has some scoring ability and certainly the talent to be a key piece of a GPP winning lineup this week at very low ownership.
Danny Willett ($6,400 DraftKings)
The end result at the Honda Classic wasn’t great for Danny Willett as he started the week hot and faded a bit as it played out. He still shouldn’t be at this low of a price tag for a guy that just won in the fall and fits the narrative for this course. I’ll be happy to dip down to Willett at single-digit ownership and a cheap price that just needs him to see the weekend to pay it off.
He’s a great salary saver to allow me to mix in two of the top-tier players in lineups.