The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The PGA Tour continues its Florida voyage at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This is a loaded field, featuring defending champion Marc Leishman and 24 of the top 50 golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings. Oh yeah, and Tiger Woods, who has won at this course eight times out of his 17 appearances.
Bay Hill is a par-72, 7,149-yard course that is one of the longer courses on Tour. It features four par 3s with three of them stretching more than 215 yards, four par 5s, and 10 par 4s (six of more than 450 yards).
As always, I’ll be backtesting various metrics within our PGA Models to find out which have been the most valuable at Bay Hill. Per the Trends tool, here is how the top-20 percent of golfers in various metrics have done (in Plus/Minus valuation) at this course. Historically, the tournament has yielded averages of 51.96 DraftKings points and a +2.87 Plus/Minus with a 54.6 percent Consistency Rating to the field.
I’m listing only the metrics that tested positively above the baseline:
- Recent Birdies: +6.06 Plus/Minus
- Recent Eagles: +4.60 Plus/Minus
- Course Driving Accuracy: +4.56 Plus/Minus
- Recent Driving Distance: +4.40 Plus/Minus
- Recent Par 5 Scoring: +4.39 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Greens In Regulation: +4.37 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Tournament Count: +4.25 Plus/Minus
- Course Putts Per Round: +3.74 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Eagles: +3.13 Plus/Minus
- Recent Putts Per Round: +2.92 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Putts Per Round: +2.89 Plus/Minus
- Course Driving Distance: +2.82 Plus/Minus
- Recent Par 4 Scoring: +2.56 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Driving Distance: +2.17 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Par 5 Scoring: +2.10 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Birdies: +2.09 Plus/Minus
- Recent Adjusted Round Score: +1.22 Plus/Minus
- Recent Missed Cuts: +0.83 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Scrambling: +0.80 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Bogies: +0.56 Plus/Minus
- Course Adjusted Round Score: +0.53 Plus/Minus
- Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: +0.23 Plus/Minus
- Recent Greens In Regulation: +0.01 Plus/Minus
There is an abundance of positively correlated metrics with this course: Recent birdies leads the way with a +6.06 Plus/Minus. It’s easy to see that distance matters on this course as long-term/recent par 5 scoring, long-term/recent eagles, and three other distance metrics correlate well here. You’ll be at a tremendous advantage if you can roster the golfers who can take advantage the par 5s. Putting can be volatile between golfers, but players who rank well in long-term, recent, and course Putts Per Round (PPR) have done well at Bay Hill. There are water hazards on 10 holes, which is likely why golfers who have been accurate of the tee at Bay Hill (+4.56 Plus/Minus) have found success. Four course-specific metrics have tested well here, meaning I may pay some attention to course history, but overall, I tend to focus my primary research on long-term and recent form.
Let’s just start with the elephant, well, the Tiger in the room. Tiger Woods ($10,000) is an interesting case as he has the highest Vegas Odds (15.4 percent) to win, and he has the fifth-highest salary. With the help of his eight wins at Bay Hill, Woods’ Course Adj Rd Score ranks in the 99th percentile. His long-term form won’t look great as he battled injuries (only seven starts), which makes him hard to model and he likely won’t stick out in your models overall. Woods’ recent form looks great as his Recent Adj Rd Score (68.9) ranks in a tie for 19th, as he’s coming off a second-place finish at Valspar last week and has put together three top-24 finishes this season, with one missed cut in four appearances.
Woods’ recent form checks boxes in a few of the metrics we’re eyeing. He’s sporting a Recent DD of 301.3 yards, and his putter has been serviceable with 28.4 putts per round in his past three matches. Woods is also excelling on par 4s as his -2.3 average adjusted strokes on par 4s ranks seventh in the field. Particularly on DraftKings, it’s not often you can roster the golfer with the highest odds to win the tournament at the fifth-highest salary. It’s likely Woods ends up being the highest-owned player on the slate. Per our PGA Correlation Matrix, Vegas Odds at Bay Hill is the strongest indicator of tournament ownership.
Jason Day ($11,800) hasn’t played since the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but he checks in with the highest salary and the second-highest Vegas Odds (7.7 percent) to win. He hasn’t missed a cut at Bay Hill since 2008, although his history is a bit up-and-down: He won this tournament in 2016 but hasn’t finished inside the top-16 other than that victory. Overall, Day is a solid fit for this course with his 311-yard Recent DD and his long-term/recent birdies per tournament rank inside the top-two among the field.
Justin Rose ($11,500) is an excellent fit for Bay Hill as his 70.3 percent Long-Term Greens In Regulation (LT GIR) ranks fifth-best in the field. His 306.3 Recent DD and -3.5 average adjusted strokes on par 5s should allow Rose to capitalize on some of these longer holes. Historically, golfers with similar metrics and Vegas Odds (6.7 percent) to Rose have averaged a +6.62 Plus/Minus with a 64.1 percent Consistency Rating (per our Trends tool): It also correlated with high ownership (19.9 percent on average).
The Value Plays
One way to use FantasyLabs to find potential value golfers in our Models is to leverage our LT Adj Rd Score metric, which is essentially a measurement of the best golfers over the past 75 weeks. Among these golfers, those who have high Adj Rd Scores and low salaries make great value plays.
Kevin Chappell ($7,300) should be able to excel here on the long par 4s and 5s with his 311.4-yard Recent DD. It’s one thing to be able to drive far, but you also need to take advantage of it, which Chappell has done recently with his -2 average adjusted strokes on par 4s and -5 average adjusted strokes on par 5s. Both marks are inside the top-10 compared to the field — but he’s 41st in salary.
Zach Johnson ($7,700) won’t break the bank, and he’s sporting the 12th-best LT Adj Rd Score (69.2). He’s certainly not long off the tee, but he has the seventh-best Course Driving Accuracy (DA) Score, and his 28.7 LT PPR makes him one of the best putters on tour. Johnson has played Bay Hill 15 times and has missed the cut just once (2010, finishing inside the top-10 five times.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat ($7,900) doesn’t match with the distance metrics we are looking at, but he ranks third among the field in LT GIR (70.9 percent) and second in recent eagles per tournament. If you’re taking course history into effect, Aphibarnrat has played this course twice (2016 and 2015), finishing sixth in both appearances.
The Bump and Run
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,500) checks numerous boxes this week: He ranks third in recent birdies per tournament, second in recent eagles per tournament, first in recent par-5 scoring, and third in long-term par-5 scoring. At $9,500 and the fourth-highest Vegas Odds to win, he’ll likely garner decent ownership.
If you’re looking to go a little off the board, 21-year-old Sam Burns ($7,200) doesn’t have much to go off of for long-term form and he has never played at Bay Hill, but his recent form has been serviceable in two tough tournaments with a 12th-place finish at Valspar and an eighth-place finish at the Honda Classic. Burns has a 67.8 Recent Adj Rd Score, he can crush the ball as evidenced by his 309.8 Recent DD, and his recent eagles per tournament mark leads the field. That said, his 50.8 percent Recent DA is worrisome. Burns has had less than two percent ownership in every GPP this year.
Good luck this week!
Photo credit Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports