The PGA TOUR stays in Florida this week as Bay Hill Championship Course hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The course is a Par 72 measuring just under 7,400 yards with Bermuda grass greens. The winning score here is dictated by weather, as last year Tyrrell Hatton took home the trophy with a four-under, while in 2018 Rory McIlroy was 18-under when he won.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest type.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories that you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column each week, which highlights golfers to buy and fade following each round of play at that week’s PGA TOUR event, and Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course. The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Rory McIlroy ($11,500 DraftKings)
This one isn’t exactly rocket science. You don’t need me to tell you to play the best and most expensive player in the field, but I will give you some reasons why he stands out above the rest. First off, his history at Bay Hill is second to none, as in six trips he’s never missed a cut and gone T-5, T-6, WIN, T-4 across his past four trips here.
The Northern Irishman is coming off a very strong showing at the WGC, finishing in a tie for sixth place while gaining more than 3.8 strokes tee-to-green on both Thursday and Saturday. McIlroy shreds the TOUR”s annual Florida Swing and it feels like he’s very close to winning again. There is too much value on the board this week to avoid him and you’d be hard pressed to find a better option to anchor your cash-game rosters.
Bryson DeChambeau ($11,000 DraftKings)
DeChambeau has been very Jekyll and Hyde of late which can be frustrating, but his history at Bay Hill, much like McIlroy, is strong. He’s posted two top-four finishes in the last three years and ranks as the No.-1 player in this field in SG: Off-the-Tee across his past 48 rounds. SG:OTT correlates well with success at Bay Hill, as does Par-5 scoring, where DeChambeau also ranks No.1 on TOUR.
Last week, DeChambeau opened with an egregious 77, but quickly found it as he tied the course record the very next day shooting an eight-under 64, gaining 3.5 strokes tee-to-green in the process. Bay Hill ranks as one of the toughest courses on TOUR and as we know DeChambeau shreds tough courses. I’m willing to wager he puts together four solid rounds this week and contends in a field I thought would be a little stronger. You can actually stack him with McIlory and not hate the rest of your roster, which is something I am seriously considering.
Tyrrell Hatton ($10,000 DraftKings)
The defending API champion made his first stateside appearance of 2021 last week and posted a rather boring T-22. He gained strokes tee-to-green in three of his four rounds including gaining on approach in all four. His bugaboo as per usual, was his around-the-green play, where he lost at least one stroke in that department in all four rounds.
Bay Hill is a ball-striker’s course and Hatton ranks No. 5 in this field in SG: Ball-Striking across his past 24 rounds. His price tag saves you a significant amount of money from both McIlroy and DeChambeau without losing a ton of win equity. He is just as strong a play as the former two and can even be used to start rosters with this week.
Christian Bezuidenhout ($7,500 DraftKings)
The South African is not a household name, but unbeknownst to many he is in fact the 37th-ranked player in the world right now and is just an all-round solid golfer. In his debut at Bay Hill last year he posted a T-18 and is coming off a very respectable T-32 last week in an extremely loaded WGC field.
One of the best putter’s in this field, Bezuidenhout ranks eighth in SG: Putting across his past 36 rounds and is even better on Bermuda, as he gains .736 strokes more per round compared to other surfaces. That’s the fourth-largest differential in this field. He’s 6/6 this season in making cuts across both the PGA and Euro TOUR and at $7,500 makes for a very reliable cash-game option.
Ian Poulter ($7,300 DraftKings)
The savvy veteran doesn’t boast the best rolling numbers outside of his short game right now, but he has posted six top-25 finishes across his past 10 trips to Bay Hill, with his worst finish being 46th in that span. He shook the rust off last week by playing the Puerto Rico Open and finished in a tie for 35th.
There are some guys who just know how to get around certain courses and Poulter fits that mold this week. His price is very palatable at just $7,300 and he should yet again make the cut this week while possessing strong upside beyond that as well. The Englishman provides quite a bit of safety and helps fit any stud you prefer up top.
Wyndham Clark ($7,000 DraftKings)
Last season, Clark ranked sixth on TOUR in Par-5 scoring. In a very small sample this season he ranks 62nd, but has been playing the best golf of his career of late. He played extremely well his last time out at Genesis, posting a T-8, and has now made eight of 10 cuts on the year with four top-25s in that stretch.
He appears to be in full control of his game at the moment, as over his past four rounds in this field he ranks 19th in SG: Approach and 15th in SG: Putting. At $7K flat he makes for yet another strong salary saver this week. In his debut last year here he posted a T-68 thanks to back-to-back rounds above 80 on Saturday and Sunday.
Matt Wallace ($6,900 DraftKings)
Another strong value option this week is Wallace, as he’s now played the API twice, finishing T-6 and T-24. Wallace seems to show up at tough courses like Bay Hill, and although he’s missed his previous two cuts, he ranks 14th and 24th in SG: Approach and SG: Putting, respectively, in this field over his past eight rounds. At $6,900 we’re only looking for a made cut, however, he boasts a substantial amount of upside beyond that.
Chris Kirk ($7,000 DraftKings)
As previously stated, there are a ton of value options this week. Kirk can easily be included as a core play. Both his long- and short-term forms check out. His course history at Bay Hill is extremely strong for someone who costs $7K, as he’s posted four top-20s in his last seven trips to Orlando. Kirk ranks ninth in this field in total strokes gained over his past 16 rounds and is in the midst of his best stretch of golf he’s ever played. I love his price here.
Francesco Molinari ($8,600 DraftKings)
If looking in the mid-range this week, Molinari seems to be back in the form he was in prior to Tiger Woods taking his soul at the 2019 Masters. He ranks 13th in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green over his past 16 rounds and has an incredibly strong four top-10s in his past six trips to Bay Hill.
Top photo: Rory McIlroy
Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images