Gdula's Golf Simulations: Arnold Palmer Invitational

Rory McIlroy is quite likely to earn a win the week before THE PLAYERS. Is anyone even on the same level?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

I'll keep it simple: I track weekly results from the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour.

Using a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers, I adjust each golfer's score relative to the field. The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours.

Their adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing the event out thousands of times.

Here are the results for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Win Odds

Golfer Wins FanDuel
Golfer Wins FanDuel
Rory McIlroy 15.8% +550 Hideki Matsuyama 5.7% +2000
Xander Schauffele 5.3% +2000 Adam Scott 4.9% +2000
Tommy Fleetwood 3.3% +1400 Rickie Fowler 3.0% +3300
Justin Rose 2.9% +3400 Brooks Koepka 2.9% +2700
Bryson DeChambeau 2.6% +1600 Patrick Reed 2.6% +2700
Sungjae Im 2.4% +2700 Tony Finau 1.8% +3100
Byeong Hun An 1.7% +4000 Jason Day 1.7% +2700
Billy Horschel 1.7% +5000 Collin Morikawa 1.6% +4500
Abraham Ancer 1.3% +6000 Henrik Stenson 1.1% +3700
Matthew Fitzpatrick 1.1% +4000 Tyrrell Hatton 1.1% +5000
Scottie Scheffler 0.9% +9000 Sebastian Munoz 0.9% +10000
Max Homa 0.9% +6500 Joaquin Niemann 0.9% +8000
Marc Leishman 0.8% +3700 Vaughn Taylor 0.7% +13000
J.T. Poston 0.7% +9000 Wyndham Clark 0.7% +8000
Charles Howell III 0.7% +10000 Carlos Ortiz 0.7% +10000
Kevin Kisner 0.7% +7000 Bubba Watson 0.7% +4500
Kevin Na 0.7% +10000 Jason Kokrak 0.7% +9000
Harris English 0.7% +8000 Corey Conners 0.6% +10000

It's a top-heavy field, and that means a high likelihood that one of the elite players wins at Bay Hill. Long shot bets are probably better spent on top-10s and top-20s rather than outrights. The past five winners were Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Jason Day, and Matt Every (back-to-back). Before that, Tiger Woods won it back-to-back.

Rory McIlroy (+550) is a massive favorite this week, and the win simulations suggest that he's priced appropriately. It's hard to avoid McIlroy entirely, and won here two years ago, but the return is still thin at +550. My card is starting elsewhere this week.

Hideki Matsuyama (+2000) and Xander Schauffele (+2000) rate out well at this course despite iffy form at Bay Hill. Hideki has one top-20 over the past five years, and Schauffele has not played here. Those two plus Adam Scott (+2000) is the tier I'm looking to bet first due to their current form. I already have action on Xander at +2000. Matsuyama at +2000 is juicy.

The numbers like Justin Rose (+3400) and Rickie Fowler (+3300) fine, but I won't be going there. They do fit the bill of high-end options at a decent price.

Abraham Ancer (+6000) and Collin Morikawa (+4500) deserve a look, and those two plus Scottie Scheffler (+9000) are already on my card.

I don't want to punt much this week, as I find maximizing value in the second tier (the guys at +2000) and the +4500 to +9000 range is ideal.