Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: Arnold Palmer Invitational

After a grueling test last year, Bay Hill awaits once again at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here's what we know about this top-tier course and event.

The PGA Tour heads about two hours north after a terrific week at The Concession Golf Club, which made enough of an impression on both players and media alike that a return for a major championship or team event seems inevitable at some point in the future. Collin Morikawa and his white-hot irons simply would not be denied, as he closed out his three-stroke victory with a Sunday 69.

On we go to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the annual stop at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Bay Hill is a 7,454-yard par 72 in Orlando, Florida, and has played as one of the most challenging courses on Tour the past few years. That was especially so last year when strong winds combined with the heavily grown rough and lightning-fast greens led to just four players finishing the week under par. Notable here is that five straight installments have been won by international players all of a particularly high class. For events held on American soil that is nearly unheard of, and it speaks to the unique challenge that Bay Hill presents.

The API was the final full event played last season before the COVID-19 pandemic led to a stoppage after one round at THE PLAYERS. It has elevated status similar to the Genesis Invitational, with just 123 golfers in the field and a victory good for a three-year exemption.

As it stands now, the weather is expected to take a turn for the worse over the weekend. Keep an eye out for any wave advantages as the wind forecast shakes out for Thursday and Friday, but also keep in mind that the leaders over the weekend may face the worst of it. Live betting golfers in the middle of the pack to make a charge or fading the leaders in single-round contests could prove profitable this week if the forecast holds.

Let's dig into the courses and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.

Course and Tournament Info

Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Par: 72
Distance: 7,454 yards
Fairways/Rough: Bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass
Greens: TifEagle Bermudagrass

Bay Hill features four par 3s all measuring close to or over 200 yards, and three of the four par 5s are 550 yards or longer. That Tyrrell Hatton was victorious here last year despite weekend rounds of 73 and 74 shows just how difficult the course played last year. In fact, the field combined for just one round below 70 over the entire weekend last year.

That won't always be the case, as the year before Francesco Molinari stormed up the leaderboard with a closing 64 to win by two strokes. Hatton won at just 4-under par, Molinari was 12-under, and the three years prior were won at 18-under, 11-under, and 17-under.

Bay Hill features 84 bunkers and about 100 acres of rough, and water is in play on about half the holes. Most notable is the 18th, which features a large green that requires an approach over a water hazard. The beginning is no picnic, with the first three holes playing as one of the most difficult openings of any course on Tour.

We can find notable southeast comparisons at PGA National (Honda Classic), TPC Sawgrass (THE PLAYERS Championship), and Augusta National (The Masters), all of which place a premium on hitting greens and putting well on fast surfaces. Curious to see two courses on the other side of the country that pop up on datagolf's Course Fit tool (which matches up how golfers in the field gain strokes at each course) are Silverado Resort and Spa North (Safeway Open) and TPC Scottsdale (Waste Management Phoenix Open), which are the two most highly correlated courses on Tour.

Key Stats

These stats have proven vital to success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

Key Stats for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay HIll Club & Lodge
Strokes Gained: Approach
Birdies or Better Gained
Greens in Regulation Gained
Proximity Gained: 200+ Yards
Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda)

As befitting a course where Tiger Woods has won eight times, iron play is crucial this week. Scrambling is difficult here, and the greens are so fast that two putting is often a victory. If you miss the green on approach you'll need to be a dynamite scrambler to save par. Strokes gained: around the greens is also worth a look this week, but the combo of approach and greens in regulation will gear us toward golfers who aren't even in the position to scramble. No matter how good a golfers short game is, if they miss the greens at a high clip here it's going to be a short week.

Scoring stats this week are birdies or better gained and putting on bermuda, Several golfers got their first taste of bermuda last week at the WGC-Workday Championship, but plenty more are in their first tournament action in the southeast. If you have a service that allows splits including green speed, prioritize golfers who excel on the fastest greens. Bay Hill's surfaces are rated as "Lightning" fast on Fantasy National Golf Club.

By singling out proximity gained from 200 yards and beyond, we can capture the golfers who are best suited for the tee shots on all the par 3s and the approach on the birdie chances on the par 5s.

Course History Studs

Rory McIlroy added this event to his schedule in 2015 and has not missed it since, and it's clearly a course he likes. Starting with his debut, he's finished T11, T27, T4, 1st, T6, and T5.

Marc Leishman has played here every season since 2010. In his first six tries, he had just one finish inside the top 30, but since 2016 he's been great here every year, with finishes of T17, 1st, T7, T23, and 2nd.

Molinari has come on of late with top 10s in three of his last four starts, and he's got a great record at Bay Hill to go along with that current form. He won in 2019 and before that was T26, T7, T9, T17, T5, and T34.

Hatton won here last year and was T4 in 2017, and Sungjae Im has finished 3rd in each of his two starts.

Other golfers in the field with multiple top 10 finishes here over the past five years include Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Keith Mitchell, Luke List, and Sung Kang.