The PGA Tour resumes this week with a star-studded field for the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational which tees off this coming Thursday, March 7th.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is a PGA Tour event played every March at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando. The private golf resort is owned by the late legendary golfer Arnold Palmer so that’s where the name of the Tournament comes from. Dubbed as “The Arnie” this event is one of only five PGA golf tournaments given “invitational” status by the PGA and as such, it only has a reduced field of 120 players. Aside from the $9.1M purse and the 500 championship points earned, the winner of the tournament will receive a red cardigan sweater in honor and memory of the great Arnold Palmer.
One of The Best Closing Stretches
Bay Hill Club & Lodge was tabbed by Arnold Palmer as the “best golf course in Florida” after the golf legend played an exhibition at the 7,419 yard par-72 course in 1965. Palmer would late turn Bay Hill to his winter base before eventually buying the property. The golf course was built in 1961 by Dick Wilson but since Palmer owned it, his constant tinkering has left his stamp on it.
The course is known for having one of the best closing stretches in the sport. The par-5 16th hole is one that presents big risk but has the potential for big reward as well. The par-3 17th sits 220 yards from an elevated tee box while the par-4 18th hole in enclosed by a bunker and fronted by a lake.
The Arnie is also well-known for its drama. Three of Tiger Woods’ record eight victories at Bay Hill came down to the final putt. In 2015, Matt Every sank a 17-foot birdie putt to become the event’s third back to back winner. 25 year earlier, Robert Gamez eagled the final hole to beat Greg Norman by one stroke. The drama isn’t just limited to the 72nd hole as six out of the first 20 editions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational were also decided by sudden death, including two by Tom Kite in 1982 and 1989.
Last year’s edition though didn’t have the drama. Instead, it was a blitzkrieg finish by Rory McIlroy which gave him his first tournament victory since the Tour Championship in 2016, and it was a coincidence that his triumph at Bay Hill came on the exact day that Arnold Palmer died.
McIlroy began the final round two strokes off Henrik Stenson and the Englishman didn’t record his first birdie until the 6th hole. But then Rory went on a zone and he suddenly wouldn’t miss McIlroy birdied five times in his final six holes, producing a torrid back-nine finish that Palmer would have been proud of. His closing round of 64 was the lowest final round score for a winner at Bay Hill since Gary Koch in 1984.
Eight time Arnie winner Tiger Woods was in the title hunt until he went out of bounds at the 16th hole. Tiger would finish 5th in the tournament as he made a dramatic comeback in 2018. Bryson DeChambeau finished second to McIlroy, whose victory was the 7th by a non-American in the past 13 years. Prior to that, there was only one international winner in 27 installments of the tournament.
McIlroy is among the favorites to win the Tournament this year. In fact, he and Tiger Woods have been trading spots at 1 and 2 in the oddsboard for weeks now.
Here are the Top 25 odds to win the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitations. Odds taken from 888sport.com as of 3/4/19:
|Rafael Cabrera Bello||+5000|
Rory McIlroy is the defending champion in this tournament, the last one he’s won. McIlroy’s had an auspicious start to 2019. He finished T-4 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, then followed that up with a T-5 at the Farmers Insurance Open. February was much better as he wound up with a T-4 at the Genesis Open and then came in second at the WGC-Mexico Championship. With McIlroy getting close to winning form each week, getting him at a +800 is good value.
Justin Rose is a man to watch here too as he presents excellent value +1200 because he’s finished in the Top 15 in six out of his last seven trips to Bay Hill and these include three Top 3 finishes, the last of which was in 2018. The Englishman is coming off a win at the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open in January and should enter well-rested for this tournament.
My best value bet in the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational is Francesco Molinari who at +300 is coming off a T-17 in Mexico which happened to be only his second start of the year. The Ryder Cup hero is primed for a win at Bay Hill after finishing in the Top 3 three times in the last five years.