The Back 9: 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Jordan Spieth of the United States reacts to a par-saving putt on the 16th green during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Last week on the PGA Tour, Collin Morikawa (50-1) won his first WGC title at the WGC-Workday. Going into the week there was a lot of talk of Collin’s new putting grip and his lackluster performance at the Genesis. Morikawa put all that chatter to rest when he outlasted an elite field consisting of Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka, and Viktor Hovland and continued to show why he is one of if not the game’s brightest, young star. The Florida swing continues this week at another iconic event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, in Orlando, Florida.

The Course:

Bay Hill, a Par-72, measures in at just a touch over 7,400 yards and dons the traditional Florida, Bermuda grass greens. Because of its length, bevy of hazards and numerous Par fives, this course caters to the longer hitters on Tour. The recipe for success at the difficult, Florida track is usually some combination of immaculate ball striking and gutty putting. We’ve seen a wide variety of golfers conquer the course depending on the weather. If winds do pick up, like the forecast hints they will, length off the tee is somewhat mitigated here. Nevertheless, long irons and putting are still a must. Let’s jump into the picks.

Outrights:

 Francesco Molinari of Italy high fives patrons as he walks off the 18th green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 13, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jordan Spieth (28-1)

I’m going to admit this right off the bat that this pick scares me. When I watch Jordan play this year, I often find myself wondering just how he’s achieving these impressive finishes. Often, he’s hitting his second shot from the rough and either sticking it to five feet or sinking a twenty-plus foot birdie putt. This sort of wizardry has led him to two T5’s and a T15 in his last three starts. So why am I picking him this week? While the magical birdies are undeniably entertaining, Spieth has managed to mitigate his errors off the tee, gaining 0.5 strokes off the tee in his past two outings. If he can continue this upward trend and maintain the rest of his brilliance, there’s no reason to think he can’t win here.

Francesco Molinari (28-1)

This pick has much more rhyme and reason to it. Molinari, the 2019 winner of this event, enters the week in great form. After an up-and-down week at the AT&T Pro-Am, Francesco found his footing at the Genesis on his way to his third top ten finish in four events. If the 2019 victory at Bay Hill wasn’t convincing enough, Molinari also owns four top twenties at this event, three of which, went for top tens. So, in summary, Molinari has been playing great golf at courses that aren’t really suited for his game and now we get him on a course he historically has success on. Sign me up.

Sam Burns (40-1)

Sam Burns is one of this week’s chalk donkeys and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Very similar to how the tea leaves pointed to Homa at the Genesis, all signs are pointing to a great showing from Burns at Bay Hill. After leading at Riviera for 54 holes, Burns relinquished that lead late on Sunday afternoon. While most people will say he collapsed, I still think it was a great showing from a young player at one of the hardest courses on Tour in an incredibly difficult field. With a week off and time to hit reset, I fully expect Bermuda Burns to retain his immaculate ball striking and putting this week and contend for the title.

Longshot/Cheek of the Week:

Ian Poulter of Europe reacts after a birdie on the 17th hole during day two of the Afternoon Four-Ball Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 29, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ian Poulter (125-1)

This week’s Cheek of the Week is the British veteran, Ian Poulter. The quasi-Orlando resident is generally someone that comes alive during the Tour’s Florida swing. Recently, Poult has shown some good form, having made two straight cuts and coming inside the top thirty-five in both of those contests. In his twelve outings at his backyard, Bay Hill, Poulter has earned eleven paydays, missing the cut only once. If the weather forecast holds up this weekend and wind gusts reach the high teens, expect Poulter to be his usual confident self and look to capitalize.

All PGA odds taken from BetMGM Sportsbook

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