The PGA Tour heads south on Thursday (AEDT) as the 53rd annual Arnold Palmer Invitational gets underway from the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Florida.
For the winner, the time honoured event holds a share of the $8.9 million prize-pool as well as a spot alongside some all-time greats. Australians have enjoyed plenty of success at this event in recent years with Jason Day (2016) and Marc Leishman (2017) winning in back-to-back seasons. Both head to Florida on Thursday ranked among the Top 10 favourites to take out the crown.
Following on from Keith Mitchell’s thrilling win at The Honda Classic last week, there’s also no denying the underdogs this year. This year’s field also features more than half of the Top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings, but fortunately for you, we’ve previewed all of the top chances in our complete 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview below.
Jason Day – $13.00
Plenty of noise surrounding Jason Day following back-to-back Top 5 finishes. We haven’t seen him on Tour since the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which means the 31-year-old should be well-rested for a big weekend. Day knows Arnie’s Place well – he won this event in 2016 and has finished inside the Top 30 on four separate occasions. The Aussie won twice on Tour last year and currently ranks sixth in the PGA’s off-the-tee rating. Day vowed he would reclaim the No. 1 spot in 2019, and since his form stacks up, it’s hard to see him finishing outside the Top 5. Internationals have won this event each of the last three years, so look for Day to be among the leaders on Sunday.
Top 10 Finish
Justin Rose – $2.00
No one would be surprised to see Rose walk away the winner at Bay Hill. The World No. 2 is in sparkling form as he looks to follow up his win at the Farmers Insurance Open back in January with a repeat Top 5 finish at Arnie’s Place. Rose finished third here last year, and has also finished inside the Top 10 in each of his last three trips to the Invitational. Rose is currently the best short-game specialist in the world, ranking fourth around-the-green and 12th in putting. A lengthy rest should only further help his cause.
Rickie Fowler – $2.00
After a disappointing showing in Mexico a fortnight ago, Fowler bounced-back to finish tied for second at last week’s Honda Classic. The 30-year-old birdied 17 and 18 on the final day to finish -8 under, while his recent form at the Invitational suggests the American could be in for a big weekend. Fowler has missed the cut only once in seven trips to Bay Hill, also finishing third in 2013. His putting game is on point right now, and since he’s donning a custom Arnold Palmer bag this weekend, maybe lady luck will be on his side.
Rory McIlroy – $8.00
The defending champ returns to Bay Hill with nothing left to prove. McIlroy birdied five of the last six holes during last year’s Invitational to win by three strokes, carding a final-round 64 in impressive fashion. McIlroy’s 25-foot putt on the 18th remains one of the Irishman’s greatest highlights, while his performance at the World Golf Classic in Mexico a fortnight ago wasn’t too shabby either. McIlroy finished runner-up behind Dustin Johnson, largely thanks to an opening round that saw him eagle the first and go on to sink seven birdies. Thursday will mark McIlroy’s fifth trip to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and it also helps knowing he ranks first in the PGA’s off-the-tee and tee-to-green ranking.
Brooks Koepka – $11.00
Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you distance off the tee means everything at Bay Hill. Brooks Koepka knows a thing or two about power, but unfortunately his most recent trips to the Florida course haven’t exactly been enjoyable. Koepka has only finished as high as 26th in 2014, going on to miss the cut three years later. After finishing tied for second at The Honda Classic last week, a powerful drive should keep Koepka in contention, but whether or not he can find accuracy with the putter remains to be seen.
Bryson Dechambeau – $17.00
Dechambeau returns to Bay Hill with a serious chip on his shoulder after finishing runner-up to McIlroy last year. The American had every chance to claim the prize-money, even after the Irishman birdied 18. Unfortunately, Dechambeau bogeyed the final hole to finish with a final round 68. He returns this year with fairly spotty form to his name after finishing 56th in Mexico last week, making Dechambeau a hard sell at the current price. Still, teeing off alongside Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka makes Dechambeau a worthwhile watch this weekend.
Francesco Molinari – $26.00
Why no love for last year’s British Open winner? Molinari has slowly returned to form in recent weeks finishing inside the Top 20 in Mexico after a disappointing start to 2019. He also owns three Top 10 finishes at The Arnold Palmer Invitational with close to 10-years experience on the course. Some credit the Italians slow start to a switch to Callaway clubs, but with two wins to his name last year, it’s only a matter of time before the 36-year-old cracks the winners circle again.
Marc Leishman – $26.00
Lots to like about Leishman right now. He presents as a sleeper chance this weekend after taking home the honours in 2017, while his form of late suggests a win might be just around the corner. In five events this year Leishman has finished inside the Top 5 on three separate occasions. Things didn’t go according to plan in Mexico, but as he showed at the Sony Open and in the Genesis Open, course familiarity counts for a lot. Another win at Bay Hill would make Leishman the seventh player to win the Arnold Palmer twice.
Patrick Reed – $34.00
It was right around this time last year Reed began to heat up. He finished seventh at last year’s Invitational before winning The Masters a month later, and although he doesn’t carry the same prestige as some of the games elite, Reed’s performances as of late make him a serious Top 20 chance this weekend at Bay Hill. The 28-year-old has three Top 20 finishes to his name in five starts this year, while he also ranks sixth in putting percentage.