2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Predictions: Winners, Sleepers, Busts, and Holes to Watch at Bay Hill
The Florida swing on the PGA Tour rolls on this week with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, and golf fans will be relieved to see a loaded field after last week’s Honda Classic featured just three of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Because the API is an elevated event, 27 of the top 30 players in the world will tee it up at Bay Hill with a $3.6 million prize on the line.
Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Scottie Scheffler are in their own tier at the top of the odds board, but are either of Sportscasting’s golf experts backing one of them to win this week?
Let’s find out.
2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational predictions
Jack Dougherty: Jason Day
Jason Day is officially back, folks, and I’m not talking about his spine.
Due to a variety of injuries over the last few years, Day hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship. The Australian recorded only five top-10 finishes in his last 41 starts heading into the 2022-23 season, but he’s nearly doubled that already with four top-10s in 10 starts this year.
Day hasn’t finished worse than T18 since November, and now he returns to a golf course where he won back in 2016. The 35-year-old is going to return to the winner’s circle at some point this season. Why can’t it come at Bay Hill?
Luke Norris: Rory McIlroy
Call me a glutton for punishment, but I’m going with Rory McIlroy, who typically seems to lose when I pick him to win. But I genuinely think Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm winning the last two elevated events and surpassing him in the world rankings gives him extra motivation this week. It’s not that the four-time major champ ever really needs extra motivation, but watching the other top guys win these big events can’t sit well with the four-time major champ.
But even beyond that, McIlroy knows how to win at Bay Hill. Yes, his victory at this tournament was five years ago, but he still knows how to go low on this more difficult setup, as evidenced by his opening-round 65 just last year. Sure, he shot a pair of 76s on the weekend. And he still tied for 13th, finishing just six shots back of Scheffler. You don’t think that’ll add even more motivation?
Jack Dougherty: Charley Hoffman
Let’s go out on a limb with this one.
Charley Hoffman is the sleepiest of sleepers this week at 280-1 odds to win the API, but he absolutely loves this golf course. Of the PGA Tour pros who have played at least 18 rounds at Bay Hill since 2015, Hoffman ranks second in strokes gained from tee to green. The only player ahead of him on that list? Rory McIlroy.
Hoffman has four top-14 finishes and a runner-up in his last five starts at Bay Hill. He also showed some signs of life with a T14 at the WM Phoenix Open in February. The 46-year-old is a solid candidate for a longshot first-round leader bet or a top-20 sprinkle.
Luke Norris: Tommy Fleetwood
Despite still being the 25th-ranked golfer in the world, Tommy Fleetwood comes into the Arnold Palmer Invitational with the odds stacked against him at 70-1. And that’s a bit surprising, given his solid history at Bay Hill. In six appearances here, the 32-year-old Englishman, who won his sixth European Tour event just three months ago, has four top-25 finishes and three top-10s. I like him to have another solid run this week.
Most likely bust
Jack Dougherty: Jon Rahm
Wait, you’re fading Jon Rahm? The same Jon Rahm who’s won five of his last nine worldwide starts and hasn’t finished worse than T7 over that span?
You’re damn right I am.
I’m well aware Rahm is the hottest golfer on planet earth right now, but this will be only his second career start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Spaniard finished T17 last year but shot under par just once in four rounds. A bust for Rahm right now would be any finish outside the top 15, so I’ll take my chances here.
Luke Norris: Collin Morikawa
Is it just me, or has Collin Morikawa become a difficult guy to figure out? In tournaments in which it seems he shouldn’t necessarily contend, he performs well. And in places where it seems he should contend, such as TPC Scottsdale a few weeks back, he falters.
So what does the two-time major champ do this week?
Well, outside of Phoenix, Morikawa has finished sixth or better in four of his last five overall starts. And the last time he played the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2020, he tied for ninth. But here’s the problem. Despite solid finishes, Morikawa’s putting has been suspect. In fact, he ranks 159th on the PGA Tour in total putting. Add the fact that he ranks 213th in approaches from 100 yards and in, an essential part of taming Bay Hill, and I just don’t like his chances this week.
Jack Dougherty: No. 16
There’s nothing better than a risk-reward par 5 on the back nine of a Sunday afternoon.
The 16th hole at Bay Hill is exactly that, a short par 5 measuring just 511 yards from the back tees. Players must avoid two fairway bunkers with their drives to have a chance to hit the green in two, and water guards the green in front to swallow up any mishits. Bogey and eagle are equally likely on this gettable par 5, so the eventual winner will need to play the 16th cleanly all week.
Luke Norris: No. 18
So it might be a bit of a copout, but it’s difficult not to go with the iconic 18th at Bay Hill. While the tee shot is fairly straightforward, the water on the right comes into play for the big hitters, of which there will likely be many at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. You’ve then got the long, curved green that wraps around that same water, a green that has served as the setting for many dramatic putts at this tournament over the years. And you just can’t beat that Sunday pin.