Weeks likes the maturity he sees in Morikawa's game
One week after Collin Morikawa won the WGC-Workday Championship at the Concession for his first career WGC title, the tour heads two hours down the road in Florida to Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This tournament has seen an international flair in recent years, with five straight non-Americans emerging victorious. Matt Every was the last American to win, taking back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
Nine of the top-20 golfers in the world are competing, headed by 2018 champion Rory McIlroy who is the outright favourite to win having compiled a sparkling track record at Bay Hill.
Viktor Hovland is the second favourite to earn victory after he’s racked up four straight top-six finishes, with a pair of runners-up showings in that span.
This tournament is so prestigious that the champion will earn a three-year exemption on tour as opposed to the typical two for winning.
There are three Canadians teeing it up, each considered a long shot to taste victory on Sunday.
Corey Conners has the shortest odds at +8000 to earn his second PGA Tour title.
Adam Hadwin follows him at +10000 to capture his second win, and Nick Taylor has the longest odds of the three Canadians at +12500.
Here's our first look at the field for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Betting Odds To Win 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational – Top 15
Rory McIlroy +900
Viktor Hovland +1100
Bryson DeChambeau +1200
Patrick Reed +1800
Tyrrell Hatton +1800
Sungjae Im +2200
Matthew Fitzpatrick +2200
Jordan Spieth +2500
Hideki Matsuyama +2500
Paul Casey +2500
Francesco Molinari +2800
Jason Day +3300
Louis Oosthuizen +3300
Billy Horschel +3300
Tommy Fleetwood +4000
McIlroy Loves Bay Hill
If there were a time for Rory McIlroy to break out of his winless funk, it would be this week, where he loves this golf course.
In the last four years at this track, these have been the results for McIlroy, starting in 2017 – T-4, WIN, T-6, T-5.
Over his past 24 rounds at this course, the former world No. 1 is first in total strokes gained and tee-to-green, second in ball striking, third in approaching the green and 13th in putting.
Bay Hill could be the medicine that cures the Ulsterman, as he hasn’t secured a title in the last 23 times teeing it up worldwide.
He’s still been strong off the tee for the 2020-21 season, ranking second on tour.
However, the four-time major champion is a pedestrian 103rd in SG: approaching the green and 100th in putting.
McIlroy has often found himself behind the 8-ball after uninspiring opening rounds, where he’s ranked T-145th in first-round scoring this season.
Despite being dynamite at Bay Hill, his winless skid would point towards another disappointment for him and, as the +900 favourite, there’s not a ton of value in wagering on him.
Hovland Has Been On Fire
It would be hard to find a hotter player on the planet right now competing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational than Viktor Hovland.
He won the Mayakoba Classic in December for his second tour title, and he’s been knocking on the door to add more trophies ever since.
In the last four worldwide starts, he’s been T-2, T-6, T-5, T-2.
Last Sunday, he had a ridiculous up and down for birdie to apply some pressure on Collin Morikawa, but his final round 67 wasn’t enough with Morikawa playing phenomenal golf.
NO WORDS. 😱— WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession (@WGCWorkday) February 28, 2021
This up and down by Viktor Hovland has us speechless. pic.twitter.com/8Atn34kXjZ
The main reason to pause on Hovland is his short track record around Bay Hill, where he’s put up average T-40 and T-42 finishes.
That was when he was getting his feet wet on tour, so a ton of stock shouldn’t be put into those results.
At +1100 odds to win outright, you’d be getting Hovland with slightly more advantageous odds than McIlroy, which is still digestible.
Past Five Winners of Arnold Palmer Invitational
2020: Tyrrell Hatton -4 (1 shot win)
2019: Francesco Molinari -12 (2 shot win)
2018: Rory McIlroy -18 (3 shot win)
2017: Marc Leishman -11 (1 shot win)
2016: Jason Day -17 (1 shot win)
FORE YOUR INFORMATION
Horse For This Course
Marc Leishman +5000
If you were looking to unearth some more value than the top players on the board, Marc Leishman would be a good player to start with.
Like McIlroy, the big Aussie has a stellar record around Bay Hill, taking home the title in 2017.
Last year, he very nearly did it again, finishing runner-up to Tyrrell Hatton.
He also has a T-3 in 2011 and a T-7 in 2018 at this venue.
In the last 24 rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he’s first in putting, third in strokes gained short game and fourth in total strokes gained.
After a brutal stretch following the tour stoppage last year, he’s found his game, with a T-4 at the Sony Open his best finish in 2021.
At +5000, Leishman has enticing odds to enter the winner’s circle for the second time at this event.
Long Shot With Upside
Henrik Stenson +10000
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about Henrik Stenson, as he hasn’t made any starts on the PGA Tour in 2021.
Since winning the 2019 Hero World Challenge, which was an unofficial event, the Swede hasn’t done much in 17 worldwide starts.
Much like McIlroy and Leishman, he’s also dominated at this tournament though he hasn’t picked up a victory like the other two.
He’s done everything but that though, with a runner-up finish in 2015, T-3 in 2016, fourth in 2018, T-5 in 2014 and T-8 in 2013.
Though it might be a bit of a stretch to see him earn another victory, his +10000 odds are out of whack relative to how comfortable he’s been at Bay Hill throughout his career.
A top-10 or 20 wager might be more to your liking for him this week and, given his success, that could be a winning ticket.