Arnold Palmer Invitational 2024 Tips: Aberg tops Jamie’s Picks

 | March 04 | 

20 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

It is a very busy week for those who bet on golf, with no fewer than four events across the PGA, DP World and LPGA Tours. Our golf tipster Jamie Worsley will take you through each event over the coming days and we start in Florida at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

Jamie provides his comprehensive preview and has four players to watch as part of his Arnold Palmer Invitational Tips this week. All four are each-ways plays. Read all about his thinking behind the selections with us right here at Betfred Insights...

Arnold Palmer Invitational Betting Tips

  • 2.5 pts Ludvig Aberg each-way (1/5 - 6 places) - 20/1 
  • 2 pts Will Zalatoris each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 28/1
  • 1 pt Kurt Kitayama each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 55/1 
  • 1 pt Luke List each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 90/1

*All prices correct as of the time of publication - 18:45 on Monday, March 4, 2024.

The PGA Tour continues to be chaotic this season, as weather postponed the completion of last week’s Cognizant Classic at PGA National to a Monday finish.

It was another week where the more fancied players in the field flattered to deceive, though such was the impressive fashion in which Austin Eckroat hit the ball as he attempted to close out for his first win on tour, I’m not sure it would’ve mattered anyway.

The Oklahoma State grad has long looked a player with promise and did little wrong in defeat when finishing runner-up to Jason Day in the AT&T Byron Nelson last year, firing a final-round 65 when in a share of the lead heading into the final round. This win may well light a spark in him and owing to his amateur pedigree, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go on to become somewhat of a force on the tour over the coming years.

Onto this week and it’s a busy week with two events. Whilst many of those players on the fringes of the tour head to the Caribbean for the Puerto Rico Open, a limited group of elite players make their way to Bay Hill for our fourth Signature Event of the year, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Arnold Palmer Invitational started life as the Florida Citrus Open in 1966. It was staged at Bay Hill for the first time in 1979, at which point the event started to bear the name of its host course before being renamed after Arnold Palmer in 2006, who not only renovated the venue but called this place home.

The great man won this title only once, in 1971 prior to the switch to Bay Hill; other stars such as Lee Trevino (1975) and Payne Stewart (1987) also have their name adorning the trophy for a solo victory.

Tom Kite (1982, 1989) and Ernie Els (1998, 2010) are among the list of players to have recorded two wins in the tournament but nobody gets close to the dominance Tiger Woods enjoyed here.

Tiger recorded eight wins at Bay Hill between 2000 and 2013, winning four on the spin from 2000-2003; the final win of that stretch going down as the most impressive in the history of the event, as he demolished the field by eleven strokes. He then earned further back-to-back victories in 2008/2009 and 2012/2013.

It has developed into a truly international event, with each edition from 2016-2020 going to players from outside the US and leaderboards are often very colourful. However, the home players have reasserted dominance recently, taking each of the last three renewals.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Kurt Kitayama (-9); runners-up: Harris English, Rory McIlroy (-8)
  • 2022 – Winner: Scottie Scheffler (-5); runners-up: Tyrrell Hatton, Billy Horschel, Viktor Hovland (-4)
  • 2021 – Winner: Bryson DeChambeau (-11); runner-up: Lee Westwood (-10)
  • 2020 – Winner: Tyrrell Hatton (-4); runner-up: Marc Leishman (-3)
  • 2019 – Winner: Francesco Molinari (-12); runner-up: Matt Fitzpatrick (-10)

Kurt Kitayama was hugely impressive in recording a first PGA Tour win at this venue last year. After sitting 2nd after round one, he led at the completion of each of the next three days and produced a battling final-round performance to see off a star-studded leaderboard that included proven major-winning names such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler in behind.

Kitayama returns this week, looking to become just the fourth player in the history of the event to successfully defend this title.

THE COURSE

Bay Hill Club and Lodge was originally designed by Dick Wilson in 1961, however after several tweaks and a more extensive renovation in 2009, the course is very much an Arnold Palmer design now.

What we are left with is one of the most demanding tests on tour, averaging a winning score of -11.9 over the last ten renewals. It’s a true championship test and should give us an idea of who has their game in shape with the start of major season just over a month away.

The course was switched to a par 72 for the 2009 edition and plays to 7466 yards. It possesses 10x par 4s (390-480 yards), 4x par 5s (511-590 yards) and 4x par 3s (199-231 yards).

Whilst appearing open, this largely flat course does have a feeling of tightness in places, with the now sparing usage of trees occasionally hugging the fairways and impeding on the driving lines, meaning a level of strategy is required off-the-tee.

Those fairways are often doglegged and around average in width overall, some very tight and others more generous. However, with the combination of smart fairway bunkering that shrinks the landing areas and firm playing surfaces causing players to run out of room, they rank among the five hardest-to-find fairways on tour.

With thick rough added to the equation, waywardness off-the-tee puts pressure onto approaches into the large and quick bermudagrass greens, which rank as the hardest to find on tour despite their size; resulting in Bay Hill posing one of the most challenging ball-striking tests on the PGA Tour.

Many of these greens are slightly elevated, combining both some heavily sloping surfaces with subtle breaks that can catch you off guard, ranking eighth-toughest to putt on. Further heavy bunkering offers some protection and whilst there are few especially steep up and downs, that lush rough is awaiting to punish those inaccurate iron players.

Water is another prominent feature at Bay Hill, in-play on nine holes overall and on each of the final three. This starts with one of four relatively scorable par 5s, the 511-yard 16th, that whilst short in length, is protected from the front, left and right of the putting surface by water.

The 221-yard par 3 17th is the final of four lengthy par 3s. The angled green not only has three large bunkers for protection but leave it short or spray it out to the right and you’re sure to find a watery end.

We close out with the 458-yard par 4 18th. There is no bunkering protecting the fairway here but the landing area is narrow and that troublesome rough awaits if missing the short stuff. Hit the fairway and it makes your job easier though not by much. The narrow, sloping green possesses many treacherous pin placements and bends around water short and right. There is little safety in going

long, with an unenviable chip down the green towards the water from one of three bunkers or that gnarly rough awaiting.

This finish represents much of what you see throughout Bay Hill: a gettable but dangerous par 5; a tough lengthy par 3; and a demanding par 4 that requires ball-striking of the highest order to overcome.

THE WEATHER

The conditions have been continually tempestuous on the tour this season and there is the hint of more to come this week. Thunderstorms dominate the forecast prior to the start of the event and after a relatively calm and rain-free opening round, these storms are predicted to return on Friday.

Though they disappear for Saturday/Sunday, they are replaced by some severe winds, with gusts at upwards of 30mph over the weekend.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation
  • Proximity from 200+ yards

Players will need to do most things well to contend this week but they’ll struggle to get anywhere near the lead if not in-tune with the long game. Most notably, quality iron play has proven to be a key component to success in recent renewals.

Kurt Kitayama was excellent with the short game last year but also ranked 2nd in the field in greens hit and top 20 in approach.

Scottie Scheffler in 2022 was even more in the zone with his irons, ranking 1st in approach and two of his closest challengers in 2nd, Billy Horschel and Viktor Hovland both shone in this area, ranking 4th and 9th respectively.

Bryson DeChambeau was 2nd in greens-in-regulation and 9th in approach when winning an approach-heavy renewal in 2021. Lee Westwood in 2nd ranked 1st in GIR and 3rd in approach, whilst Corey Conners in 3rd was 1st in approach and 8th in GIR.

Tyrrell Hatton ranked 2nd in approach when winning in 2020, as did Matt Every in 2015. 2019 winner, Francesco Molinari and 2017 champion, Marc Leishman both ranked top 6 in GIR.

Digging a little deeper in this area and it’s especially important to have the long irons firing. With four par 3s at over or close to 200 yards, as well as the four par 5s, approaches at 200+ yards are vital.

  • SG: Off-the-Tee
  • Driving Distance

The need for a high standard of approach play is closely followed by the driver. Where I think those longer hitters hold sway, with some holes made easier if you can take the strategic bunkering out of play.

Bryson DeChambeau bombed his way to victory in 2021, ranking 1st both off-the-tee and in driving distance, whilst Rory McIlroy did similar on his way to a 2nd-place finish last year, five years after recording a win here.

Viktor Hovland drove the ball very well when 2nd in 2022, ranking 3rd. An event where each of the top 4 ranked top 25 in driving distance.

Francesco Molinari was more reliant on accuracy when winning in 2019, but so much so that he led the field OTT - Rafa Cabera Bello and Tommy Fleetwood both ranked top 7 OTT there – and Jason Day drove it well and far when winning in 2016, ranking 11th OTT and 6th in driving distance.

  • SG: Putting (bermudagrass)
  • Scrambling

There’s definitely importance in the short game, especially on the greens, with each of the last nine winners ranking top 25 on these difficult and speedy bermudagrass surfaces.

We saw Kurt Kitayama combine this with a strong scrambling effort when winning last year – not a surprise considering the small percentage of greens found here - ranking 2nd in putting and 1st in scrambling; Francesco Molinari was 4th on the greens and 9th in scrambling in 2019; Rory was 1st in putting and 3rd in scrambling in 2018.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Wells Fargo Championship (Quail Hollow Club)

Quail Hollow possesses a challenging championship test and ranks closely to Bay Hill in most aspects. With the speedy bermudagrass greens both hard to find and difficult to putt on, whilst it demands quality with the long irons.

Notable correlating form:

Rory McIlroy:

API (1st) / Quail Hollow (1st, 1st, 1st)

Jason Day:

API (1st) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Tyrrell Hatton:

API (1st, 2nd) / Quail Hollow (3rd)

Bryson DeChambeau:

API (1st, 2nd) / Quail Hollow (4th)

Sean O’Hair:

API (2nd, 3rd) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Harris English:

API (2nd) / Quail Hollow (3rd)

Keith Mitchell:

API (5th, 6th) / Quail Hollow (3rd, 8th)

Ryan Moore:

API (4th, 5th) / Quail Hollow (5th, 6th)

Cognizant Classic (PGA National)

A couple of events in Florida now and PGA National has typically provided the same taxing all-round test, ranking particularly close to Bay Hill in GIR and putting on the large and fast bermudagrass greens.

Notable correlating form:

Rory McIlroy:

API (1st) / Cognizant (1st)

Kurt Kitayama:

API (1st) / Cognizant (3rd)

Sungjae Im:

API (3rd, 3rd) / Cognizant (1st)

Mark Wilson:

API (3rd) / Cognizant (1st)

Matt Jones:

API (3rd) / Cognizant (1st, 4th)

Rickie Fowler:

API (3rd) / Cognizant (1st, 2nd)

Keith Mitchell:

API (5th, 6th) / Cognizant (1st)

Chris Kirk:

API (5th, 8th) / Cognizant (1st)

Morgan Hoffman:

API (4th) / Cognizant (2nd)

John Rollins:

API (5th) / Cognizant (2nd)

Valspar Championship (Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead Course)

Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course is a Floridian venue with speedy greens, heavy bunkering and plenty of water in-play. The greens are similarly tough to find as at Bay Hill and it’s another course where strong play with the long irons is a must.

Notable correlating form:

Martin Laird:

API (1st) / Valspar (5th)

Sean O’Hair:

API (2nd, 3rd) / Valspar (1st, 2nd)

Keegan Bradley:

API (2nd, 3rd) / Valspar (2nd)

Kevin Na:

API (2nd, 4th) / Valspar (2nd)

Jason Kokrak:

API (4th, 6th) / Valspar (2nd)

Ryan Moore:

API (4th, 5th) / Valspar (3rd, 5th)

Sungjae Im:

API (3rd, 3rd) / Valspar (4th)

Memorial Tournament (Muirfield Village)

High-class long iron players have typically thrived at Muirfield Village and possessing one of the more difficult tee-to-green tests on the PGA Tour, it has developed notable form-ties with the API.

Notable correlating form:

Bryson DeChambeau:

API (1st, 2nd) / Memorial (1st)

Francesco Molinari:

API (1st) / Memorial (3rd)

Jason Day:

API (1st) / Memorial (4th)

Marc Leishman:

API (1st, 2nd) / Memorial (5th, 5th)

Billy Horschel:

API (2nd) / Memorial (1st)

Viktor Hovland:

API (2nd) / Memorial (1st, 3rd)

Justin Rose:

API (2nd, 3rd, 3rd) / Memorial (1st, 2nd, 2nd)

Kevin Na:

API (2nd, 4th) / Memorial (2nd)

Kevin Chappell:

API (2nd) / Memorial (2nd)

Ryan Moore:

API (4th, 5th) / Memorial (2nd, 5th)

Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines)

As one of the courses on the US Open rotation, Torrey Pines and the Farmers Insurance Open tests the mettle of all across every aspect of the game and again, commands excellence with the long game.

Notable correlating form:

Jason Day:

API (1st) / Farmers (1st, 1st)

Marc Leishman:

API (1st, 2nd) / Farmers (1st, 2nd)

Justin Rose:

API (2nd, 3rd, 3rd) / Farmers (1st, 4th)

Harris English:

API (2nd) / Farmers (2nd)

Martin Laird:

API (1st) / Farmers (7th, 8th)

Viktor Hovland:

API (2nd) / Farmers (2nd)

Keegan Bradley:

API (2nd, 3rd) / Farmers (2nd, 4th, 5th)

Sungjae Im:

API (3rd, 3rd) / Farmers (4th, 6th)

Texas Open (TPC San Antonio)

TPC San Antonio is another feast for quality ball-strikers, possessing one of the tougher tests of that ilk on tour.

Notable correlating form:

Martin Laird:

API (1st) / Texas (1st)

Matt Every:

API (1st, 1st) / Texas (2nd)

Kevin Chappell:

API (2nd) / Texas (1st, 2nd)

Corey Conners:

API (3rd) / Texas (1st, 1st)

Charley Hoffman:

API (2nd) / Texas (1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd)

Billy Horschel:

API (2nd) / Texas (3rd, 3rd, 4th)

Sean O’Hair:

API (2nd, 3rd) / Texas (2nd)

Sung Kang:

API (6th, 9th) / Texas (6th)

THE FIELD

This week’s 70-man field includes nine of the world’s top 10 and twenty-two of the top 25, with Scottie Scheffler still occupying top spot as the world #1.

2022 winner, Scheffler is one of four former winners in the field, joined by last year’s champion, Kurt Kitayama; along with Rory McIlroy (2018) and Jason Day (2016).

There are six debutants, four of which have become first-time PGA Tour winners this season: Matthieu Pavon, Nick Dunlap, Jake Knapp and the last man in the field after winning the Cognizant Classic, Austin Eckroat.

Runner-up in the Mexico Open, Sami Valimaki and the #3 amateur in the world, David Ford complete that sextet.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Scottie Scheffler 13/2, Rory McIlroy 9/1, Viktor Hovland 12/1, Xander Schauffele 14/1, Patrick Cantlay 16/1

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy dominate the top of the betting once again in a Signature Event. Scheffler’s putting woes are enough for me to look elsewhere at that price, and whilst I did consider Rory at this increased number, his form in the US this year remains underwhelming and he is left alone despite driving the ball impeccably at PGA National.

Patrick Cantlay appealed after his 4th-place finish on debut here last year but at four points bigger in the betting sits Ludvig Aberg. His power-packed ball-striking game looks readymade for this test and he goes in as the main selection this week.

Ludvig Aberg

Aberg has followed the successes of last year – where he won on both the PGA and DP World tours as well as making a winning Ryder Cup debut – looking ready for more of the same in 2024.

He was a touch below the level we expect on his seasonal debut in The Sentry, finishing 47th, but he immediately improved on his next start when finishing 30th in the Sony Open and has kicked on even more on some serious courses over his next three starts.

A top-10 finish on debut in the Farmers Insurance Open was followed by a frustrating 2nd at Pebble Beach, as he never got the chance to chase down Wyndham Clark after the final round was

cancelled. He again impressed at a big-boy course on his next start, finishing 19th on a first pro spin around Riviera.

Aberg has quickly developed a reputation as one of the best drivers in the game since turning pro, ranking 2nd on the PGA Tour last season; remarkably accurate for a player in possession of so much power.

He hit greens for fun too, ranking 3rd but has improved his precision in approach, ranking top 30 over the last twenty rounds played and looks strong at over 200 yards, ranking 27th in 2023. Combine this elite ball-striking with his more-than-solid short game and we have a player with the all-round quality to take down Bay Hill.

Aberg certainly hinted at this last year, finishing 24th after sitting inside the top 10 at the halfway point. I was encouraged by how well he putted these greens, ranking 5th and with that top 10 at Torrey Pines an appealing piece of form for this test, he looks set to take down the biggest win of his young career this week.

Will Zalatoris

Will Zalatoris looked well and truly back after his runner-up finish at Riviera on his latest start, and with the broomstick putter starting to pay dividends he should be a big danger this week.

Zalatoris was all at sea on his return following a near nine-month layoff due to a back injury, when finishing 20th of twenty players at the Hero World Challenge at the end of 2023; looking very much in the same form when missing the cut on his first start of 2024 in the Sony. However he’s got better with every start following that.

He responded to that missed cut in Hawaii by finishing 34th in The AmEx, where he fired every round in the 60s and advanced again on his next start at Torrey Pines, finishing 13th in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Riviera was his next and most recent stop and this is where he really reannounced himself to the golfing world. He opened with a 5-under 66 there and after shooting a 65 in round three he sat 2nd entering the final round.

Although his fourth under par round in a row there wasn’t enough to hold off an inspired Hideki Matsuyama, the runner-up finish will have done wonders for his confidence, not least as he looked sharp in every area of his game; impressing most in approach, ranking 4th.

The all-round quality displayed there didn’t come out of the blue, as he gained strokes across all areas in each of his two prior starts, with the short game complimenting the elite ball-striking that he showed in his last full season in 2022. There, he ranked 1st in approach, 8th in GIR and 11th off-the-tee, whilst a ranking of 5th in proximity over 200 yards is an added piece of promise for this test.

Zalatoris’ suitability for Bay Hill is evidence by his 10th here on debut, where he was the fifth-best ball-striker in the field and he’s since gone on to make the cut on his next two starts. A runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open and 5th in the Memorial show further his ability to perform on courses where strong and powerful ball-striking is a real asset.

Kurt Kitayama

Kurt Kitayama was hugely impressive when winning this event last year and starting 2024 in promising form, he looks a big price to repeat that effort this week.

Kitayama kicked off his year with back-to-back top 30s in Hawaii and has maintained a solid level of form on the mainland. He was exceptional tee-to-green when finishing 39th on his next start in the Pebble Beach Pro Am; following with a first top 10 of the year in Phoenix, finishing 8th and finished 39th in the Genesis Invitational on his most recent start.

The ball-striking has looked excellent throughout these starts, resulting in this big hitter ranking 15th in approach and 21st off-the-tee over his previous twenty rounds. Also impressing with the long irons, ranking 27th in approaches over 200 yards.

Whilst the putter has been inconsistent he’s scrambled exceptionally, ranking 2nd and as a proven wind player - shown by his win in Oman on the DP World Tour in 2019 - he has several attributes that tie in with this event.

Kitayama’s 3rd in the Cognizant (then Honda) Classic in 2022 signalled his potential for Bay Hill but how he got the job done there on debut was extremely impressive. As mentioned, he sat second after the first round and finished each following round in no worse than 1st position. Though it was that Sunday display, where he settled himself on the back nine after a potentially round-destroying triple bogey on the 9th hole to beat that top-class leaderboard of players, that proved most remarkable.

It confirmed that the winning ability he’d developed on the Asian and DP World Tours was very much transferable to the sport’s premier tour and that contributes towards making him an easy selection at the price this week.

Luke List

Luke List’s ball-striking standard regularly makes him of interest on these types of courses and if able to reproduce some of his recent displays on the greens to these bermudagrass surfaces, he’d have to be a danger at a course where he’s gone well before.

List had been in solid form this year but his game exploded at Riviera, where he finished 2nd two starts ago. Similarly to Zalatoris, he didn’t do a whole lot wrong in the final round and if it wasn’t for an all-time round of golf from Hideki, he’d have been contending a playoff for the chance of a third PGA Tour title in a little over two years.

His woes with the putter are well documented but he led the field on the greens there, which was his second positive putting performance in a row. However he regressed when missing the cut in the Cognizant Classic last week.

I would prefer to focus on his ball-striking - directly, his iron play - for which he ranked 3rd in approach and 3rd in GIR at Riviera. This is where he’s been excelling most this season, ranking 22nd in approach and 11th in proximity at 200+ yards. Combine with his top-20 level driving and we have the ball-striking profile we’re looking for this week.

List finished 17th on his debut at Bay Hill in 2017 and returned to record two top 10s on his next two visits. He often ranks as one of the strongest ball-strikers in the field here and as a typically weak putter, three positive strokes-gained performances on these greens have to be a positive.

A win at Torrey Pines; a runner-up finish at PGA National; and multiple top 10s across Quail Hollow and Muirfield Village all act as positives for this challenge. Showing just how comfortable his ball-striking allows him to be on these championship-like tests.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

Share Article

(Visited 2,214 times, 1 visits today)