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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Arnold Palmer Invitational

Welcome back RotoBallers! DFS darling and FRL legend Keith Mitchell fought off Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka to take down the Honda Classic last week. While Mitchell might not be well known to casual golf fans, he is a player that has been popular in the DFS community for over a year, so score one for the fantasy guys!

After a huge week at the WGC Mexico, our little article was 'hit and miss' at the Honda. Justin Thomas and Adam Scott both disappointed, but we grabbed a couple of top-10 finishes with Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk (BAM!). Some variance was expected on a tough course like PGA National, but I'm excited for some great fantasy goodness as we head into the second leg of the 'Florida Swing'!

The Honda field was weaker than we've seen in the past and the reason for that was because many of the big-name players elected to take the week off before this week's event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The API field more than makes up for any shortcomings we might have suffered through last week. Even though Mr. Palmer passed away over two years ago, we continue to see his tournament draw the best of the best to Bay Hill Club and Lodge. The big news this week is that eight-time API champion Tiger Woods was forced to withdraw from this event Monday afternoon with a neck injury. While losing Tiger does take away some of the shine this week, defending champ Rory McIlroy is back and he's joined by the biggest names in golf. Players like Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, and tournament co-host Justin Rose will all tee it up in "The King's" event.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots.  Sign Up Now!

I try to make HFTC more than just a "picks" column (though you can certainly use it that way if you are in a hurry) by digging deep into each highlighted player. Obviously, our weekly jumping off point is a player's course history, but there isn't a firm set of rules when it comes to who is featured in this article. My goal is to help you succeed as a PGA DFS player. Period. I will touch on different GPP and cash-game strategies throughout the column each week and hopefully have some useful info for both beginners and experienced DFS players. Thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller, let's tee it up!

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots. 

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The Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Par 72 - 7,419 Yards, Greens: Bermuda

Arnold Palmer fell in love with this course over 50 years ago and it still holds up in the modern era. Similar to last week's host course PGA National, water and sand are prominent at Bay Hill. It's long at just over 7,400 yards, but players can't just bomb away, as some tee shots require lay-ups and a fairly penal rough guards the fairways. This is a second-shot golf course and those approaches often require longer irons than we normally see on the PGA Tour schedule. One of the reasons Tiger Woods has dominated at Bay Hill throughout the years is his phenomenal iron game from 200-plus yards out. We usually see this tournament play as one of the 10-most difficult courses on the Tour schedule, but while it's difficult, players can still score as evidenced by Rory McIlroy's final-round 64 last year. Players that are great long-iron players are my priority this week, while the ability to make birdies in bunches is also a must. This will also be our second consecutive week on bermuda-grass greens, so I'll probably check out who was rolling the ball well in last week's Honda Classic.


The Horse

Rory McIlroy (DK - $11,400 & FD - $12,200)

Notable Course History: Win (2018), T4 ('17), T27 ('16), T11 ('15)
Recent Form: 2nd (WGC-Mexico), T4 (Genesis Open), T5 (Farmers Open), T4 (Sentry)

I have to be honest, this spot was originally going to Tiger Woods. I had a real nice Tiger write-up finished when the W/D news came down Monday afternoon. Anyway...I already had Rory McIlroy down as the the top Pony, so the big honor is by no means a stretch for him.

The man from Northern Ireland has been about as dominant as you can possibly be without actually winning a tournament this season. McIlroy has scored top-five finishes in all four of his 2019 starts, but hasn't been able to find the winner's circle yet. He was able to lift the trophy in last year's API, after blitzing Bay Hill's back nine and playing his final six holes in five-under par. The birdies have continued to come in bunches this season and he's second in the API field in Birdies or Better Gained over his last 12 rounds.

McIlroy's iron play hasn't been at Tiger Woods levels, but he's certainly competent in that area and stands tied for 27th on the PGA Tour in approaches from over 200 yards. McIlroy has been sizzling in every facet of the game in 2019 and leads this field in Strokes Gained: Total, Tee to Green, Ball Striking, and Off the Tee over his last 12 rounds. There's not much weakness in his game at the moment. If we're being picky, we can point to his putting, but McIlroy has actually gained strokes on the greens in three of his four starts this year and he should be aided by the switch to bermuda...his best putting surface historically.

McIlroy is the highest-priced option on both DK and FD, and I can't say that it's surprising. He has been on a tear in 2019 and is the defending API champ, so the price bump was to be expected. Rostering Rory will require eliminating some tempting mid-high range players from consideration. This 2019-version of Rory is the best version we've seen in years and he's sooo close to a win. He has all the upside in the world and the ability to dominate this tournament.


The Ponies

Justin Rose (DK - $10,700 & FD - $12,100)

Notable Course History: 3rd (2018), T13 ('17), T9 ('16)
Recent Form: M/C (Saudi International), Win (Farmers Open), T34 (Desert Classic)

How quickly we forget! I know it's early in the week, but I'm not hearing much Justin Rose buzz at this point. The Englishman hasn't been on this side of the Atlantic since his January victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, when there was a lot of concern in the golf world surrounding Rose's big equipment change over the winter. It proved to be much ado about nothing, as he promptly rolled over a tough field to win at Torrey Pines.

I would feel comfortable recommending Rose every week, but he's earned a mention here with his sterling play at Bay Hill, going 3rd/T13/T9 in his last three visits to Arnie's place. His game has no weaknesses. He ranks near the top of this field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green over both the long-term (50 rounds) and short-term (12 rounds). Rose is solid off the tee, on approach, and has drastically improved his short game over the last few years. At the level he is currently playing, he's capable of winning every week.

I'm hoping that it's 'out of sight, out of mind' for a lot of DFS players when it comes to rostering Rose this week, but that's probably being really optimistic. No matter where he clocks in ownership wise, Rose is a no-brainer in all formats. While we're getting a slight discount from Rory to Rose, it's still a steep price to pay with all the solid options available in the $8k and $9k ranges.


Marc Leishman (DK - $9,500 & FD - $10,800)

Notable Course History: T7 ('18), Win ('17), T17 ('16), M/C ('15)
Recent Form: T62 (WGC Mexico) T4 (Genesis Open), T43 (Farmers), T3 (Sony), T4 (Sentry)

You know those tempting mid-tier range of players I was just talking about? Well, Marc Leishman might be the best of the bunch. The 'Big Aussie' has found tremendous success at Bay Hill over the last two years, logging a T7 in 2018 and winning the API in 2017.

Leishman was having a red-hot season before the wheels fell off in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago. Before the ugly T62 WGC outing, he had logged three top-fives in his four 2019 starts and a win during the swing season. His Mexican debacle can be chalked up to losing a massive 9.3 strokes on Chapultepec's tricky poa greens. We won't see another outing like that from Leishman for a long time, which might let us take advantage of some recency bias this week. The Aussie possesses a solid tee to green game that has translated well at Bay Hill. He also ranks first in the field over his last 36 rounds in proximity from the key range of 175-200 yards.

It's possible that some folks will be off Leishman after his full-eject performance at the WGC-Mexico, which would allow us to gain some leverage by rostering the Aussie. At any rate, with his complete game, Leishman is the type of player you can feel comfortable about rostering in all formats.


Francesco Molinari (DK - $9,000 & FD - $10,700)

Notable Course History: T26 ('18), T7 ('17), T9 ('16), T17 ('15), T5 ('14)
Recent Form: T17 (WGC-Mexico) T27 (Sentry)

Talk about 'out of sight, out of mind'...where has Francesco Molinari been this season? After having the best season of his career in 2018, the defending Open champion has been M.I.A for months. After only making one swing season start at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in October, Molinari dropped off the map until resurfacing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January. The Italian then sat idle until the WGC-Mexico two weeks ago. So...there are some definite question marks surrounding him as we dig into the heart of the 'Florida Swing'.

We have to remember that this is a guy that was playing better than ANYONE in the world for a stretch last season. He has consistently been a ball striking machine over the course of his career and started winning tournaments when he found some rhythm with his always-balky putter. His ball striking ability has served him well at Bay Hill over the years, as he's recorded a top-five and two top-10's over his last five API starts. There aren't enough recent rounds to examine, but if we stretch back over the last 50 rounds we see that Molinari is right in the thick of things statistically. He ranks fifth in the field in SG: T2G and eighth in SG: Approach.'s slightly unsettling that Molinari hasn't played more this year, but I think this is a great 'buy-low opportunity' on him. We're getting a lot of bang for our buck at his $9k price tag. The irons looked sharp in Mexico and he gained an impressive 4.7 strokes on the field on approach shots and the introduction of bermuda greens should also help him. I love him as a high-upside, low-ownership GPP play this week.


Ian Poulter (DK - $8,000 & FD - $10,100 )

Notable Course History: T41 ('18), T41 ('17), T46 ('16), T21 ('15), T20 ('14)
Recent Form: T3 (WGC-Mexico), T6 (Saudi International), T3 (Omega Dubai), T6 (Abu Dhabi HSBC)

I don't know what it is, but DFS players just don't like to roster Ian Poulter. Maybe it's his brash attitude or his U.S.-killing Ryder Cup record? Maybe it's because he doesn't bomb it off the tee or reach Par-5's in two? Well...good old-fashioned fairways and greens might not be sexy, but they sure are effective. Poulter is perhaps the hottest player in the world right now that no one is talking about. The Englishman practically lived in the top-10 during the month of January by running off three straight in his early-2019 Euro Tour starts. If that wasn't enough, he notched a T3 at the WGC-Mexico against an uber-elite field.

We now catch Poulter heading to a Bay Hill course where he's been extremely solid. Since 2011, he's recorded five top-25's and no missed cuts at Arnie's place. Poulter is in arguably the best form of his long career and is fresh off a ball striking clinic in Mexico City, where he gained over four strokes on approach for the week.

Poulter's DFS price and reputation scream 'cash game', but he's exhibited such great upside recently that I don't mind using him in GPP's this week. He offers a nice blend of salary, course history, and recent form that is always tough to come across.


Matt Every (DK - $7,400 & FD - $8,400 )

Notable Course History: M/C ('18), T62 ('17), M/C ('16), Win ('15), Win ('14)
Recent Form: T16 (Puerto Rico Open), T14 (AT&T)

Ladies and gentlemen, your two-time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion...Matt Every! I know it sounds weird, but it's true. I looked it up and everything! This is one of those strange anomalies that we discuss from time to time here at HFTC, when a player just 'fits' a course. That's all I can chalk it up to. It wasn't as if Matt Every was playing particularly great golf in other events when he won back-to-back API titles in 2014 and 2015.

Surprisingly, we have a bit more to build on than eccentric course history with Every this week. The journeyman pro from Daytona Beach has actually flashed some recent form. Every logged a T16 two weeks ago at the Puerto Rico Open and played well at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am en route to a T14. He also recorded two top-20 finishes in two swing seasons starts at Sanderson Farms and the RSM Classic. Every has gained over six strokes total in four consecutive tournament starts.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but things actually line up pretty well for Every this week. Obviously, he's a gamble, but he's a legitimately intriguing one. He's dirt cheap over on Fan Duel at just $8.4k and can be sprinkled into DK lineups for those that multi-enter tournaments. With ownership magnet Rafa Cabrera-Bello at just $100 more on DK, not many casual DFS players will be clicking on the little-known Every's name this week.

Golf DFS News and Player Outlooks


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