Arnold Palmer Invitational 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?

Arnold Palmer Invitational Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks, and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. The PGA Tour returns to Bay Hill and Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Arnold Palmer Invitational 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?

Coming off a carnage-filled first stop to the Florida swing at the Honda Classic, the PGA Tour heads north to Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This event has been a staple on the PGA Tour since 1979, and it has always been held at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, a public golf facility just outside of Orlando, Florida. The API is one of only five tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule with invitational status, so we are dealing with a smaller than usual field this week. For what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, as the likes of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Holand, Sungjae Im, Scottie Scheffler, and Hideki Matsuyama will all be making the trip to Bay Hill.

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The course itself features many of the Florida golf staples: tons of water, bunkers everywhere, exposure to the wind, and lightning-fast Bermuda greens. Yet what sets Bay Hill apart is its gnarly three-inch Bermuda rough, some of the longest rough players will see all year, outside of the major championships. For this reason, winning scores have ranged from four to 11-under par across the last three additions, making Bay Hill annually rank as one of the more difficult stops on the schedule. A complete and well-rounded skill-set is required to compete at the Dick Wilson design, but I will primarily be honing in on Par-five scoring, long iron play, and scrambling as my three most important metrics this week. On a secondary level, I am also looking for above-average drivers of the ball, bunker players, and those with a strong track record on Bermuda greens and in difficult scoring conditions.

Let's dig into my Round 1 3-Ball selections.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Sebastian Munoz (+150) vs. Henrik Stenson (+180) vs. Cameron Davis (+180)

Selection: Sebastian Munoz (+150) (Bet $100 to Win $150)

If first-round leaders aren't your thing, this would be my recommended way to get in on the inevitability of Sebastian Munoz's hot start. The Colombian is coming off a 21st place finish at the Genesis Invitational, where he gained a whopping 5.9 strokes off the tee and 3.7 strokes on approach, the second week in a row where he gained over seven strokes from tee to green. He would have been firmly in the top-10 had he been able to putt to field average. Now he travels to a course where his well above average long iron play will be even more accentuated, and considering the fact that his lone PGA Tour win and three of his seven top-5s have come on Bermuda-grass greens, Bay Hill could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

As far as Munoz's competitors go, neither really scare me. Davis currently ranks outside of the top-30 in all 14 of the key metrics I am weighing this week, and he has lost strokes ball-striking in three consecutive starts. Stenson's form is even more concerning. The former Open Championship winner strung together a ho-hum run of middling finishes early this season on the European Tour, before missing the cut last week at the Honda Classic. While his play has been slightly better across the pond, Stenson's last top-10 on American soil was a ninth at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. I feel pretty comfortable riding with Munoz in this spot.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Keegan Bradley (+125) vs. Matt Wallace (+170) vs. Trey Mullinax (+250)

Selection: Keegan Bradley (+125) (Bet $100 to Win $125)

I'm beginning to get worried about Keegan Bradley's DraftKings ownership, so this might be one of the best markets to deploy him. The four-time PGA Tour winner has a sterling record at Bay Hill, with nine made cuts in 10 appearances, including three top-10s and two top 5s. Bradley's history here makes sense when considering he is one of the best long iron players in the entire field, and his high ball-flight should give him a huge advantage on these rock hard greens.

Matt Wallace and Trey Mullinax are easy fades in this spot. I am generally a huge fan of Wallace, but he looks downright lost at the moment. The Englishman has lost over five strokes ball-striking in back-to-back weeks, and would currently need to channel some heroic putting to even sniff a made cut. While Mullinax is certainly hitting the ball better, this will be his first appearance at Bay Hill, and he is still without a top-25 in his last ten starts. Bradley is the play in this round 1 3-Ball.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Kevin Kisner (+165) vs. Rickie Fowler (+180) vs. Carlos Ortiz (+180)

Selection: Carlos Ortiz (+180) (Bet $100 to Win $180)

Carlos Ortiz is one of my favorite long-shot picks of the week, and I firmly expect him to get off to a hot start in Orlando. The former Houston Open winner is coming off a 39th-place finish at the Genesis where he gained 3.7 strokes ball-striking, which has steadily been improving as the season has progressed. Ortiz now returns to a course that he's had two top-30s at in three appearances, and I expect his solid long iron game to continue to serve him well this week.

I've tried my hardest to defend Rickie Fowler at various points this season, but his path to success has just become so difficult given the mediocrity of his ball-striking. Fowler is coming off a week at the Honda Classic where he lost 4.7 strokes on approach, his worst iron week since the 2020 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The nine-time PGA Tour winner gained over five strokes putting and still couldn't manage a top-40 finish in a very weak field. I'm similarly lukewarm on Kevin Kisner. Yes, he has finished second here before, but it took an outlier putting performance to do so, and that's exactly what he will need this week to sniff contention. The four-time PGA Tour winner has become so dependent on his putter, and Bay Hill is a course that tends to separate the men from the boys in terms of tee-to-green. Kisner is one of the absolute worst long iron players in this field, one of the worst par-five players in this field, and one of the worst total drivers in this field as well. I'll gladly roll with the far superior ball-striker in this spot.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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