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Sam Eaton brings us his predictions for First Round Leader at this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
  • First Round Leader specialist Sam Eaton has five selections for this week's Arnold Palmer Invitiational from Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Florida.
  • All of Sam's picks are based on statistics and models built on the course requirements.

We stay in Florida for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, plenty of the PGA Tour’s best have decided to skip the competition with the Players Championship round the corner. Plenty of Europe’s best have remained in Florida, and you can grab plenty of value on the Europeans.

This course can play really tricky. However, the wind looks like it will be pretty gentle throughout the day. Look out on Sunday as we could be in for a cracking day of golf with the forecast.

Approach is key when playing at Bay Hill, the field will be faced with plenty of shots 200+ from the green. Driving accuracy is slightly irrelevant with the fairways being so wide, and despite being a long course, distance isn’t a vital factor. Scoring on par 3s will make the difference, the leaders won’t be dropping shots on these holes.

Matthew Fitzpatrick @ +4000

Matthew Fitzpatrick is hardly the most eye-opening pick given his recent form. The Englishman has been performing in every asset of the game, and hasn’t just been relying on his putter to get him into contention.

However, that putter could put him in contention, given the shots he normally gains on the field in these conditions.

Fitzpatrick has been scoring well on par 3s, and he’s been making quick starts to events since last August.

Ian Poulter @ +8000

Ian Poulter’s approach has been letting him down recently on the PGA Tour, dropping shots on the field in various events in the last six months.

However, he’s close to home so will be very used to these conditions, and especially the putting surface where we know he can get hot.

If you filter out Bermuda greens only over the last 12 months, Poulter’s statistics improve dramatically, especially when it comes to par 3 scoring.

Paul Casey @ +3500

Paul Casey opted out last week which was a surprise given the prize money on offer. However, before that he was in fine form.

Casey’s putting is no longer letting him down, he’s only dropped shots with the flat stick twice on the PGA Tour since the start of August.

Casey has two top six finishes after the first round in his last five events, including that win at the Masters.

Cameron Tringale @ +7000

With the course demanding solid approach play, Cameron Tringale comes into the picture once again. Tringale’s gaining 3.2 shots on the field in terms of approach in the last five events, and 3.1 shots gained T2G.

This is Tringale’s worst putting surface, but he is a better putter than many in this field. He’s pretty consistent when it comes to the first round leader market, but hasn’t placed in quite a while. He’s rarely miles off.

Cameron Davis @ +7000

Cameron Davis’ statistics have suckered me quite a few times recently, but still I’ve opted to go with Davis over Im, Hoffman and Villegas.

The Australian always sticks out in the stat model, especially when you filter out the last few months. He’s among the leading players in the field when it comes to 200+ yards out in the last three months and stands out when it comes to shots gained T2G.

As always with Davis the putter is the real concern. However, he has returned really impressive numbers in two of the previous four events.

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