Keep an Eye on Viktor Hovland at the PGA Tour Mar 3–6
The Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the premier tournaments on the PGA Tour, returns this week at Orlando’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge with Viktor Hovland. Bay Hill has hosted the tournament since 1979, and it’s the second event on the Tour’s “Florida Swing”.
With just over a month until the Masters, players will be trying to get their games in shape.
Bryson DeChambeau won’t be back to defend his title, withdrawing from the tournament as he battles hip and hand injuries. DeChambeau shot an 11-under last year, holding off Lee Westwood for a one-shot victory.
Much like last week’s Honda Classic, water on nearly every hole is a given at Bay Hill. It’s a par-72 course at approximately 7,466 yards. The elements have played a role in the outcome of the last two editions, with the wind creating some tough conditions.
Bay Hill has 27 holes on the property, with the tournament taking place on the ‘Challenger’ and ‘Champion’ holes. The course was designed by Dick Wilson in 1961, owned by Palmer from 1974-2016 and now by his daughter and son-in-law.
Driver and iron play are of the utmost importance at Bay Hill. Elite-level ball strikers will have more success here than those who prevail on the greens. Finding the fairways off the tee creates more opportunities to hit the green in regulation than playing out of the rough.
Below are our best bets at Bay Hill.
Viktor Hovland (+1600 to win). The 24-year old has cashed in five of six starts this season, with three top-10s including a win at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Hovland added a win in January on the DP World Tour (Dubai Desert Classic).
Hovland is 19th in the Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee and eighth in Greens in Regulation percentage. The Norwegian has made the cut in all three trips to the API, his best finish a T40 back in 2019. He comes in riding a T4 finish at the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago.
Will Zalatoris (+250 to finish top-10). Statistically speaking, a claim could be made for Zalatoris as the outright winner. Last season’s Rookie of the Year leads the Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green and sits one spot behind (ninth) Hovland in GIR%.
Zalatoris has yet to win on Tour, but four of the last five tournaments have been captured by first-time champions. The 25-year old has finished T26 or better in his last four starts, so he’s a tasty pick to crack to the top-10.
Sahith Theegala (+450 to finish top-20), Another young player making a name for himself on Tour, Theegala has put together a fantastic rookie season.
The former Pepperdine Wave has made the cut in 10 of 12 starts, with a pair of top-10 finishes. This will be Theegala’s first appearance at the API, but expect the 24-year old to be near the top of the leaderboard.