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2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational Sleepers and Longshot Picks

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in Golf

Updated Mar 2, 2021 · 5:16 PM PST

Arnold Palmer Invitational
Francesco Molinari hits from the first tee during the third round of The American Express golf tournament on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, in La Quinta, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • The Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place Thursday (March. 4th) at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida 
  • Francesco Molinari has three top-9 finishes, including a win, in his last five starts at this tournament
  • Read below for analysis of the event and our favorite sleepers and longshot plays

After a few quiet weeks for this column, we struck gold at the WGC Workday Championship by nailing Collin Morikawa at +4650. Now, the challenge is to replicate last week’s success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which tees off Thursday at the prestigious Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

This tournament has produced a flurry of international winners lately, as each of the last five winners have been from either Europe or Australia. That group includes Italian Francesco Molinari, who after struggling in the latter half of 2019 and for most of 2020, appears to be back in control of his game.

2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational Odds

Golfer Odds to Win Top-10 Odds Top-20 Odds
Francesco Molinari +3000 +275 +138
Sam Burns +4500 +450 +188
Branden Grace +11000 +1000 +450

Odds taken March 1st at DraftKings.

The 2018 Open Champion checks in with outright odds of +3000, which is strong value considering this field contains only 12 of the top-25 players in the world.

Francesco In Fine Form

Molinari started off 2021 with an 8th place showing at the AmEx and has since followed that up with two more top-10 finishes. In his last start, and 8th place result at the Genesis, he was positive in every major strokes gained category, gaining 2.5 strokes with his ball striking and another 4.9 with his short game.

The 10-time worldwide winner has tremendous history at this event and clearly feels right at home on these greens. He’s posted five top-9 finishes in his last seven starts at Bay Hill, claiming the trophy in 2019, his most recent trip.

With water and sand everywhere, this course demands precision, especially with your irons, and Molinari’s game looks up for the challenge. Over his last 12 rounds, he ranks 20th in this field in strokes gained approach, and 15th in proximity from 200+ yards away, a key distance where the majority of approach shots will come from.

Pick: Francesco Molinari to Win (+3000)

Burns Is Due

With the exception of Tony Finau, perhaps no golfer has had as many close calls recently without finding the winner’s circle as Sam Burns. The 24-year-old has been in the final group on Sunday in two of his last four starts (Genesis and Farmers) and has been a statistical darling in 2021.

Over his past 24 rounds, Burns ranks first in this field in birdie opportunities inside 15 feet, second in Par-5 scoring, sixth in strokes gained putting and 13th on approach. With numbers like that, low numbers are bound to be posted, and he’s obliged shooting 66 or better four times in his last four events, including a pair of 64’s.

He’s made the cut in all three of his starts here and is back on Bermuda greens, where he gains on average 0.7 strokes on the field per round.

Pick: Sam Burns Top-10 (+450)

Grace Back In the Winner’s Circle

Branden Grace, once ranked as high as 10th in the world, got back in the winner’s circle last week, shooting a blistering final round 66 to win the Puerto Rico Open.

The two-time winner on Tour, hit 17 of 18 greens, and 13 of 14 fairways in blustery conditions on Sunday, making five birdies and no bogeys.

Grace had already been trending up with a 20th and 34th place finish in his previous two starts (Genesis and AT&T Pro-Am) but despite the recent success is getting no respect at the books. The South African is 110-1 to win and +450 to crack the top-20. Given his recent form, and his ability to navigate difficult golf courses (don’t forget he owns five career top-5 finishes at Majors), his price tag feels like a steal.

Pick: Branden Grace Top-20 (+450)

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