Golf picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational predictions & best bets from Diane Knox Balas

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Diane Knox Balas


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Diane Knox Balas loves golf (she’s Scottish, so of course she does) but let’s just say she’s much better at analyzing golf than playing! The same cannot be said for her brother, Russell Knox, who’s a 2-time winner on the PGA Tour and fueled Diane’s initial passion for the sport. A seasoned TV and radio host, Diane has given out 8 outright winners since joining the Pickswise team in April 2022. Her general rule is she has to have three stand-out reasons for each pick and spends her time studying stats, playing form and little nuggets of information from golfers’ lives on Tour. Diane lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Garrett, son Greyson and two English Bulldogs Bowser & Barkley. You can follow her antics on Twitter @KnoxyDiane and Instagram @dianeknoxbalas.

Last week’s Honda Classic saw Chris Kirk secure his 5th career PGA Tour victory in a playoff against rookie Eric Cole – and it didn’t come without the predicted “Bear Trap” drama! I’d picked Shane Lowry as one of my outrights, and he finished in a tie for 5th. Maybe we’re getting closer to a win! This week, the big guns are back in action. This is such a great time of the year for golf, with four out of five straight events being in the new “elevated” category, which means more money, more points and more superstar power on the course.

Next week, we have The Players Championship, but this week it’s off to Arnie’s Place. Bay Hill hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and with another $20 million purse you know the field is stacked. In fact, 44 of the OWGR top 50 are in action, the most in any event since last year’s Open Championship at St Andrews.

As we’ve seen with the two previous elevated events (WM Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational), the cream rises to the top with Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm claiming the respective victories. Scheffler won the API last year in really difficult conditions and is back to defend. However, Bay Hill is a bit of a different beast and can throw up some surprises, especially when it comes to Sunday comebacks. Rory McIlroy (2018 winner) and Francesco Molinari (2019 winner) both shot 64 on Sunday to come from way back to win.

Plus, last year’s winning score was only -5, and in 2020 Tyrell Hatton shot over par on both Saturday and Sunday to win at -4. The wind can really pick up and wreak havoc. Last year saw some of the toughest conditions the tournament had ever seen, with the Sunday scoring average reaching 75.48. Some guys have elected to skip this event in the past so they don’t feel totally beat up by the time they arrive at The Players the following week.

FYI, if you fancy Rahm this week, he’s +700 (FanDuel). Bear in mind that this is only his second time playing in this tournament and he’s never won on the East Coast, but he’s Jon Rahm, and it feels like he can win anywhere right now!

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Bay Hill: What you need to know

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge is a par 72 and measures 7,466 yards. Like last week at the Honda, the field will face A LOT of water. It’s a long course with tight doglegs, combined with some of the longest rough seen on Tour and a lot of bunkering.

Driving accuracy percentage always appears higher at Bay Hill, but that’s due to the fact the players are forced to lay up on a lot of holes to safely avoid the water. Look out for the par-5 6th hole this week, or the infamous “Bryson DeChambeau” hole, as Bryson cut across the water with monster drives and went on to win the tournament. John Daly also once shot an 18 on this hole, so it’s one to pay attention to.

Guys will be faced with a lot of 200+ yard iron shots into these greens, so elite iron play will be key, combined with an excellent short game and the ability to perform on the firm and fast Bermuda greens. All three par-3s measure over 200 yards. In short, pars are often celebrated at Bay Hill, and we can expect to see higher scoring than we’ve seen so far this year.

Knox’s Knockout Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Will Zalatoris (+2500)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook

When looking at players who can perform at difficult courses, Will’s name has to be in the conversation. He finished runner-up in two of the four Majors last year, and T6 at The Masters, along with top-5 finishes at Muirfield Village and Torrey Pines. Zalatoris was sidelined due to injury for the latter part of 2022, but his T4 finish at the Genesis (on another tough course) shows he’s back and ready to contend. He’s also gained strokes on the greens in all four of his starts in 2023, which is an encouraging trend for a guy who’s struggled with that part of his game. He finished T10 here in 2021, so some course familiarity will come into play.

Jason Day (+3300)

Available at BetMGM Sportsbook

Talk about a guy who’s come out guns-blazing in 2023! Jason Day has finished within the top 10 in three of his four starts this year, highlighted by a 5th at the WM Phoenix Open. He’s also got great tournament history here, winning in 2016 and finishing within the top-25 an additional four times. His recent stats show gains on-the-greens and off-the-tee in his last four starts, and his putting stats have shown the biggest improvement. I wanted to save Day for The Players next week, but I’m throwing him out there for the API as I love those odds.

Billy Horschel (+10000)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook

I’m sticking with Horschel this week after picking him for the Honda. Yes, he finished T42 in the end but took the early lead and divulged that he’d been struggling with illness and his swing as the tournament went on. He also talked about swing changes he’d tried to implement – and had failed – so he has gone back to the basics of what made him great in the first place. After a disappointing end to his Honda run, the Floridian will hopefully see this week as a clean start in his home state, where he’s desperate to win. He came close here last year, finishing runner-up, so he enters the week with that added feel-good factor.

Tom Hoge (+12500)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

I loved these odds for Hoge this week. Due to many forced lay-ups, longer iron play will be vital this week, and Tom sits 2nd in GIR 200+ yards for the season. His best finish here was T15 in 2020, and he’s coming off a T14 at the Genesis Invitational that saw him gain strokes in putting and approach. Let’s hope his putter stays hot.

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Arnold Palmer Invitational Prop Bets

Keith Mitchell top-10 (+500)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

“Cashmere Keith”, as he’s been called on the telecast over the past few weeks, is back in action after an impressive run at the Genesis and Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he finished top 5 in each. Mitchell likes Arnie’s Place and has two top-6s under his (no doubt expensive) belt. He’s gained strokes in approach and off-the-tee in his last four starts and is ranked 3rd for the season in approach shots from 175-200 yards. I like him to be up there again this week.

Ryan Fox top-20 (+400)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

Fox is over from the DP World Tour to compete at the API after an impressive start to 2023. He’s had three top-20 finishes (in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore) and the wind of Orlando this week shouldn’t phase the Kiwi. I mean, he’s won in Scotland in October before! It’s his first time playing here, but I love his game and these odds to keep the top 20 form going.

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The Pickswise golf handicappers are on hand with expert Golf Picks and Golf Predictions as well as tournament previews and analysis throughout the PGA Tour, including all of the majors.

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