2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational - Predictions

Who will win the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational? The winner will receive a three-year PGA Tour exemption. Our research staff offers predictions and analysis. The 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational is scheduled for March 16-19 at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

⛳Course Preview

The Bay Hill Resort shares similarities with other great Florida courses. There are lots of bunkers and water hazards on this course. One poor shot is likely to result in a bogey or worse. Also, the greens here are tough to read. When the sustained winds exceed 10 mph, the course's difficulty increases two folds.

­čĆîAnalysis

World Rankings
Jason Day - 2
Rory McIlroy - 3
Hideki Matsuyama - 4
Henrik Stenson - 5
Rickie Fowler - 9

Course Compatibility
Henrik Stenson - Five top-15s including three straight top-5 finishes (2014-16).
Zach Johnson - Six top-11s, excellent scrambling skills and putting.
Jason Day - Defending champion.
Matt Every - Back-to-back titles (2014-15).
Justin Rose - Six top-25s including a runner-up.

Approach The Green (SG)
Thomas Pieters 1.46
Francesco Molinari 0.99
Kevin Kisner 0.971
Rickie Fowler 0.970
Charles Schwartzel 0.92

Total Driving
Kyle Stanley 64
Rickie Fowler 69
Francesco Molinari 83
Lucas Glover 84
Greg Owen 86

Recent Form
Rickie Fowler - Honda Classic winner, 2 other top-16s.
Hideki Matsuyama - Phoenix Open winner, T25 at WGC Mexico.
Henrik Stenson - Two top-10s plus a WD in last three starts.
Rory McIlroy - T7 at WGC Mexico, 2nd at SA Open.
Adam Hadwin - Valspar Championship winner.

Modified JScore
1. Henrik Stenson +4.5
2. Rickie Fowler +4.0
3. Francesco Molinari -7.0
4. Hideki Matsuyama -8.0
5. Rory McIlroy -8.5
6. Jason Day -9.0
6. Zach Johnson -9.0
8. Justin Rose -9.5

­čĆćPredictions

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama. World rankings usually have little value in picking the winner of a golf event. However, five of the last six PGA Tour events have been won by a player in the field's top five highest-ranked. Dustin Johnson won in Riviera (#2) and Mexico (#1); Matsuyama won in Scottsdale (#1); Spieth won in Pebble Beach (#3) and Fowler won in Palm Beach (#4). Henrik Stenson broke the streak with a pedestrian T7 finish last week. We hope to ride the trend in picking Matsuyama to win this week.

We will be honest and say that the Japanese's game is not a good fit for Florida courses. His high ball flight is a disadvantage in windy conditions. However, his decision to make Florida his U.S. home base two years ago has contributed to improved results in the Florida Swing. He finished T6 here last year and played in the final group at the 2016 Players Championship. According to Japanese media, Matsuyama immediately returned to Florida after WGC Mexico to practice and accustom to the weather conditions. Moreover, winds are forecast to be less than 10 mph this week which should benefit Matsuyama. Will the luck of the Japanese strike this week?

Top 10 Finish: Francesco Molinari. With so many top players playing this week, it is easy to overlook someone like Francesco Molinari who ranks just outside the top 30 in the world. Molinari has the game to win at Bay Hill. He is fifth in total driving and fourth in SG Green Approach. This means he is accurate off the tee but still has the distance to attack the pin. With so many hazards on this course, these stats are important. Not surprisingly, he has never missed a cut here in four starts with his best performance being a T5; he finished T9 last year. The Italian's form has been strong with eight top-20 finishes in his last nine worldwide starts.