The PGA TOUR event that will be played this week began in 1966 as the Florida Citrus Open and was contested at the Rio Pinar Country Club near Orlando. In 1979, the event was moved to its current location at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge that was owned by the late Arnold Palmer. It is now the Arnold Palmer Invitational and carries special PGA TOUR status.
The field is limited to around 120 players, and instead of the usual two-year TOUR exemption, the winner of the Bay Hill Invitational receives three years of playing privileges on the PGA TOUR. It’s the same exemption earned by winning a WGC event, the Tour Championship and the other four PGA TOUR invitational tournaments.
Tiger Woods has won the event a record eight times, with his last victory coming in 2013. Woods suffered serious leg injuries in a single-car accident last week in Los Angeles. He wasn’t scheduled to compete as he was still in the process of recovering from back surgery at the time of the wreck.
Tyrell Hatton won last year with a 4-under total of 284, one shot better than Marc Leishman. The tournament was plagued by poor weather conditions, and Hatton’s 4-under score was the highest in the event’s history.
Hatton was the fifth consecutive international player to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational and eight of the top 10 in the betting odds this year are from outside the United States.
Tyrell Hatton won last year with a 4-under total of 284, one shot better than Marc Leishman.
Favorites to Consider at Bay Hill
The betting favorite this week, with odds of +900, is Rory McIlroy, the 2018 champion who hasn’t finished worse than sixth in his last four Arnold Palmer Invitational starts. The 31-year-old Irishman is eighth in the Official World Golf Rankings and has won four major championships as well as being a two-time winner of the FedEx Cup.
After struggling when play resumed following the COVID-19-induced pause in 2020, he’s rebounded with three top 10 finishes in eight events in the 2021 season, including a tie for fifth at the Masters Tournament. McIlroy missed the cut two weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational but bounced back last week with a solid performance, tying for sixth place at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, with odds of +2500, has not won yet on the PGA Tour but has five European Tour victories. The 26-year-old Englishman has had trouble closing out wins when he’s been in contention, but he had five top 10 TOUR finishes in 2020.
He came in ninth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year and was the runner-up to Francesco Molinari in 2018, so he has a solid track record at Bay Hill.
Sungjae Im, also at +2500, is one of the busiest players on the PGA TOUR and is playing in his 15th event of the 2021 season. The 22-year-old from South Korea captured his only TOUR win a year ago at the Honda Classic, a week before finishing third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He also tied for third the prior year and was 11th in the FedEx Cup standings in 2020 after playing in 26 tournaments.