2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational First Round Leader Picks: Rickie Fowler Time!

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is another elevated event with a 120-man field. The competition will be fierce this week with 44 of the world’s top 50 golfers in play. It is important to note that the tour is in Florida now and the forecast will factor in. Wind this week is supposed to be prevalent, although Thursday looks far better than Friday (which has 20 to 30 mph winds in the forecast). As of now, winds on Thursday are set to rise a touch in the afternoon into the 10 to 12 mph range, so morning starters should still have an advantage. Over the past few seasons, the first-round leaders at this event have tended to alternate in terms of when they started their round (morning or afternoon) and there have been four solo first-round leaders from the afternoon wave since 2015.

With that history and the weather being somewhat benign on the opening day this year, getting exposure to both waves this week with bets seems optimal — with perhaps a slight lean to the morning starters, who could play in slightly calmer conditions.

With the help of OddsShopper’s golf betting tools, let’s examine the best value plays for Arnold Palmer Invitational first-round leader bets.

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational First Round Leader Bets

Rickie Fowler First Round Leader (+5600) at BetMGM

Rickie Fowler comes into this event with his confidence building. He has not only recorded four top-20 finishes in a row, but those finishes have come on the back of some heady ball striking. Fowler’s trending extremely well in the approach department, having now gained over four strokes on approach alone in his last three starts. It is a smaller sample size, but Fowler has been great on mid to long approaches, ranking top 20 in approach proximity from 150 to 200 yards. That’s a good sign for his chances this week given the course in play which demands players gain strokes on approach and presents them with several challenging iron shots. Fowler has an afternoon tee time but given his record at Bay Hill, and ability to play well in windy conditions (he ranks fifth in strokes gained tee to green in windy conditions), he makes for a solid player to build first-round leader cards around this week.


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Cameron Young First Round Leader (+4000) at BetMGM

Cameron Young has not started 2023 as fast as 2022 but his last start at Riviera revealed some encouraging signs. He posted a 20th-place finish but also gained over 7.2 strokes for the week in the ball-striking department. Young is a killer off the tee, so he’ll be setting himself up well on the tougher holes this week and will be one of the few players who could theoretically make an eagle on any of the four par 5’s. Young’s 13th-place finish at Bay Hill last season also should have us interested. He managed to open with two rounds under par, despite tough conditions, and handled the green structures well, gaining over 2.0 strokes against the field. He ranked eighth in first-round scoring last season and has a nice early morning tee time on Thursday to go with some solid 40-1 odds.

For a wager on BetMGM this week, Young is a first-round leader target to consider. He has solid 56-1 odds there, longer than most other places. New BetMGM users even get first bet insurance up to $1,000!

Aaron Wise First Round Leader (+6000) at DraftKings

Wise is another player with a solid history at this event, who makes for a good one-round target. His approach game of late hasn’t been great but he did look like a player on the verge of breaking out last week at the Honda. Wise ended his event there with a final round 66 and gained over 4.0 strokes putting at the Honda for the week. He has now gained over four strokes putting in three of his last seven starts and opened this event last season with a 69. Wise has played Bay Hill four times so the experience factor is on his side. He is also a perennial fast starter, ranking out sixth in first-round scoring last season — and remains in the top 10 of that stat this season. With his odds now up in the 60-1 range after a couple of slow starts, and with him having a morning tee time, taking him on for a fast start Thursday feels like a solid move. There are other players in his range who look enticing too, like Corey Conners, but Wise’s record of starting fast gets him the nod.

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Arnold Palmer Invitational First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Long-shot bets in the first-round leader market hit all the time on the PGA Tour. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

Byeong Hun An First Round Leader (+10000) at BetMGM

Byeong Hun An First Round Top 5 (+1800) at BetMGM

An is coming in off a 21st-place finish at the Honda Classic, where he was up inside the top 10 for much of the event. He was off for two weeks prior to the Honda so perhaps a little competitive rust showed up in the final round but he’ll still be better rested than a lot of the field this week. An gained over 3.0 strokes on approach at the Honda and has posted some of his best results in the state of Florida. He won on the Korn Ferry Tour in Florida around this time last year and has also played the Arnold Palmer seven times prior to this season — making the cut on six occasions. An opened with a 68 at this event the last time he played it in 2021 and now comes into this year’s version playing solid golf. He goes off in the morning wave and should avoid the slightly heavier afternoon winds that are being forecast. An has always been a fast starter, and seven of his last 13 Thursday rounds on the PGA have seen him record scores of 69 or better. With his approaches trending well, taking a flyer on him at +10000 odds in the outright market, and a juicy +1800 for a top-5 finish, is worthy of a bet this week.

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Geoff Ulrich
Author

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