Sunday, August 1, 2021

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Sleeper Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard

Talor Gooch (+9000) … Bay Hill was a brute last year but he’d still love to have a redo of his second round. Yet, despite the 8-over 80, he’d claw back to finish T13, six strokes back of champion Tyrrell Hatton. What could have been. For the week, he ranked sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting and T4 in putting: birdies-or-better, so he’s a veteran of the breaks on the bermuda. The equanimity throughout his bag serves as a zone defense on challenging tracks. It includes slotting 22nd in bogey avoidance and it has yielded impressive performances at Memorial Park (solo fourth) and Riviera (T12), which rank a respective third- and fifth-hardest of 25 courses this season.

Luke List (+10000) … His combination of power and precision was made for Bay Hill. It’s also paid off. In a trio of consecutive appearances through 2019, he finished a respective T17, T7 and T10 with a scoring average of 70.50. Currently T10 on TOUR in distance of all drives, 41st in greens in regulation, 32nd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and T29 in par-5 scoring, but he sinks or swims with his putter.

Matthew NeSmith (+12500) … After a quietly successful but front-loaded rookie season of 2019-20, he’s at it again. He’s gone for a pair of top 10s among already six top 20s, including in each of his last three starts. The 27-year-old product of the University of South Carolina leads the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation. He’s also 20th in total driving, ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and 17th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. In his Bay Hill debut last year, he opened with a 2-under 70 but ultimately missed the cut on the number with a bogey on his 36th hole. With that experience logged and form upon arrival, it’s time for redemption.

Keegan Bradley (+15000) … When he’s on, he can keep pace with any ball-striker. He always has. Inconsistency seeped in over time but he’s been efficient more often this season at sixth in total driving, T18 in greens hit, seventh in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and ninth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. It’s generated one top-five finish and another two top 25s, the more recent of which a T22 at TPC Scottsdale. His skill set fits Bay Hill beautifully, and Bay Hill has responded in kind as he’s 8-for-8 since 2013. That slate includes a T3 in 2013 and runner-up in 2014.

John Huh (+12500) … He’s been terrific since returning to competition after an eight-month absence in 2020. He’s 6-for-7 with four top 25s in resuming his reputation as a stripe show. Currently T31 on TOUR in fairways hit, 17th in greens in regulation, 22nd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, 22nd in adjusted scoring and T29 in bogey avoidance. Also perfect in six trips to Bay Hill with a personal-best T26 in his last in 2018. Still has eight starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension to earn 138.042 FedExCup points and retain status. Given his trajectory, that target is within reach sooner than later.

NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.


Odds were sourced on Tuesday, March 2 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.


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Latest Posts

The Lakers Weren’t Ready for the Moment. Devin Booker Was.

Booker, the Phoenix Suns’ All-Star guard, is already showing the poise and determination of a playoff regular in his first postseason.The roots of everything...

2 Million Runs: Baseball on the Verge of Mile

For 145 years, players have stepped, slid, walked, tumbled and jumped on white rubber slabs all over the continent. It is the act of...

A Wrenching Knicks Loss, but an Electric Night at the Garden

N.B.A. playoff basketball returned to Manhattan as a cultural event with a loud, spirited crowd and a new archenemy, the Hawks’ Trae Young.For 47...

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The Blue Jays are still barred from playing in Canada, but as they decamp from Florida, their fans — in plastic cutout form —...

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