Matthew Fitzpatrick is a Kern pick for Arnie's place.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is a Kern pick for Arnie's

Bet the Arnold Palmer Invitational: Mike Kern, whose 45-1 winner cashed last week, likes McIlroy, Fitzpatrick

The Arnold Palmer Invitational form Bay Hill tees off Thursday morning.

Last week wasn’t bad, for a change. Hope you were taking notes.

At the WGC-Mexico that was actually held in Florida because of Covid, one of the middle-tier guys I threw out as possibilities was Collin Morikawa, at 45-1. And he wound up winning. Even if you only had him to finish in the top five or 10 you made out.

And in the satellite event in Puerto Rico, the one name I mentioned was Mr. Vegas, at 33-1. And he lost on the last hole. But if you backed him up with insurance you would have still done all right.

Now it’s on to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with a 123-player field that doesn’t include Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas. And that’s OK.

Rory McIlory is the fave, at 8-1. He won it in 2018, but hasn’t won anything in too long for him. Bryson DeChambeau is 12-1. He has a fourth and a second here in two trips, both before he made the changes to his body. Viktor Hovland, who would have won last week had he not made a quadruple bogey late in the third round, is also 12-1. He’s playing about as well as anyone at the moment.

Tyrrell Hatton, your defending champ, is 16-1 along with Patrick Reed, who has top 10s in three of his last five starts. That includes a win in January. Matthew Fitzpatrick is 20-1, Paul Casey and Sungjae Im, 22-1. Im has been third here in his two previous appearances, but he is my pick in my yearlong pool. Just thought you needed to know that.

Hideki Matsuyama is 28-1. So is Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari, who won here two years ago. He didn’t play in it last year due to a bad back. He’s been in the top 10 in three of his last four starts.

Billy Horschel is 30-1. Ditto Jordan Spieth, who’s never played here but was in contention late Sunday in each of his last three starts. Jason Day and Jason Kokrak, who has a win this year, are 33-1. Tommy Fleetwood is 35-1. Sam Burns, who early won a few weeks back, is 40-1 along with Will Zalatoris.

Marc Leishman is 45-1. Harris English, Max Homa and Kevin Na are 50-1. Homa just won recently, and Na won earlier this year. I won’t name everyone, but Justin Rose is 66-1 and Rickie Fowler 70-1. Brendan Todd, who won not long ago, is 90-1. And there are some longer shots out there that some people who do this kind of thing seem to like.

So, how to proceed? Well, you figure Rory has to win again one of these days soon, but I’m still not sure I want to take him at 8-1. You know me. I’m looking for a bigger payday, which can sometimes work and other times bite you. But I think it’s a chance worth taking.

Of the guys near the top, I actually like Im a little but I don’t want to jinx my pool status. The one that intrigues me a bit is Matthew Fitzpatrick, at 20-1, though I would like it more if his number was higher. He was second here two years ago and ninth in 2020, and he has a fifth and an 11th in his last two starts. Keep in mind that no American has won this thing since 2015. Just putting it out there.

I could make a case for almost anyone near the top. Hey, they’re there for a reason. That would include Molinari, who at 28-1 might be worth a shot. And you can always back people up with at least a top five, just in case they only come close.

The way Spieth has been playing, 30-1 sounds like a tantalizing number as well. But again, we can’t bet everyone. Or can we? At those numbers maybe you almost can. Or at least take three or four in several different ways and hope at least one of them cashes for you. It’s been known to happen.

If I was looking at legit longshots, I’ll throw out a few names but again I’m not really sold on anyone at that level. But because some people demand it, three that I’ve heard being seen as at least a decent top five or 10 are Cameron Davis at 70-1, Sebastian Munoz at 100-1 and Matt Wallace at 150-1. Or maybe they’re just educated hunches. Then again, for the most part aren’t they all.

Good luck with whichever way or ways you go. All you can do is try. See you at The Players Championship, when the season really gets going.

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