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2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational

First Tee to Last Call: Elevating the Tour

by Conor Coughlin

Conor Coughlin shakes up the PGA DFS golf landscape in his series “From First Tee to Last Call,” where he combines lifestyle advice learned from times at the bar accompanied by friends with his projecting models. Tee off with Conor this week as he reveals his 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational DFS core plays.

The state of the PGA has been somewhat in flux for the last 18 months. The general feeling among Tour players was that they needed a change; more money and more incentives.

PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf Tour: The Battle Wages On

This energy was only amplified by the upstart LIV Golf Tour and the allure of incredibly large contracts. Not only was the money exceedingly better than that of the PGA Tour, but it also came with the promise of guaranteed money in the form of contracts. The LIV Tour also required less time commitment for the players, with eight events playing only 54 holes (three days) with shotgun starts and a team format.

I have written about the structure of these events in the past. In a nutshell, 12 four-man teams “compete” for three days crowning a team winner and an individual winner for the best singular performance by a player. I put compete in quotes because, at the end of the day, this is a glorified party-style scramble that you’d play with your buddies that is sponsored and catered by your local bar. 

That being said, I don’t hate it. The broadcasts are entertaining. The vibe of the events is fun, and it’s something different. All of the political implications aside, it hits the mark from an entertainment standpoint. The actual level of competition… obviously, not so much.

Popping Tags on the PGA Tour

Getting back to the PGA and how they are combating LIV and any future competitive intrusion.
Enter elevated (and required) PGA Tour events. Historically, most of the money and glory centered around the Majors and a select few events with sponsors who had deeper pockets than other Tour stops. 

In 2023 that limited potential to make big money is no more. There are 13 events and the four Majors with inflated purses and the world’s best golfers on display and competing. The top 20 players in the PGA Tour Player Impact Program are required to play in all of the events they are eligible for with the exception of one event that they may choose to skip. The purse at most of these events will be increased to $20 million, a very large increase from previous seasons.

So far, the elevated events have done exactly what was intended, bigger stars and more of them competing more often. 

Smaller Tournaments: The Real Loser

The downside I see with this new schedule is that the non-elevated events are going to have fewer and fewer big names playing in them. These also are the events that, if you had the opportunity to attend, wouldn’t necessitate you mortgaging your home for a ticket.

That begs the question:  If the field is a bunch of club pros and amateurs, why would I go out of my way to attend it? Much less pay for it?

The simple answer is you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t, and I’m a massive golf fan. While I love the idea of my favorite players staying together and playing in a truly competitive environment, I worry about what will become of the smaller tournaments that once gave everyday people a chance to see some of their favorite players.

A New Fighter Has Emerged: TGL Golf Leauge

One last piece that may further impact the non-elevated events will be the introduction of Tiger Woods’ and Rory McIlroy’s TGL Golf League. The tech-infused league will debut in 2024 and be played in a stadium setting on Monday Nights. The league will start with six teams of three of the biggest stars not on the LIV Tour. 

TGL Golf League

The TGL Golf League launches January 2024.

The league will start with a 15 “match” season, followed by a playoff and a championship. I’m actually really excited for this league. It will be in a stadium with a hybrid of real golf and simulator golf. While I don’t love the simulator part, I think this will be high-energy and engaging. 

I’ll write about this more in the future as more details emerge. I do have a hard time seeing these elite players being able to juggle the elevated events commitment and the TGL. Thus, more of the non-elevated (non-required) events will be the casualties.

Overall, I think these changes for the PGA Tour are positive, I’m not 100 percent sure they’ve fine-tuned the details just yet, and I think we are in for a few more revamps over the next couple of years before the dust is fully settled and we have a polished product.

Let’s get into the DraftKings (DK) plays for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, our third elevated event of the season!

Onto the Green: 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Bay Hill Club & Lodge Course Breakdown

• Par 72
•  7,400-ish yards
• Bermuda Grass: East-coast style, not that California Bermuda (it does play differently)

This course has a ton of water and more sand than you could ever need. The wind is the biggest defense, and it looks like we will see it. As of this writing, we will not get calm days Thursday and Friday. The wind can be brutal here, so check the weather. The conditions can surely change, so stay updated.

I like a strong approach game from long and accurate players. I will also be sprinkling in some putting this week. Par 5 scoring and bogey avoidance will be used in some of my modelings.

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks

Xander Schauffele ($9,200)

While Rory McIlroy($10,600) is my favorite play, followed closely by Jon Rahm($11,400), I think Xander Schauffele may be a sneaky way to fade the top of the pricing and get a lot of exposure in the sub-$10K to $9K range. He is currently projected at 14 percent rostership, a solid leverage move amidst a sea of 18 percent-plus high-tier roster projections.

Schauffele is rating out first in my model over the last 36 rounds. He is leading the way in bogey avoidance. He keeps himself out of trouble. He’s deadly accurate, and it shows coming out at No.4 in ball striking and approach metrics. He also has an excellent track record on very fast Bermuda putting surfaces. I’ll be dialing up some Schauffele this week!

Cameron Young ($8,700)

What can I say about Cameron Young that I don’t say every week? I love Young’s game. He has distance in bunches, and he is generally very accurate on top of it. He is in the top 10 in this field for all off-the-tee metrics and No.7 in the field in over-ball striking. His approach game is on point and is in the top 20 for bogey avoidance.

Young was a T13 last year in his rookie season and his first appearance here. All we need is for him to find his putter just a little bit this week (which he frequently does), and we have a golfer competing for the win. Oh, by the way, his projected rostership is at nine percent right now.

Corey Conners ($7,800)

If there is a golfer who is polarizing for me week-to-week trying to get him right, it’s this Corey Conners. This week he is rating out too well for me to ignore. Some of the things that have held me off of Connors in the past aren’t rating out badly. Namely, his putting. His putting historically is just not great. He can occasionally catch streaks, but not often. This season he is actually finding some level of consistency and is in the top 30 percent of this field in putting over the last 36 rounds.

If you can accept that risk level on the green, then you should be a full-go on him, as the rest of his game is tight. He’s coming in No.11 in my model for strokes gained off the tee, and he compliments that stat with his approach game rating No. 12 overall. If you are seeing a trend with my early leans, he is also low roster projection, at an estimated 12.5 percent.

Other Golfers in My Pool

• Jon Rahm ($11,400)
• Rory McIlroy $(10,600)
• Justin Thomas ($9,600)
• Sung Jae Im $(8,900)
• Keith Mitchell ($8,000)
• Tom Hoge ($7,300)
• Min Woo Lee ($7,300)
• Ben Griffin $(6,700)

“Last Call” Dart Throws of the Week

• Rickie Fowler ($7,700)
• Gary Woodland ($7,400)
• Hayden Buckley ($6,500)

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Cheers! Thanks for reading and considering my 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational picks. Good luck this week!

Find me on Twitter, @Cough_DFS.

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