The 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational (API) starts Mar. 3 at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando.
The Florida Swing continues with a star-studded lineup shooting for a record $12 million purse and a top prize of more than $2.1 million.
Leading favorites to win Arnold Palmer Invitational
While Jon Rahm tops the odds to win at +750 on DraftKings Sportsbook, the world No. 1 is a risk having never played in Arnie’s event at Bay Hill. Rory McIlroy (+1,000) is the second choice on the odds board to win.
He’s followed closely by Dallas resident, and former Texas Longhorn Scottie Scheffler (+1,600). For reference, Scheffler won his first PGA Tour event last month at the WM Phoenix Open.
However, none of the top-10 ranked trio of stars is taking the most bets or money to win the API.
Rather, it’s Viktor Hovland (+1,800) and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (+2,500) leading the way at DraftKings generating 8% and 6% of the handle (money) respectively, and just over 4% of the bets to win.
But following closely with the next most money and bets to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational is Plano resident Will Zalatoris. And if there were legalized sports betting in Texas, he would be a popular choice.
Rising PGA Tour star Will Zalatoris
But over at BetMGM, another leading sportsbook, Will Zalatoris (+2,500) is the most popular golfer this week at Arnie’s place. Zalatoris has the highest ticket count to win (8.1%), taking the most money to win with 10.8% of the handle. He’s followed by Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Zalatoris is still shooting for his first PGA Tour victory. Already this season, four pro golfers have been first–time winners on the PGA Tour. This is the first calendar year with 4 first-time winners before March 1st since 2002.
Zalatoris looks primed to make a run for his first win on Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s No. 30 in the world golf rankings and has a pair of top–6 finishes in three starts this year. The big hitter is also top-10 in hitting greens and Greens-in-Regulation gained.
Zalatoris has several skills pulling for him
Bay Hill is among the very toughest to score from 200+ yards out. This gives strong iron players and ball strikers have an advantage. Zalatoris ranks top–10 in proximity from 200+ yards on Tour, and his elite ball-striking ranks top-5 on Tour over his last 50 rounds, along with Tee-to-Green and Approach play (Fantasy National golf site data).
Zalatoris has generated some of the most impressive and consistent tee–to–green statistics. Using ShotLink data since the 2020 US Open and covering more than 50 rounds, Zalatoris ranks fourth on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach. This puts him trailing only Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, and Paul Casey.
He’s fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, narrowly behind reigning FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay in that statistic. He’s sixth in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking in that span, a statistic that isolates performance off the tee and on approach shots.
Now this season alone, the rising star’s stats are even more impressive. Zalatoris leads the Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee–to–Green (1.93) and Strokes Gained: Approach (1.22) per round. He’s currently ninth in greens in regulation (74.6%) and has more than doubled his amount of Strokes Gained: Around the Green per round so far this season compared to last.
Once his putting improves to even above average, Zalatoris will be a regular winner on Tour. Zalatoris finished tied for 10th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on debut last year, despite losing strokes putting.
With so much talent and his continued improvement, it looks like a breakthrough win is coming to another Texas-based golfer, and the King‘s Place at Bay Hill would fit like a tee.
Will Zalatoris rise up the ranks?
Zalatoris currently lives just north of Dallas in Plano. He spent much of his teenage years playing junior tournaments in Texas alongside 3-time PGA Tour major champion winner Jordan Spieth.
The 25-year-old Zalatoris has been been on a steady rise since winning the U.S. Junior Amateur title in 2014. At the time, he was representing Trinity Christian Academy in suburban Dallas. He then headed to North Carolina for college, playing golf at Wake Forest University. There he earned the highly sought-after ACC Player of the Year honors in 2017.
That same year, Zalatoris was part of the 2017 Walker Cup team that included PGA Tour winners Collin Morikawa and Cameron Champ.
Zalatoris then turned pro in 2018 but failed to get past the first stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Q School. He received some sponsors exemptions and played Monday qualifiers just to earn spots in Korn Ferry events. Thereafter, he earned a full-time status for the 2020 season, allowing his first professional tournament win in the TPC Colorado Championships.
Zalatoris moved to the top of the Korn Ferry points list, which qualified him for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2020. Zalatoris had a surprising finish of 6th place as a relative unknown. Additionally, he made a hole-in-one on the par 3 7th hole in Round 1. Will would finish the tournament tied with the then world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Zalatoris earned Special Temporary Member status on the PGA Tour late in 2020. He also nearly pulled off the most improbable win in Masters history in 2021, finishing runner-up and 1-shot behind green jacket winner Hideki Matsuyama.
What do the oddsmakers say?
Zalatoris’ odds to win the Masters in 2021 were 215/1 at Circa Sports in Las Vegas. This year, Zalatoris’ current odds to win the 2022 Masters are 30/1 at Caesars Sportsbook, 33/1 at BetMGM, and 37/1 at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Following the Arnold Palmer Invitational is the massive $20 million THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Later this month and one week ahead of The Masters is the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio, starting Mar. 31.