The hottest golfer on the planet will get back to work on the PGA Tour this week for Arnie’s tournament at Bay Hill. We haven’t seen Brandt Snedeker since he lifted a trophy at Pebble Beach in February, but he will tee it up Thursday morning at The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard in defense of his number one FedEx Cup ranking. Snedeker has been nursing sore ribs that he acquired at the Humana Challenge back in January. He was scheduled to return to The Accenture Match Play Championships, but it became a week to week decision until Bay Hill was determined to be the place.
Brandt Snedeker will have to face a full field of World Class golfers at The Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida except number one, Rory McIlroy. Rory is scheduled to return at Houston next week. but he will have to face seven time Bay Hill Champion, and defending champion, Tiger Woods.
Bay Hill Club and Lodge is 7419 yards, and plays to a par of 72. It was designed in 1961 by Dick Wilson, and was proclaimed at the time, to be the best course in Florida. Arnold Palmer was so smitten with the golf course, he eventually bought the place. Mr. Palmer has tinkered with the layout, but has pretty much left it “as is”. The closing trio of holes often produces a dramatic finish, including Robert Gamez’s stunning 7-iron hole-out at No. 18 to overtake Greg Norman in 1990.
Payne Stewart holds the 72 hole record of 264, set in 1987. The 18 hole record is a 62, and is held by Andy Bean in 1981, and Greg Norman in 1984. The owner of the most victories here is Tiger Woods, who has seven victories on the tract, and will come into this week looking for number eight. If he is able to get number eight, he will also overtake the absent Rory McIlroy for the OWGR number one ranking. Something Woods hasn’t talked too much about, but you have to know he wants desperately.
Woods took a one-stroke lead into the final round in 2012, but quickly grabbed control after Graeme McDowell’s opening double bogey. McDowell faded to a 74 as a blustery final day left no challenger able to break 70. Another victory by Woods would match Sam Snead’s PGA TOUR record for most wins in a single event. Snead captured eight titles at Greensboro, his last coming in 1965 at the age of 52.
Lee Westwood, now a Florida resident after moving to West Palm Beach during the winter, will make his first Arnold Palmer Invitational start since 2008. His only top-10 finish in 10 previous starts there came in 2006. … Just four international players have won in 34 years at Bay Hill — Ernie Els (1998 and ’10), Rod Pampling (2006), Vijay Singh (2007) and Martin Laird (2011). … This year’s lineup features 132 players, up from 120 in a one-year move to create more playing spots during a shortened season.
TELEVISION Coverage: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (GC), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC).
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