The Arnold Palmer Invitational tees off on Thursday morning at The Bay Hill Club & Lodge near Orlando for the final stop on the Florida Swing. Tiger Woods has a questionable back for this tournament, and the world’s number four player, Accenture Match Play champ, Jason Day has already pulled out because of problems with his thumb.
Weather forced a Monday finish last year as Tiger Woods won his third tournament of the 2013 season, beating Justin Rose by two strokes. The 2014 edition of the API has a stellar field of the world’s top players and should provide a finish that’s ever as exciting as the other Florida golf courses.
The 2013 win at Bay Hill re-established Tiger as the world’s number one player with the 77th win of his career , and he matched Sam Snead’s record of winning the same event eight times.
The Bay Hill Club and Lodge was designed and built by Dick Wilson in 1961, and was voted the “Best Course in Florida” after Arnold Palmer lamented it and eventually bought the place. Arnie has tweaked the design over the years. The course is now 7419 yards and plays to a par of 72.
Bay Hill has three tough finishing holes that don’t have a catchy name like The Bear Trap, or Snake Pit, but has provided some compelling finishes over the years. The most iconic was Rober Gamez hitting his famous 7 iron to the center of the 18th green in 1990.
The field is packed with top world talent at Bay Hill, and it will be the last event for some of the top players before they go to Augusta next month. As the tour moves on to Texas, players needing an invitation to Augusta will be first and foremost. Some of the big names will play one event in Texas as a final warm-up, but others like Tiger will take the time off.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational will need to have a great finish to equal what we have already seen so far on the Florida Swing. Three unlikely winners in some very fine finishes, and none of the final scores got into double-digits. What we know already this spring is that the new “wrap around schedule” is putting pressure on veterans that are already well back in the FedEx Cup standings, and need to get on track soon if they want to make the playoffs.
In 35 years of action at Bay Hill, only one European, and just three other International Players have won the API. Martin Laird from Scotland was your 2011 Champion. Ernie Els has won twice in 2008, and 2010, Rod Pampling in 2006, and Vijay Singh in 2007.
20 of the 132 players in the field this week have a residence in the Orlando area.
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 12:30-2 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (NBC).
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