Sons, Daughters, and Grandkids of Arnie’s Army Cheer for Big Names at Arnold Palmer Invitational

The original members of Arnie’s Army have aged up, most no longer with us. Nor is their hero, Arnold Palmer. But the progeny of Arnie’s Army, the grandkids of the tour he and Jack Nicklaus created, are at Bay Hill, trying to beat each other’s brains out.

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer - The Masters
Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer - The Masters / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

Brandishing clothing with the Palmer umbrella logo on hats, shirts, shoes, jewelry and more, the second and third generations of Arnie’s Army cheer them on, lining the fairways following their favorites.

The 2021 Masters champ, Hideki Matsuyama, did not disappoint, showing how it should be done with a 5-under par 67.  Matsuyama was having problems with his back again and complained that one leg was numb. 

“My back was not feeling perfect, but I was kind of hitting, kind of protecting myself, so, but I feel like I was able to keep the momentum from the previous tournament,” he said.

Beware the injured golfer! He often wins.

Matsuyama did get lucky due to a 2019 USGA Rules change.

On the 15th hole, he was hitting from just off the green and suffered a double hit with his chip. A few years ago, that would have been a one-shot penalty, but thankfully that rule was changed.

The most memorable two-chip situation was when T.C. Chen double hit a ball in the 1985 U.S. Open. While he was disappointed to lose the tournament by a shot to Andy North, he also said many years later that, without the double hit, people might not know who he was. 

The two-chip made him famous.

Sam Burns, playing with 2022 champion Scottie Scheffler, posted a 68, one behind Matsuyama, despite a double bogey on the third hole due to his tee shot, which found water, and a three-putt.  

“It's, obviously, a difficult golf course. If you hit some poor shots, it's going to penalize you. I did hit a couple poor shots, and it penalized me,” Burns noted. He had bogeys at the two par threes on the back nine, the 14th, and 17th.

“This is about as benign as you're going to see Bay Hill. Greens still pretty soft. Rough is obviously up,” he added.

Will Zalatoris said he was taking advantage of the lack of wind.

“I knew that this morning, with no wind, especially early on in the week, that's the softest that we're going to see,” he noted. “Even with rain on Sunday, the place is still going to be brown.”

To protect his back, Zalatoris has changed his shot repertoire to a little draw, a little cut and a straight shot. He said he used to move the ball a great deal more, but he has simplified things, including his shot selections.  

He’s now using a 44-and-a-half-inch driver because he can hit more fairways with it. In 2022, he said he used a 46 inch, but made the change back, trading the extra yards for more fairways hit.  

Zalatoris is at 3-under par, tied with at least 10 players who finished at 69.

Justin Thomas said his entire game is improving. 

He was at 4-under until the 17th hole, which he bogeyed after missing the green.

“I didn't hit a bad shot on 17, it's just, that's Bay Hill,” he said after his round of 69.

When asked what he was doing to improve, he answered, “Driving it better, irons are better, chipping's better, putting's better, mental game's better, preparation. I mean, you know, it's a cruel sport we play sometimes, but you're never, you can feel like sometimes you're never going to get it back, and then you feel like some weeks you can't possibly shoot over 66 or 67.”

The PGA Tour’s top players will continue to battle it out for a 36-hole cut on Friday, from 69 to 50 players plus those within 10 shots of the lead. 

Next. 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational Power Ranks. Arnold Palmer Invitational Power Rankings. light

The tournament winner will receive $4 million and 700 FedEx points and, of course, the Palmer Red Cardigan.