The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard began life in 1966 as the Florida Citrus Open Invitational. In 1979 the tournament became the Bay Hill Citrus Classic and, by 1996, was known as the Bay Hill Invitational. Since 2007 Arnold Palmer has hosted the event.
Bay Hill has been a happy hunting ground for Tiger Woods. He’s been a winner here five times, including last season, and he’s on the start sheet again this time round. With Phil Mickelson edging perilously close to taking Woods’ number one slot, Tiger will be hoping to take advantage of the fact “Lefty” isn’t playing in the tournament. A victory here would allow him to stretch his advantage again.
There’ll be a strong representation from GB&I at Bay Hill this week. Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington will be joined by – Ross Fisher, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Greg Owen and Oliver Wilson.
Owen suffered heartbreak in this tournament back in 2006. Carrying a two shot lead up to the 17th green, the Englishman looked to have the tournament sewn up. But, he three-putted from five-feet for a double bogey, then bogeyed the closing hole to lose by one to Rod Pampling.
Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa will also be in the field this week after receiving a personal invite from Arnold Palmer.
Venue: Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Florida
Date: March 26-29
Course stats: par 70, 7,239 yards
Purse: $5,800,000 Winner: $1,044,000
Defending champion: Tiger Woods (-10)
Thursday 26th – Live on Setanta Golf from 7pm
Friday 27th – Live on Setanta Golf from 7pm
Saturday 28th – Live on Setanta Golf from 7pm
Sunday 29th – Live on Setanta Golf from 7.30pm
Tiger Woods – Last year’s champion, it’s only a matter of time before Tiger steps back into the winner’s enclosure. His long game looks solid, he just needs a few putts to drop.
Kenny Perry – The Kentuckian is still on superb form and he has a good track record in this tournament. He was the winner in 2005.
Nick Watney – This season he’s moved from PGA Tour journeyman to one of the biggest names on the circuit. He hits the ball prodigious distances so his game should be suited to this course.
Key hole: 18th. At 441 yards, it’s not the length of this par-4 that will intimidate the players, it’s the difficulty of the approach. Water and rocks wait in front of the green and anything drifting right could end up wet.
Skills required: Long hitting. At 7,239 yards and a par of just 70, this is a course that suits those with power. It’s one of the reasons why Tiger has been so successful here over the years. Other long-ball specialists like Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry are also recent winners at Bay Hill.