The PGA Tour remains in Florida this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Martin Laird defends the title and Tiger Woods is set to start.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational 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 six times and he’s on the starting list again this time around – his first start since withdrawing from the final round of the WGC – Cadillac Championship with a leg injury.
A strong field has assembled including Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els. The big South African is looking to bounce back from the disappointment of last week’s finish in the Transitions Championship. Els missed a short putt on the final green that would have given him a spot in the playoff, eventually won by Luke Donald. “The Big Easy” needs to win this week, or next, to secure a start in the US Masters.
The course at Bay Hill was designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee in 1961, though Arnold Palmer completed a redesign in 2009 that added two shots to the par and repositioned almost every bunker. The layout has hosted 31 PGA Tour events over the years.
It’s now one of the toughest tracks on the PGA Tour circuit. Last season the scoring average was 73.203 and the greens are notoriously difficult to find in regulation.
In last year’s event, Scotland’s Martin Laird stumbled across the line. Despite closing with a three-over-par 75, he won by a single stroke from Steve Marino.
Venue: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Florida
Date: Mar 22-25
Course stats: par 72, 7,381 yards
Purse: $6,000,000 Winner: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Martin Laird (-8)
Thursday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Friday 23 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Saturday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 5pm
Sunday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Jim Furyk – After a disappointing 2011, the unorthodox veteran is showing signs of returning to his best. He reached the playoff last week at Innisbrook and he has a good record in this event.
Tiger Woods – He seems to have recovered from his injured Achilles tendon and, if that’s the case, he’ll surely be in the running this week. He’s won this event six times in the past and will be desperate to make it a seventh victory.
Martin Laird – The defending champion is playing well in 2012 and is producing good statistics on this year’s PGA Tour – he’s ranked third in greens in regulation and fifth in birdie average.
Key hole: 18th. At 458 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.
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