The PGA Tour heads for Bay Hill this week and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is the defending champion.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview, TV Times

The PGA Tour’s Florida swing continues with the Arnold Palmer Invitational where Rory McIlroy defends the title against a strong field.

Eight-time winner Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the tournament with a neck strain but there are a number of stars on the start sheet. Rory McIlroy starts again and he will be hoping to repeat his 2018 success at Bay Hill. 2016 winner Jason Day tees it up, as do Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Francesco Molinari.

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. From 2007 Arnold Palmer took over as host of the event. This year’s hosts are Justin Rose, Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

It’s a tournament that’s been won by some famous players over the years. Arnold Palmer himself, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Payne Stewart, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson have all been victorious. Tiger Woods won four times in a row from 2000 then again in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013. Last year, Rory claimed his 14th PGA Tour title, making five birdies in his final six holes.

18th green at Bay Hill

18th green at Bay Hill

The course at Bay Hill was designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee in 1961. Arnold Palmer proclaimed it the best course in Florida the first time he played it in the mid 60s and he later bought the club. In 2009, he completed a redesign of the course that added two shots to the par and repositioned almost every bunker. It’s still being altered and, this year, new tee boxes on the par-5 fourth hole and par-4 ninth have lengthened the course by 35 yards.

The weather looks to be fine until Sunday when a threat of rain could cause a problem.

Venue: Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando, Florida
Date: Mar 7-10
Course stats: par 72, 7,454 yards
Purse: $9,100,000
Defending champion: Rory McIlroy

How to watch the Arnold Palmer Invitational

TV Coverage:
Thursday 7 – Sky Sports Golf from 9pm. Featured groups on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 2pm
Friday 8 – Sky Sports Golf from 9pm. Featured groups on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 2pm
Saturday 9 – Sky Sports Golf from 5.30pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 8pm
Sunday 10 – Sky Sports Golf from 4.30pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 7.30pm

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Players to watch:

This event tends to be one for the big names and it’s the upper echelons of the World Ranking that we need to look at this week

Rory McIlroy – It’s hard to look past the 2018 winner who has four top-five finishes in his last four starts on the PGA Tour.

Rickie Fowler – Tied second at PGA National and returning to a venue where he’s won before – watch out for Rickie this week.

Justin Rose – Tournament hosting duties might help him relax this week. He has a good record at Bay Hill and was third last year.

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. Back in 1990, Robert Gamez famously holed his second shot to this hole to beat Greg Norman by a single stroke.

Skills required: Mastering the par-5s. The winner at Bay Hill tends to play the long holes well.