The PGA Tour heads for Bay Hill this week and the Arnold Palmer Invitational where Jason Day defends. It will be an emotional week, as it’s the first time the tournament has been held since Arnie’s death last September.
Jason Day is defending champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Florida. A strong field has assembled as many of the PGA Tour’s best travel to “Arnie’s place” to honour the great champion who died last September.
Australia’s Jason Day won this event last year before going on to claim the WGC-Match Play the following week. He made a great par save on the final hole to finish one clear of Kevin Chappell.
Day is back at Bay Hill this week and will be joined by fellow top-10 players Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Hideki Matsuyama. Other notables on the start list include: Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson.
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 will be the first time the tournament has been contested since Palmer’s death last September. Hosting duties will be taken on this year by Annika Sorenstam, Graeme McDowell, Peter Jacobsen and Curtis Strange. A new bronze statue of Palmer is now in place looking over the first and 10th tees.
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, Jason Day was victorious.
There’s been a big hike in prize money for this year’s tournament – $2.4 million. The winner will receive over $1.5 million and a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
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 1960s and he later bought the club. In 2009, he completed a redesign of the course that added two shots to the par and re-positioned almost every bunker. The layout has hosted 34 PGA Tour events over the years.
The weather forecast is excellent for the week with only sunshine on the charts.
Venue: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Florida
Date: Mar 16-19
Course stats: par 72, 7,419 yards
Purse: $8,700,000 Winner: $1,566,000
Defending Champion: Jason Day (-17)
Thursday 16– Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Friday 17 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Saturday 18 – Sky Sports 4 from 4.30pm
Sunday 19 – Sky Sports 4 from 4.30pm
Henrik Stenson – He was tied seventh last week in The Valspar and he has a great record in this event – his last four starts have been: Tied eighth, tied fifth, second and tied third.
Stenson swing sequence:
Rickie Fowler – He won the Honda Classic and showed some good form in the WGC-Mexico Championship. He has enjoyed good results in this event, including a tie for third in 2013.
Wesley Bryan – He’s been one of the form players in recent events on the PGA Tour; his last three starts have been tied fourth, tied fourth, tied seventh. He could be a surprise package this week.
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.