Palmer still reigns at Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 25, 2010, 4:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fans entering the Arnold Palmer Invitational walk through a tent filled with moments and memories of the King, from the winners of his Bay Hill tournament to the tournaments he won in a career that made him one of golf’s most enduring figures.

Five players sat on bar stools late Wednesday evening during a chat with sponsors, all sharing stories of when they first met Palmer.

Kevin Stadler recalls being a 10-year-old in awe of meeting this larger-than-life figure. He used to come to Bay Hill with his father, former Masters champion Craig Stadler.

Daniel Chopra is a member at Bay Hill. He remembers first joining the club, seeing Palmer for the first time, shocked that Palmer knew who he was and that Palmer would walk over to introduce him.

“I haven’t met a lot of royalty,” Chopra said. “But that’s what it felt like.”

The Arnold Palmer Invitational gets under way Thursday with a strong field – Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk among 11 of the 13 winners on the PGA Tour this year. That list doesn’t even include Phil Mickelson, a past winner.

Most of them put Bay Hill on the schedule because of Palmer, who owns Bay Hill.

Missing is the figurative owner – Tiger Woods.

It will be the first time that Woods has missed the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the only regular PGA Tour event he had never missed as a pro. Woods, who hasn’t played since a sex scandal over the Thanksgiving holiday, decided instead to make his return at the Masters.

“I will say we are disappointed Tiger isn’t here to play,” Palmer said.

That was all he had to say Wednesday, preferring to keep his opinions private at the moment. A reporter had asked it was time for the media to move on, and Palmer repeated those words.

But not for long.

When he gave a public apology before a worldwide television audience on Feb. 19, Woods said he needed to make his behavior “more respectful of the game” when he returned. Palmer then was asked how Woods might do that.

“I don’t think that’s my position to say,” he said. “I think it’s up to him to do and say whatever he feels he needs to do to redeem the situation, put it in the proper place. My opinion, as I said, I was going to keep to myself. But I suppose the best thing he could do would be open up and just let you guys shoot at him, and that’s just my thought.”

That chance will come April 5 at the Masters, as Augusta National sent out an interview schedule that featured Woods speaking at 2 p.m. on Monday of the Masters.

In the meantime, Palmer is more interested in his tournament, particularly his course.

Palmer had the entire crew from his design company revamp all the greens, replacing the sand base 18 inches deep, changes the strain of grass and altering the contours to allow for more hole locations.

The tee boxes were upgraded, and one was moved. The tournament tee for the 15th hole is now located on the other side of Bay Hill Boulevard. It measures 467 yards, eliminating the chance to cut the corner of the dogleg.

The scorecard certainly is different. After experimenting as a par 70 the last three years, Palmer thought it was better for Bay Hill to return as a par 72, restoring the fourth and 16th holes to par 5s to create more excitement at the end of the round.

“It’s not as quirky,” Stephen Ames said. “The changes are great. It’s more playable for everybody, not just the big hitters.”

The focus often shifts to the Masters this time of the year no matter what’s going on with Woods. Bay Hill always has been part of the critical buildup to the first major of the year.

But with Palmer as the host, and a course the players might find more agreeable, the tournament is getting its equal share of attention. That’s the way Stewart Cink is looking at it.

“I would like to drive the ball really well here and putt really well here and then I can go home saying, ‘I can’t wait to play in the Masters.’ And then I have to wait seven days, and that will probably go away,” he said.

“So I just want to play Bay Hill for Bay Hill, and try to have a great finish here, maybe win, and just get myself some confidence going into the Masters.”

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted special exemption for U.S. Women's Open

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

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Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

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McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

8/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

50/1: Alex Noren

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner