Arnold Palmer introduces renovated Bay Hill

By Erik PetersonSeptember 30, 2009, 11:38 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. – If Bay Hill Club & Lodge were a thrilling novel, then Tiger Woods’ 15-footer to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March was a fitting end to Volume 1. And just days after closing the book, Arnold Palmer put pen back to paper, leading a renovation of one of golf’s most revered venues.

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Video: Arnold Palmer discusses changes to Bay Hill
  • Bay Hill: Before and After
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Volume 2 was officially released Tuesday, as Arnold Palmer reintroduced his pride and joy, less than five months after its wall-to-wall renovation began. While the routing remains the same, significant work was done around each of the greens, which allows for more creative short game shots, and more hole locations. The bunkers were also reworked to make them more visually intimidating.

“The opinion is that we make courses harder and harder,” Palmer said of renovating Bay Hill. “Our purpose has changed a little bit. We decided to rethink that.”

PGA Tour players will be glad to hear that Nos. 4 and 16 were made into true par 5s, and that some of the rough around the greens has been replaced by run-off areas, but does that mean Bay Hill is easier? Arnold Palmer Design Company architect Thad Layton thinks it depends on who’s playing the course.

“For the amateur player, it will be easier because the forward tees are shorter and the new runoffs will allow them to putt the ball from off the green,” Layton said. “But I think the pros will have a more difficult time deciding what shot to hit from the closely mown collection areas around the greens.”

The collection areas appear on holes 1-6 and 10-16.

Another significant change that players will have to negotiate is a flattening of the putting surfaces, which gives the PGA Tour flexibility in setting hole locations for the tournament. The PGA Tour has what it calls the 2 percent rule, meaning it won’t cut holes in places where there is more than a 2 percent slope to the green. By flattening the putting surfaces, hole locations can go where no hole location has gone before.  
Check out our Destination Spotlight on Bay Hill Club & Lodge. It's your ticket to playing this famed PGA Tour venue.
While it’s debatable that flatter greens make a golf course tougher, this characteristic fulfills one of Palmer’s initial requests for the renovation to “get the greens closer to the water hazards.” Palmer wanted pins tucked closer to the edges, bringing the jagged-rock waterlines – a Bay Hill signature – more into play.

Greens were also reseeded with Emerald Bermudagrass, a new seed from Houston that has never been used on a Palmer-designed golf course. The hope is that the surface is less grainy than the previous Tif-Eagle grass, but Palmer admitted it will take about a year before they really find out how much grain they have.

Before players even get to the greens, however, they’ll have to avoid reshaped and repositioned bunkers that are much more visible on tee shots and approach shots than before. Perhaps the best example of this theory at work is No. 4, which was converted into a true par 5 without lengthening the hole (it had been played as a par 4 during the Invitational).

The fairway bunkers at No. 4 were moved out into the 270-300-yard range, and a new bunker was added left of the fairway 100 yards from the green to guard the lay-up area. The green was elevated and made smaller, while roll-off areas were created front right and back left.

The other hole that was made into a true par 5 without being lengthened is No. 16, which also played as a daunting par 4 for the pros.

While a better viewing corridor from the tee down to the landing area has been created, fairway bunkers have been adjusted and brought closer to the fairway. An accurate tee shot will give players a chance to go for the green in two, but getting your ball in position is easier said than done.

Up at the green bunkers were reshaped and the beach-style bunker left of the green was replaced by a collection area. With the green smoothed out, more pin locations can be cut near the treacherous water hazard, which Palmer expects will make for interesting risk-reward scenarios coming down the stretch on Sunday.

“It’ll be an exciting hole to watch,” Palmer said of No. 16. He grinned and added that, “I’ll certainly be there lurking.”

At No. 18 a new tee was created to give players a better angle for their tee shot, though Palmer believes the longer hitters will still hit 3-wood. As for the 25-foot putt Tiger made at No. 18 on Sunday to win in 2008? Palmer said the green is flatter so it doesn’t break as much as it used to.

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, Bay Hill is an enjoyable golf experience that lets you hit a variety of shots. And with Arnold Palmer as the author, you know Version 2 will be even better than the original.
  • Bay Hill: Before and After
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
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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 U.S. Women's Open special exemption

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