A New King of the Hill

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 13, 2006, 5:00 pm
For 40 years they have been playing the Bay Hill Invitational. And during that time only two players have successfully defended their titles.
 
The first was Loren Roberts, who surprisingly won his first-ever PGA TOUR event at Bay Hill in 1994 ' at the age of 38 ' and then won No. 2 the following year. The other was Tiger Woods, who won this event in 2000 and then again in 2001, and again in 2002, and again in 2003.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is in search of of his fifth career Bay Hill Invitational title.
There will not, however, be a third different repeat winner. Not at least this year.
 
Defending champion Kenny Perry withdrew from the field due to scheduled knee surgery on Monday. The 45-year-old has been hobbled by a knee injury and was advised by a member of the NFLs Tennessee Titans medical staff to undergo the surgical procedure.
 
Perry is expected to be sidelined for 4 to 6 weeks, which means he will also miss The Players Championship and the Masters.
 
While Perrys loss is disappointing from a tournament standpoint (every event wants their defending champion to return); it will hardly hurt the strength of field.
 
This years field is loaded with notable names, including eight of the top 11 players in the world and 30 of the top 50. Woods is back, as is Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Colin Montgomerie and Michael Campbell.
 
This will mark the final time that the tournament is contested under the name of the host course. Next years event will be called the Arnold Palmer Invitational, after the tournament host.
 
With such talent in the field this year, here are the top 5 contenders for Palmers Scottish-style sword, of which a replica is on offer to the champion. And were going with the chalk this week.
 
Tiger Woods
Heres a shocker: Tiger Woods is the tournament favorite. It would almost seem impossible for anyone else to win this week. For one, Woods captured this title four straight years beginning in 2000. And for another, hes already won three tournaments world-wide in just five starts. Game over before it even starts, right? In the words of Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friend. Woods hasnt played particularly well in this hometown event the last two years, finishing tied for 46th and tied for 23rd, respectively. That alone should provide at least a little ray of hope for the rest of the field. And should he struggle with his putter, the door is ajar for someone else.
 
Vijay Singh
That someone could very well be Singh. Singh has played Bay Hill ever since receiving a sponsors exemption from Palmer in 1993. He tied for second that year, and has had one close encounter after another in the 12 years since.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh has played in every Bay Hill Invitational since 1993 but has not found the winner's circle.
He has never missed the cut here and has three runner-up finishes, the last of which came a year ago when he plunked his approach shot in the water on 18 to finish two shots back of Perry. Singh is not only seeking his first win at Arnies tourney; hes also in search of his first win of the season. Singh began the year with a playoff loss to Stuart Appleby in the Mercedes Championships. He then partook in a whirlwind tour that broke down the TOURs iron man. After two weeks in Hawaii, he traveled all the way to the Middle East for two weeks on the European Tour. He then returned for three tournaments in a four-week span on the West Coast.
 
After tying for 15th at Doral, Singh decided to take a week off. Refreshed, he returns to Bay Hill.
 
Ernie Els
Speaking of refreshed, theres no reason why Els shouldnt be more energized than usual this week. Normally, Els heads to Orlando having all but worn himself out trotting around the globe. But this year, he has competed in only two European events ' the same two as Singh ' compared to three U.S. tournaments. And like Singh, he took off last week, meaning he should have plenty of fuel in his tank for a run at the title. Els won this event in 1998. Surprisingly, that is one of only two top-10s in 13 career Bay Hill starts. He tied for 23rd last year after shooting 77 in the second round.
 
Sergio Garcia
Garcia has had a decent start to the season, with a pair of top-10s in four starts. Nine of his 14 rounds, however, have been in the 70s ' and his final-round scoring average borders on 75. But like the aforementioned, Garcia enters this event well rested. The 26-year-old Spaniard has played only once in the last three weeks, having skipped the WGC-Match Play and the Honda Classic. In between, he tied for 57th at Doral. In six career Bay Hill starts, he has three top-10 finishes. Hell have to improve on Sunday, though, to notch that first win ' his final-round scoring average here is 74.
 
Michael Campbell
The reigning U.S. Open champion ' through his own doings and the PGA TOURs ' is limited to only three regular TOUR events this season. Hes already competed in the Mercedes Championships and the next two weeks will wrap-up his Stateside appearances, outside of the majors and WGC events. Campbell tied for fourth at Kapalua, where he had a great chance to win before closing in 75. He has played this event only four times, and has two missed cuts and a withdrawal. He did, however, finish runner-up to Woods in 2002.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.