Arnold Palmers Bay Hill Club Lodge in Orlando Fit for a king

By September 23, 2009, 7:26 am

ORLANDO, Fla. - Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer will forever be intimately linked to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

And that, perhaps, is the best indicator of how special this private southwest Orlando golf course really is. Marketing executives couldn't dream up a better pair of icons to be associated with their course.

Palmer has long served as the face of Bay Hill, bringing his Arnold Palmer Invitational to Florida every year since 1979. The course's daily afternoon shootout, sometimes with Palmer in the game, has become the stuff of legend. Woods is linked to Bay Hill for one reason: how thoroughly he has dominated the Invitational, winning a record six times, including a PGA Tour-record-tying four times in a row from 2000 to 2003.

Bay Hill General Manager Ray Easler calls the Woods-Palmer connection to Bay Hill 'an incredible marriage.'

Tiger Woods hits approch shot on 18 at Bay Hill
Bay Hill is one of the toughest courses on Tour, one of the reasons why Tiger Woods has won a record six times here.
'It seems to be fate that the two are tied together,' Easler said. 'Tiger only lives a mile and a half away. He plays with us every year. You have the new legend coming about next to the living legend.'

Past champions of the Invitational reads like a hall-of-fame banquet: Ernie Els (1998), Phil Mickelson (1997), Ben Crenshaw (1993), Fred Couples (1992), Tom Kite (1989), Payne Stewart (1987) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1985), to name a few.

Only Doral Golf Resort and Spa's Blue Monster has hosted a pro tournament longer than Bay Hill. The 7,157-yard course continues to stand up to the world's best players and put on a show while doing so. The 31st annual Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard had a new slot on the PGA Tour calendar this past March, just two weeks before the Masters. And for the second consecutive year, Woods won with a dramatic birdie putt on the 72nd and final hole.

'I like the new dates, and it could make our field stronger, although we've always enjoyed having great fields,' Palmer, winner of 62 PGA Tour titles, including seven majors, told

Nothing's easy at Bay Hill

To keep up with today's long bombers, Bay Hill, designed by the venerable Dick Wilson in 1961, converted in 2007 to a par-70 layout for the tournament with two member par 5s playing as par 4s.

Playing the 27 holes of Bay Hill without a tour card requires an invitation from a member or a stay in its 64-room lodge. The added expense of spending the night is well worth the chance to tee it up at a place so steeped in history. Tennis courts, a health club, a luxury spa and the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy make Bay Hill feel more like a resort getaway than just a private club.

The layout itself has a few pedestrian Florida holes, where the typical bunkers and water hazards await. But they are offset by several stunners that confound even the world's best.

The 558-yard sixth hole bends boomerang-style around a massive pond. John Daly hit six consecutive tee shots into the water for an 18 in 1998. It was a 'Tin Cup' moment in real life, showcasing how tempting it is to cut off too much of the corner.

The property has just enough humps and ridges to create several semi-blind tee shots, notably the par-5 12th and par-4 15th. Playing the proper angle off the tee on many holes could be the difference of at least two strokes.

The golf course's finish garners more than its share of the TV coverage for the simple reason that people love carnage. A train wreck is possible on any of the final three holes. The 517-yard, par-5 16th now plays as a nasty par 4, forcing players to carry the water hazard in front on their second shot or risk being called a wimp in the locker room. The skinny green on the 219-yard 17th is hard to hit and hold.

And we've all witnessed the destructive charms of the 18th hole. Years ago, Palmer himself transformed a weak par 5 into a stout par 4 of 441 yards with a hook-shaped green tucked behind the rock-lined 'Devil's Bathtub,' a pond that has rinsed the likes of Vijay Singh and others.

Who can forget Woods' rousing birdie putt, and subsequent fist-pump, on the green to capture the 2008 tournament? Not to be outdone, Robert Gamez holed a 7-iron from 176 yards for an eagle to beat Greg Norman by one in 1990. A plaque in the fairway still marks the accomplishment.

It's a fitting finish to a course fit for a King - Arnold Palmer himself.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge: The verdict

Easler considers Bay Hill a classic golf course that the pros love to play before The Masters.

'It really hasn't changed an enormous amount the last 40 years,' he said. 'A lot of the newer courses are designed for longer hitters. Bay Hill is suited to shotmakers. That is Mr. Palmer's style. Also, the way we set it up is along the lines of Augusta. We are the tuneup for Augusta. We have long rough and fast greens.'

Playing where the pros play is no marketing sham. It's a thrill to tee it up at PGA Tour stops, especially dynamic layouts like Bay Hill. The course features arguably the second-best three-hole finish in Florida (behind the TPC of Sawgrass Stadium course). The chance to run into 'Mr. Palmer' and shake his hand just adds to the allure.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.