Notes Palmer and Bay Hill No More

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04 Bay Hill InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- The army was out in full force to watch the King make his way around his home course for possibly the last time Friday at the Bay Hill Invitational. Though his scores were a far cry from his heyday, the cheers that welcomed him to each green were not.
 
On a beautiful sunny afternoon, Arnold Palmer played the course he made famous with fellow Orlando resident Mark O'Meara and up-and-comer Chad Campbell.
 
Though improving nine strokes from his previous day's work, Palmer still finished at the back of the pack with a two day total of 23-over-par 167. He did, however, finish strong, ripping a drive down the 18th and then running another driver inside both O'Meara and Campbell. He two-putted for par, much to the delight of the appreciative crowd.
 
'I could have played a little better than I did both days. Yesterday was just a disaster,' said Palmer, referring to Thursday's 16-over-par 88. 'But today was a slight bit better and I did hit a couple of good ones there on 18 that kind of helped make my day.'
 
As for his remaining days playing on the PGA Tour, Palmer was quite clear his days are certainly numbered.
 
'I suppose I can't deny that I wasn't thinking about that this is probably the last time I'll do that,' said Palmer, speaking about his walk up at 18. 'And that's tough to think about.
 
'I'll play a few senior events here and there but as far as the tour is concerned, Augusta will probably be my last.'
 
Though the King may think his playing days are just about over, there's a good chance the cheers of Arnie's Army will not soon fade.
 
March Madness
 
With the NCAA basketball tournament in full swing, Scott Verplank, fresh off getting dunked on by Craig Perry on the first playoff hole at Doral two weeks ago, has showed some solid rebounding skills by posting back-to-back rounds of 4-under-par 68 in the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
Despite his unfortunate ending in Miami, Verplank has kept a sense of humor about Parrys walk-off 6-iron.
 
Doral was obviously a unique deal, a unique way to end a tournament, recalled Verplank, who is in a three way tie for sixth, four strokes behind leader Shigeki Maruyama.
 
I played well there but I didnt really feel like I was doing physically all of the things that I was hoping to be doing. But I snuck into a playoff and had one hand on that steering wheel of the car and then I got my other hand slapped in the door.
 
Currently ranked 14th on the Ryder Cup points list, Verplank has a trio of goals hes working on as he heads into the weekend: try to put Parrys miracle shot behind him; get in position to notch his first victory since the 2001 Canadian Open; and maybe most importantly, make this years Ryder Cup team slated for Oakland Hills in Michigan.
 
I have a tremendous desire to make the Ryder Cup team, said Verplank, who went 2-1 in his matches and was the first Ryder Cup rookie to be selected as a captains choice. It was the best experience that Ive had in golf; it was like playing in the Super Bowl. I seem to thrive in that environment. I enjoyed it a lot.
 
As of now, he sits 47 points behind Jerry Kelly for the automatic 10th spot on the Ryder Cup points list. A 2004 PGA Tour victory warrants a whopping 150 points to a players total up through the PGA Championship in August.
 
Smiling Assassin Keeping it Steady
 
Japans Shigeki Maruyama, who missed the cut last year, leads the field after a pair of nifty 6-under-par 66s. Battling nagging neck and shoulder injuries, the diminutive Maruyama cites familiarity as one of the reasons for his continued growth as a player on the PGA Tour.
 
Just got use to the golf courses. This is the fifth season and when I came over here five years ago, I was feeling (out) the golf courses all the time, said the 34-year-old Maruyama through an interpreter. Now I know how to adapt to the courses. So I rarely hit into the waters. I just hit where I aim.
 
As one of only a handful of players to win at least one tournament in each of the three previous PGA Tour seasons, Maruyama came close to making it four years running, but missed out at a chance to win the Nissan Open after watching Mike Weir hit a masterful chip shot on the 18th to save par and edge Maruyama by a single stroke.
 
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