PALM HARBOR, Fla. – As the field for next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational begins to come into focus, hope that many top names would come to Orlando to honor The King appears to be dwindling.
Players have until Friday to formally announce their intention to play, but currently only 10 of the world’s top 25 players have committed to Bay Hill. While this is the 39th edition of the event, it is the first since Palmer passed away on Sept. 25 because of heart complications.
The purse was increased significantly prior to Palmer’s death, from $6.3 million to $8.7 million, with hopes of bringing top-ranked talent to the event. But several top names are still expected to stay home, including Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas and former API champion Phil Mickelson.
Although players are at liberty to craft their own schedule, Billy Horschel tweeted Tuesday that the projected field strength was “disappointing”:
Disappointing. Totally understand schedule issues. But 1st year without AP. Honor an icon! Without him wouldn't be in position we are today https://t.co/yzaIqbbSpM— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) March 7, 2017
Those sentiments were echoed by Louis Oosthuizen, who missed the event last year but stated at the Honda Classic that he plans to return as often as he can.
“I think it’s a great way to say thank you to Mr. Palmer for everything he’s done in golf,” Oosthuizen said. “I love the golf course, and I wanted to work it back in. I just think it’s a tournament that, if you can, you should play it every year. And I’m going to try to do that from now on.”
Henrik Stenson is an Orlando resident and finished second last year at Bay Hill. While he’s skipping the WGC-Match Play Championship later this month, he plans to tee it up next week and believes there may be an extra onus on top-ranked players to pay tribute to Palmer this year.
“Absolutely, you can definitely argue for that,” Stenson said. “There’s going to be some special tributes to his life and honor. We’re putting some umbrellas on our bags and things like that. So I’m sure it’s going to be a great week, and we’re going to do our best to honor him throughout the week.”