McDowell: Players skipping API 'unfairly criticized'

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ORLANDO, Fla. - There are a few notable absences from the field at this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but Graeme McDowell doesn't believe the motives of those individuals should be called into question.

McDowell is an Orlando resident, and he made his first splash on the PGA Tour at Bay Hill in 2005 when he tied for second behind Kenny Perry. This year he is adding tournament host to his credentials as one of five people tasked with honoring Palmer's legacy in the tournament's first playing since his death.

While some have questioned why players like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and former API champ Phil Mickelson weren't able to make it to Bay Hill this week to honor The King, McDowell doesn't have any issue with their respective choices.

"I really feel like this year was always going to be a good field, and it is a good field," McDowell said. "Obviously there are guys who are not here, and they may be unfairly criticized for that. I really have been a firm believer in that guys will remember and respect Arnold in their own way, and being here or not being here this week has really, to me, no bearing on that."

This week's field is still one of the strongest in recent tournament history, with four of the top five players in the world competing. McDowell cited the tournament's current position amid a particularly hectic part of the Tour's schedule as a contributing factor, with the WGC-Dell Match Play a week away and the Masters only two weeks after that.

Johnson, Spieth and Mickelson are all expected to play the Shell Houston Open in the week between, meaning that adding Bay Hill would have created a run of four straight starts and five in six weeks dating back to the WGC-Mexico Championship.

"It's obviously a really busy time of the year, with Mexico a couple weeks ago and the World Match Play next week," he said. "So I respect the best players in the world, their decisions, some of them, to not be here. I get that, I understand that, and I don't think it's reflective of how they feel about Mr. Palmer at all."