Palmer to Sit Out Bay Hill for First Time


04 Bay Hill InvitationalArnold Palmer always knew there would come a day when he would no longer be a competitor in the PGA Tour event he founded 26 years ago. That day has arrived, but that doesnt mean he still wont make an impact or that his presence wont be felt at this years Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard.
Oh, Ill keep an eye on everybody, thats for sure, said Palmer. Ill miss playing; theres no doubt in my mind about that. But we all move on.
Im moving into another phase with Bay Hill. Ill fulfill my duties as host of the tournament, whatever is needed, and enjoy watching the golf. That will be different, yes, but its fine. Im looking forward to the tournament just the same as any other year.
Palmer, 75, played not only in his final Bay Hill Invitational last year but also in his 50th and final Masters Tournament. He plans on playing in a few select tournaments in 2005 and wouldnt rule out a similar approach in coming years.
Ill pick and choose, said Palmer, who plans to enter the Senior PGA Championship May 26-29 at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pa., which is not far from his hometown of Latrobe. Youll never hear me say I wont play anymore. But Ill be very selective.
He would have liked to add his own name to the Bay Hill Invitational victory roster, but he was 49 years old and soon would be a key figure in the formation of what is now called the Champions Tour when he started hosting the event. His best finish was a tie for 24th in 1991 at the age of 61.
For me, I was close to 50 years old when we really got it going. I was not that much of a factor in the outcome of things. I thought I could be but I wasnt, Palmer said. Ive played well at times, and I had a wonderful time playing. (But) when you do both (host and play in a tournament) youre taking out a big bite.
Adjustments are a natural part of the evolution of any golf tournament. Palmer over the years has seen the Bay Hill Invitational change in numerous ways.