What We Learned: Arnold Palmer Invitational


Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events. This week, the team reflects on Tiger Woods' victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge and the tournament host.

I learned that none of the people who constantly hammer Golf Channel for covering Tiger Woods too much were among the 20,000 at Bay Hill Sunday chanting Woods’ name after he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Couldn’t have been. There wasn’t one person who went home disappointed. – Jay Coffin

I learned that I’d better pack a few extra notebooks for the drive down I-20 East toward Augusta, because this year’s Masters Tournament has a chance to be an all-timer. Not that we already weren’t looking at a potentially epic event based on Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald among those in-form enough to win early-season titles, but the victory by Tiger Woods on Sunday just ratcheted things up a few more notches. This is what we want heading into the Masters each year – the world’s best players competing at the highest levels – and it appears this is what we’re going to get this time. After the win at Bay Hill, Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, said that his player probably wished the Masters started tomorrow. Make that two of us. Actually, make that all of us. That journey to Augusta can’t get here soon enough. – Jason Sobel

I learned that Arnold Palmer is still the coolest guy in golf. It’s more a reminder rather than a learning experience, but each time his tournament comes around it obvious that there is no one like him in the game – past or present. Palmer’s news conferences can’t last long enough, his energy and enthusiasm are inspiring. The news that he had been admitted to the hospital for blood pressure reasons was alarming, but fortunately nothing more. At 82 years old and 39 years removed from his last PGA Tour win, Palmer is still the King of golf. – Mercer Baggs

I learned that a player can lose their health, their confidence, their mojo and their status as the world’s best, but you don’t lose talent. Any victory for Tiger Woods would have been remarkable, but a five-stroke walk-off on a mini-major golf course makes an unmistakable statement.

Also that Ernie Els, who came up short in his bid to crack the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking and earn an invitation to the Masters, may be the game’s best four-tool player. If he ever finds a cure for his putting woes the Big Easy is bound to reclaim his world-beater status. – Rex Hoggard

Golf is the ultimate meritocracy. Players get paid only if they perform. There are no guarantees. Nevertheless, sentiment runs deep in the sport out of respect of the accomplishments of the living greats of the game.

On the cusp of earning his way into a 19th consecutive Masters, Ernie Els has come up painfully short both in Tampa and at Bay Hill. Els finished in a seven-way tie for fourth place at Arnold Palmer's event, leaving him No. 58 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The only way Els can get into the Masters on his merit is with a win in Houston next week. The only other way he goes down Magnolia Lane again is at the mercy of Masters chair Billy Payne. Els knows Augusta is unlikely to budge, reserving space for their champions and few else.

Though painful to watch at times, the quest for Augusta has clearly invigorated the Big Easy. With little left to prove in his career, to see the chase for one more Masters chance drive a man as accomplished as Els is a stirring reminder of how fleeting time really is. Where did 20 years go? – Ryan Ballengee