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2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Bay Hill has a new scorecard and a new name for the tournament. One change could lead to a few complaints, the other leaves little room for debate.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational has a nice ring to it.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking for his fifth career win at Bay Hill. (WireImage)
'My daughters are responsible for that,' Palmer said Wednesday. 'While I was playing, I would have never allowed it. That was first stipulation for not making any name change. I liked the Bay Hill Invitational logo. But when I stopped playing, that sort of opened the door for the possible name change.'
As for the scorecard, it might take four days for opinions to formulate.
Wanting to make Bay Hill more of a challenge, Palmer has changed par 5s at Nos. 4 and 16 into par 4s, making the course play as a 70. The low score still wins, but the 16th used to be the last spot among the final five holes where players could think about making birdie.
'Now the party's over after the 13th,' Joey Sindelar said. 'That last hour will be torture.'
That's not to suggest the other holes will be a picnic.
Dean Wilson was stunned to see a first cut of rough on the tee box, with the teeing grounds so narrow they are shaped like capsules. The rough is uniform and up to the ankles, and the grass around the bunker in front of the second green is so thick that from the tee, players have a hard time seeing the sand.
'Did they grass in the bunker?' Tiger Woods said as he played his pro-am round.
Palmer always wants his course to be difficult, so it's no surprise to see tight fairways, deep rough and greens so quick that when Woods blew a 15-foot putt some 5 feet past the hole, he said under his breath, 'Quick than Isleworth,' a reference to his home course.
Still, the biggest difference will be the scores to par.
'I would probably predict that the scores will be much the same as they have been in past years,' Palmer said. 'I don't think we'll see a lot of major changes. The only thing that we'll see that might be a little different is that the players won't be as many under par as they have been in the past.'
One thing that has become difficult to predict is how Woods will fare at Bay Hill.
The tournament has attracted one of the strongest fields of the year, with Jim Furyk and Adam Scott the only players missing from the top 10 in the world. Masters champion Phil Mickelson is back for the first time since 2002, while Ernie Els is playing Bay Hill for the 15th consecutive year.
Woods once played so well at Bay Hill that some suggested calling it the Tiger Woods Invitational.
But that's misleading.
True, he captured Palmer's tournament four straight years through 2003, when he won by 11 shots. And when people were speculating over his seven-tournament winning streak on the PGA TOUR, some tended to chalk up an automatic victory at Bay Hill simply because Woods has won so often.
But it has been a classic case of feast or famine.
Woods has finished 20th or higher four times at Bay Hill -- among regular PGA TOUR events, The Players Championship is the only other event where he has finished so far behind so often. In the 14 tour events he played as an amateur, majors included, the only time he failed to break 80 was in 1994 at Bay Hill.
And when he tees off Thursday, he will try to end a streak of 11 consecutive rounds at Bay Hill without breaking 70.
'This week, all I have to do is shoot under par and I do it,' he said. 'It's one of those weird things. As I said, I feel comfortable on this golf course, but for some reason I just haven't played well. I haven't put it together.'
This must be news to Mickelson.
Lefty won this tournament in 1997, but his most recent memories of Bay Hill are of Woods holding him off down the stretch. One year, Woods' tee shot was headed out of bounds until it bounced off a fan's neck, from where he made birdie.
'One of the years he birdied the last hole and beat me, made about a 25-foot putt, but it was how he got there that was interesting,' Mickelson said. 'I don't remember if that was my last year or not, but I remember losing a tough one.'
His last year actually was 2002, when he was trying to catch up to Woods and felt he needed to make a move on the 16th. He tried to go under the trees and over the water to the green, but got through only the first part of the equation and made bogey.
If he's in the same spot this year, he might be scrambling for a par on the 16th -- either way, it's still a 4 on the new scorecard. And for a guy who loves to make birdies, Mickelson believes a struggle to make par can be just as compelling.
'I think it's fun to watch birdies,' he said. 'But it's also fun to watch top players be challenged. What the tour is trying to do is get a good balance of both throughout the year.'
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