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Defending champion Francesco Molinari withdraws from Arnold Palmer Invitational

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Defending champion Francesco Molinari withdrew prior to the start of the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, citing a back injury.

Molinari was replaced in the field by K.H. Lee, who went out Thursday morning alongside 2018 API champion Rory McIlroy and former world No. 1 Justin Rose.

Contacted by, Molinari’s swing coach, Denis Pugh, said the Italian needs at least two days of rest and will then assess whether he will play next week’s Players Championship.

Molinari has not won an event, on any tour, since shooting 64 Sunday at Bay Hill a year ago to capture this tournament. He jumped to seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking at that point, but is currently 26th.