There are a couple of reasons by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club in Orlando each March is one of the most popular events of the year on the PGA Tour for the higher echelon players.
One is the host himself. No other player in the history of the sport garners the respect that Palmer does, and players show their respect by supporting The King’s tournament.
A second reason is the course itself. Bay Hill serves up a well-conditioned layout that offers several unique holes and lots of challenge, especially when the wind blows.
A third is timing. The season’s first major, The Masters, follows two weeks after Bay Hill, so this event serves as a nice warm-up.
So the Arnold Palmer Invitational always creates excitement among players and fans alike. But at this year’s edition, set for March 22-28, the buzz could prove to be even more exciting.
“Bay Hill is always one of those places you look forward to getting back to,” says Davis Love III, “but I think there’s even a little bit more of a buzz about it this year.”
One reason is the possibility of the return of Tiger Woods to competitive golf at Bay Hill. It has been rumored for weeks that Woods, on the sidelines since November dealing with a sex scandal that has severely damaged his marriage and his public image, would make his comeback at Bay Hill. And that still looms as a possibility, though no official word has come down. Woods has won the tournament six times, including the past two years.
Another reason for the extra buzz is the new look at Bay Hill. Palmer oversaw a complete renovation of his layout, and early returns are positive.
“I think it could be a very interesting week,” says Ernie Els, who won at Bay Hill in 1998. “I heard from my sources in Orlando that they have changed the golf course again, so I wanted to go check it out, basically. I’m curious to see what they have changed. And I heard a lot of good things about it.”
Added Kenny Perry, “You know, I just love that golf course. “It’s always set up well for me, and it’s really a great driver’s golf course. And now I hear that Arnold has made it even better. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what’s been changed.”
Some tees, greens and bunkers have been altered, and the putting surfaces now have a new strain of Bermuda grass, Emerald Dwarf.
But possibly the most interesting change is that many of the greens now feature runoff areas where rough or bunkers used to be in play, providing new short-game challenges.
Palmer is especially eager to see how the new chipping areas impact strategy and scoring. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about and wanting to do at Bay Hill for some time,” he said. “Rather than just throwing a bunker here or there, we’ve got some new things going on that are really going to make the guys think.”
For tickets to the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard or for more information, visit the tournament web site, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com, or call the Bay Hill Club ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843.
Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.