Tournament: Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 15-18, 2018
Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 7,419 yards, par 72.
Defending Champion: Marc Leishman. The big Aussie snuck up from behind and snagged the win on Sunday over our own Kevin Kisner and UNLV’s Charley Hoffman.
Fun Fact: Arnold Palmer bought the place. Back in the 60’s, Palmer saw the course and apparently fell in love with it. Bought it, renovated it, and lived there most of the year. There are stories about his card games in the men’s locker room and being sighted there in various states of joviality.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (GC), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field ( Six ): Brian Harman, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson, Hudson Swafford, Chris Kirk, Harris English.
The Tour moves inland from Tampa Bay and settles down in a familiar spot just outside of Orlando called Bay Hill. Like I said above, Arnold Palmer bought the place lock, stock, & rain barrel. The Florida Citrus Open moved over to Bay Hill in the early 1970’s and they’ve held a PGA Tour event most every year since with Arnold Palmer as host. While it’s not the toughest course in the world, they can put some teeth into it and the natural presence of a high water table in Florida plus varying wind and rain chances keep the players on their spike-clad toes.
The location does attract a lot of big name players every year, though maybe not for the reasons you’d expect. While journeymen and lesser-known Tour pros might like to come to Orlando to entertain their families (kids on spring break for example) with the local tourist fare of entertainment parks, the greater Orlando area has been a hot-bed of top pro residences for some time. Isleworth and Lake Nona golf clubs are pretty exclusive and both boast a ton of PGA Tour talent as property owners and members. Plenty of players live in south Florida just a couple hours down the various Turnpikes. And then there’s the invitation from Arnold Palmer himself (before he passed away). If you make your home in the area and are invited personally by one of the game’s greats, then you tend to make the short trek.
Tiger Woods returns after his 2nd place finish last week. Just so you know, he’s won this tournament 8 times previously. Yep... EIGHT flippin’ times. 12 of the top 25 in the world are playing, and sure enough, the University of Georgia has a strong representation this week.
- Kevin Kisner is #36 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), and hopes to parlay his 2nd place finish last year into a win this year.
- Hudson Swafford has only missed 2 cuts this year, but they’ve been in his last 3 tournaments. He tied for 10th last year so this course might get him back on a streak.
- Brian Harman tied for 13th last year, and is the highest ranked ‘Dawg in the field at # 22 OWGR.
- Bubba Watson is the most recent ‘Dawg to enter the winner’s circle and followed that up with a top 10 at the WGC Mexico Championship.
- Chris Kirk missed the cut here last year, but has made the cut in both Florida Swing tournaments so far this season.
- Harris English is this season’s enigma wrapped inside a riddle, all with a 2 piece surlyn cover. He missed the first 5 cuts of the season, made the next 4 including 3 top 11 finishes, then has missed 3 of his last 4 cuts. Get it together, English.
Yeah, there might be some basketball on this weekend to distract you from golf. Maybe you’re interested in the search for UGA’s own roundball coach/partner. And Diamond Dawgs begin SEC play this weekend. But forget all this “amateurism” and let’s see a sport where individual effort and results are directly correlated to financial reward. So flip it on over to NBC and Golf Channel for Bulldogs chasing little white balls (even if you gag over the Arnie-love fest).
And as always….