The PGA Tour heads north from Palm Gardens to Orlando for the 54th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, the second stop on the four-event Florida Swing.
As the final tuneup before next week’s PLAYERS Championship, the Arnold Palmer will feature a stout field, featuring six of the top-10 ranked players in the world, headlined by defending champion Rory McIlroy.
As we do each week, let’stake a look at the history, field, stats and other factoids as we prepare for what should be another exciting week of PGA Tour golf.
Tournament: Arnold Palmer Invitational
Dates: Mar 7-10, 2019
Where: Orlando, Florida
Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Distance: Par 72/7419 yards
Architect: Dick Wilson and Joe Lee (1961)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,638,000
Points: 500 (FedExCup), 58 (OWGR)
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy
Other Marquee Names: Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, and Ernie Els.
TV AND ONLINE
Rd 1: Thu 2-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fri 2-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sat 12:30-2:30 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sat 2:30-6:00 pm (NBC)
Rd 4: Sat 12:30-2:30 pm (GOLF)
Rd 4: Sat 2:30-6:00 pm (NBC)
The tournament that is now the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard started in 1966 as the Florida Citrus Open Invitational. The inaugural event was won by Lionel Hebert, who posted a 5-under par 279 and edged Charles Coody, Dick Lytle and a 26-year old Jack Nicklaus by two strokes.
Hebert took home a check for $21,000, exactly $965 less than what five players who tied for 49th pocketed at last year’s Arnold Palmer.
While the Arnold Palmer name has only titled the tournament since 2007, the event has been held at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, also known as “Arnie’s Place,” since 1979.
Since that time (1979), the tournament has had a number of different title sponsors and names, most of them including “Bay Hill.” The longest of those sponsors has been Mastercard, which has held the presenting slot since 2004, first as the Bay Hill Invitational Invitational (2004-2006), and then as the Arnold Palmer Invitational (2007-present).
Early tournament winners, alongside Hebert, included legends such as Julius Boros (1967), Palmer himself (1971), Lee Trevino (1975), Hale Irwin (1976), and Tom Kite (1982). Modern day winners have included Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, and eight-time champ Tiger Woods.
As an “invitational,” the Arnold Palmer has a smaller, more exclusive field (120 players), and offers a 3-year exemption to the winner (as opposed to the standard two). It also awards one of the largest purses among in golf among the non-majors.
HISTORY: Tournament Names
2007-19: Arnold Palmer Invitational
1996-06: Bay Hill Invitational
1989-95: Nestle Invitational
1985-88: Hertz Bay Hill Classic
1980-84: Bay Hill Classic
1979-79: Bay Hill Citrus Classic
1972-78: Florida Citrus Open
1970-71: Florida Citrus Invitational
1966-69: Florida Citrus Open Invitational
HISTORY: Recent Winner
2018: Rory McIlroy (-18)
2017: Marc Leishman (-11)
2016: Jason Day (-17)
2015: Matt Every (-19)
2014: Matt Every (-13)
2013: Tiger Woods (-13)
2012: Tiger Woods (-13)
264 (-20) Payne Stewart, 1987
8 – Tiger Woods (2000-03, 2008-09, 2012-13)
With one of the best putting performances by any player in recent memory, Rory McIlroy overcame his abysmal recent form to shoot a final-round 8-under 64, and capture his first victory since the 2016 Tour Championship. That previous win came, ironically, on 09/25/2016, the same day that the API’s namesake, and golf icon, Arnold Palmer sadly passed away.
“Yeah, it was bittersweet. Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the overall picture of the big scheme of things that didn’t matter,” said McIlroy, reflecting on his 2016 win at East Lake.
“The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us, and yeah, I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t had passed away.
“So a little bit bittersweet and obviously it’s ironic that I come back here 18 months on and win for the first time at Bay Hill and everything that’s associated with that.”
Perhaps the most incredible thing about this victory, however, is that Rory winning was actually considered a surprise. He was coming off a winless 2017 season plagued by a nagging rib injury, and after posting some quality results in Europe early in 2018, his four PGA Tour events of the 2018 calendar year had finishes of CUT, T20, T59, and CUT, respectively, and those results gave Rory much longer odds than he is accustomed to having.
Still, it was expected that the four-time major winner would come back into world-class form at some point, and that ended up being this week.
“Really proud of myself, how I hung in there over the past sort of year, with injuries and taking a little bit of time off at the end of last year to sort of get myself right coming into this year and all that work, hard work has finally paid off,” continued McIlroy.
“I kept telling everyone, even when I was missing cuts and finishing 60th, it wasn’t that far away, so just a couple little tweaks here and there and it’s nice to be in this position again.”
As for the comeback victory most were expecting, eight-time API winner Tiger Woods got himself into the mix with a phenomenal start on Sunday, but a few stumbles down the stretch kept his long winless streak intact. A 3-under 69 led to a T5 finish, his second consecutive start, though, inside the top 5.
Final Top 5
1 Rory McIlroy -18
2 Bryson DeChambeau -15
3 Justin Rose -14
4 Henrik Stenson -13
5 Tiger Woods -10
5 Ryan Moore -10
The Arnold Palmer Invitational features a solidly representative field of the world’s best players, with seven of the Official World Golf Ranking’s current top 11 teeing it up, including five of the top-7 ranked including Justin Rose (No. 2), Brooks Koepka (No. 3), Bryson DeChambeau (No. 5), Rory McIlroy (No. 6), and Rickie Fowler (No. 7).
Other top-20 ranked players include Francesco Molinari (No. 10), Jason Day (No. 11), Tommy Fleetwood (No. 14), Patrick Reed (No. 15), Bubba Watson (No. 16), Marc Leishman (No. 17), and Phil Mickelson (No. 20).
Veteran major champions Davis Love III, Zach Johnson, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell, and Jason Dufner are some of the other familiar names.
A strong international contingent includes Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter, and Danny Willett; South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel; Germany’s Martin Kaymer; Indian Anirba Lahiri; Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat; Swede Henrik Stenson; Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen; Korean Si Woo Kim; Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama; Chinese Haotong Li; Chilean Joaquin Niemann; and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuala, among others.
ODDS TO WIN
API | Bay Hill Club & Lodge | Orlando, FL | Mar 7-10, 2019
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images