It seems every preview that goes by at the moment focuses on the presence, absence or chances of Tiger Woods in the midst of his enthralling return.
But most weeks, including this week, there’s over 100 other players in the field forgotten about. So we’ll keep the Tiger Woods focus to a minimum this time around:
Tiger Woods played well last week. Tiger Woods is entering this week. Tiger Woods has won here eight times before. Tiger Woods will probably play well again this week.
There we are.
Now on with proceedings.
The PGA Tour stays in Florida this week, with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Lodge and Club, Orlando to follow the Valspar Championship last week.Embed from Getty Images
There’s a total of four of the world’s top 10 set to tee off on Thursday in Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day, whilst further stars Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren enter from high up the rankings.
World-number-17 Marc Leishman is defending his title this year. It took an eagle on the 16th for Leishman to card a 69 and overcome Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman – both back this week – by a single shot.
Taking on a role as co-host is Fowler, who has never been a victor here but does have varying success. In six starts he has mustered one top 10, one top 20 and one missed cut. So don’t consider making a prediction on his efforts this week. Alongside Fowler hosting is Peter Jacobsen and Nancy Lopez.
Matsuyama is coming back into competition since withdrawing from his Waste Management Phoenix Open defence with a wrist injury in February. He tied for sixth in 2016 but that was sandwiched by two finishes outside the top 20.
Other than Leishman and Woods (sorry) there are a lofty seven more past winners all appearing this week. Day (2016), Matt Every (2014 & 2015), Martin Laird (2011), Ernie Els (1998 & 2010), Vijay Singh (2007), Tim Herron (1999) and Paul Goydos (1996) will all be calling on their past triumphs to help them this week. It is Goydos’s first start in three years.
The total field is a reduced 120-man list, made entirely of invitees. In essence, the tournament takes full control of who is eligible to enter, without influence of the PGA Tour Priority Ranking System. The eligibility criteria can be found here.
Since this event took the Bay Hill name, in 1979, its namesake course has played host – personally selected by the late Arnold Palmer after he proclaimed it the best course in Florida. It was designed in 1961 by Dick Wilson but The King had a constant influence over the changes to the course across its life.
The final three holes stand out at this course, with frequent twists and turns at the conclusion of rounds. The lengthy par-four 18th is guarded by a water and is the epitome of ‘risk and reward’.Embed from Getty Images
It’s not easy to label the difficulty of the Bay Hill track, with winning scores ranging year-on-year. In 2009 Woods (sorry, again) won at just five-under, but he and Every (2003 & 2015) have also won at 19-under.
In the exponential growth of professional golf, we have a prize-fund of $8.9m and a winner’s share of $1.6m this year. There’s 500 FedExCup points available, which will come as welcome news to FedExCup number-two Patton Kizzire as none of the other top-five are entering.