The Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard has been a remarkable haven for the World's No. 1 player
Tiger Woods will find himself in familiar territory at the upcoming Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, and yet he will try to enter a place in the record books where no one has ever tread.
Woods is the two-time defending champion at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and those two victories have pushed his win total in the prestigious invitational to eight, a PGA TOUR record he shares with Sam Snead, who racked up eight wins in the Greater Greensboro Open. Thus, it's no surprise that Woods will be the heavy favorite when he goes for a ninth title in the 36th Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard March 17-23 at Bay Hill's famed Championship Course.
Woods, whose 79 PGA TOUR titles is three shy of Snead's all-time mark, posted a two-stroke victory over Justin Rose with a solid 2-under-par 70 on a sun-splashed Monday afternoon after Sunday's scheduled final round was washed out by a severe thunderstorm. Woods finished atop the leaderboard at 13-under 275, the fourth time he had triumphed at Bay Hill with that total. The win lifted him past Rory McIlroy and back into the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, a position he has retained since.
"It's a course that really fits my eye, and there's something very special about it being Arnold's tournament," said Woods, 38, who lived in the Orlando area for a number of years, but now resides in Jupiter, Fla. "I want to win every time I play, but maybe the association with Arnold makes you want to win a little more."
Palmer was asked if he had any tricks up his sleeve to slow down the top-
ranked golfer. "Why would I want to do that?" Palmer said with a laugh. "I've enjoyed watching him play very well over the years. Heck, whatever I thought of probably wouldn't work anyway. He has a great handle on what he wants to do here in getting around the golf course. It's up to the other players to figure out a way to beat him, and they will have to play well to do it, as history has shown."
Already the field for the 36th MasterCard is shaping up as one of the best of the PGA TOUR season, with five of the top six in the world submitting early commitments. That list also includes No. 2 Adam Scott, No. 3 Henrik Stenson (who won last year's FedExCup title), No. 5 Rose and No. 6 Zach Johnson.
Woods, making his 18th successful title defenses at Bay Hill. In fact, this is the third occasion that Woods Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by start in the tournament, is no stranger to has been on a multiple defense run, winning four straight times starting in 2000, and then twice more in 2008-09. His 2012 five-stroke triumph ended a three-year victory drought. He registered a tournament record 11-stroke victory in 2003. Only twice since he turned professional has he finished outside the top 25. His only missed cut came in 1994 when he competed as an amateur. Prior to that, he competed in the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Bay Hill. He won, naturally.
Woods turned professional in 1996. Now the 14-time major champion has Sam Snead squarely in his sights on a couple of fronts, though he did pass Slammin' Sam in one department. With his victory last year at Bay Hill, Woods became the first player in PGA Tour history to win the same event eight times on the same golf course, a record he equaled later in the 2013 season with his eighth victory in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Snead won his Greensboro titles at Starmount Forest Country Club and Sedgefield Country Club.
"That's pretty special company to be associated with," Woods said. "Sam won on TOUR in his 50s and that's an amazing feat. He won consistently for over 30 years, and it's unbelievable to have a playing career that long. Sam was a fantastic player and a great guy. For me to come close in about 20 years to what he accomplished is something I'm proud of."
For tickets to the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard or for more information, visit the tournament website, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com, or call the Bay Hill Club ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Proceeds from the tournament benefit Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.