Montgomerie, Janzen, Saunders, Lee and Main head list for Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, and young sensations Sam Saunders, Danny Lee and Gregor Main are among 19 players who have received exemptions into the 120- player field of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, the tournament announced today.
Montgomerie, winner of 31 European Tour titles and eight-time Order of Merit champion, has been granted a restricted exemption via the foreign player category. Janzen, an Orlando resident who won the 1993 and ’98 U.S. Open titles, is one of eight players who are past champions on the PGA TOUR extended invitations. The others are Stuart Appleby, Daniel Chopra, Steve Flesch, Jason Gore, Skip Kendall, Scott McCarron and Greg Owen.
Lee, Main, Saunders and another up-and-coming player, Jamie Lovemark, top the list of eight unrestricted exemptions that also have been given to Rocco Mediate, Jamie Lovemark, Billy Mayfair, Chris DiMarco and Erik Compton. Lee won the 2008 U.S. Amateur, while Main, a sophomore at UCLA, earned the automatic exemption that goes to the reigning Southern Amateur champion. Saunders, the grandson of host Arnold Palmer, is a two-time club champion at Bay Hill who finished seventh in last year’s Southern Am. Lovemark won the 2007 NCAA Division I golf title as a freshman.
The field of at least 120 players will be finalized on Friday, March 19, the deadline for eligible players to enter. The Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard March is scheduled for March 22-28 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.
Several of the players receiving exemptions have ties to Orlando, including Appleby, Chopra, Kendall and Owen. But perhaps no one has a more intimate knowledge of the Championship Course at Bay Hill than Saunders, who twice won the club championship as a teenager.
Saunders, 22, is without status on the PGA TOUR or Nationwide Tour this year, but he has been competing on sponsor exemptions thus far in 2010 after foregoing his senior season at Clemson University. He finished tied for 17th last week at the Honda Classic for his best career finish as a professional. He’s hoping to improve on that with the help of a little local knowledge at Bay Hill.
“I’m really excited to have another chance to play in the tournament, and I hope that my game is going to be up to it,” said Saunders, who also competed in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard in 2006 and missed the cut. “My goal is to just enjoy it and make the most of the opportunity. I know the golf course better than anyone else who is going to be competing, especially since it’s been changed. I know Bay Hill inside and out.”
Palmer oversaw a complete renovation of the Championship Course after Tiger Woods won his sixth Invitational title and restored par to 72 for the tournament. Saunders expects the tournament to benefit from the upgrade all the way around.
“Visually, the course is so much better,” he said. “It’s not necessarily harder, but it’s more intimidating. The greens are better and the bunkers are in better position, more in play than before. I think long hitters are still going to have an advantage, but accuracy matters even more now. If you hit the ball well, you can score; if you hit it badly it can hurt you. It’s a fairer test.
“I love every change on the golf course,” Saunders added, “and I think it’s going to be more fun for the players and a lot more entertaining for the fans.”
One of the most prestigious stops on the PGA TOUR, the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard traditionally draws one of the strongest fields among golf tournaments from around the world, and it boasts an impressive array of champions, including recent winners like six-time champion Tiger Woods, Chad Campbell, Ernie Els, Paul Goydos, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry and Tiger Woods.
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 Childrenand the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.