Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
To Feature 7 or More of the World's Top-10 Golfers
Tiger Woods made his commitment Wednesday to play in the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, a tournament that he has won four times and has never missed playing as a professional. The world's No. 1 golfer will be returning for the 11th consecutive year to the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida, where he won his first national championship as a 15-year-old in the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur.
Woods, now age 31, became the seventh player from the top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking to commit for the PGA Tour event scheduled for the week of March 12-18. Woods will be joined by No. 2 Jim Fuyrk, No. 3 Phil Mickelson, No. 5 Henrik Stenson, No. 6 Ernie Els, No. 8 Retief Goosen, and No. 9 Vijay Singh.
No one should be surprised if Woods, who recently saw his seven-tournament winning streak end, starts another run at Bay Hill. The reigning champion of the British Open and PGA Championship is no stranger to winning streaks, having captured four majors in a row from 2000-01 and six tournaments in succession straddling the 1999-2000 season. At Bay Hill he enjoyed a four-year winning streak from 2000-03, a remarkable stretch accomplished only three times previously in PGA Tour history.
Bay Hill also was the site of the first of three straight U.S. Junior Amateur titles Woods won from 1991-93. He defeated Brad Zwetschke at Bay Hill in 19 holes that began not only a three-year run as junior champion, but also, with three U.S. Amateur titles following, ended up being an unprecedented six-year streak of U.S. Golf Association victories. He has extended that total by winning two U.S. Open titles as a professional, and his eight USGA titles rank second to Bobby Jones's nine.
If all that isn't enough, Woods owns the record for most consecutive cuts made in PGA Tour events, finishing in the money in 142 straight events from February 1998 to May of 2005.
"The course has always been pretty good to me," says Woods, who tied for 20th last year and remains the all-time money leader in the tournament with nearly $2.9 million. "I've always felt pretty comfortable at Bay Hill, pretty confident, and a lot of that is because of the success I've had there. It sets up well for me. It sets up well to my eye."
Woods recently stalked the famous and so far unbeatable 11-tournament winning streak Byron Nelson compiled in 1945, but his remarkable run, which began at last year's British Open, came to an end in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship when he lost in the third round to Australia's Nick O'Hern. Instead of going for his eighth victory at Bay Hill, Woods will be trying to start a new one. It wouldn't be the first time for that, either. In 2001 he captured his second straight victory at Bay Hill and then won The Players Championship and Masters Tournament in succession.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational represents one of five tournaments that Woods has won at least four times in his career. The others: Buick Invitational, Masters, WGC-Bridgestone Championship and WGC-American Express Championship.
"I've played well at some courses that haven't really fit my eye, and at those places it's more of a mental challenge," says Woods, who has never missed the cut at Bay Hill and holds several tournament records, including his 11-stroke margin of victory in 2003. "For some reason, some golf courses fit your eye, and some courses just don't and it's just the way it is. Granted, some courses I've had more success at and maybe it's a different comfort level. Some places you just learn how to execute. Especially at the times when it's been firm here, that's been a great test, and you get rewarded when you play really well."
Woods is used to playing well just about anywhere. His victory earlier this year at the Buick Invitational was the 55th of his career. He has professional 12 major titles, and last year, after his third season with eight or more PGA Tour wins, he was named Player of the Year for the eighth time. And, to highlight one more streak, Woods now has won a PGA Tour event in 12 straight seasons, five shy of the record shared by Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
"It's just fun, fun to be there. That's why you bust your butt as hard as do you in practice sessions to get yourself in that position," says Woods, who has not finished lower than second in a stroke-play event since he missed the 36-hole cut at last year's U.S. Open. – I feel comfortable being there, been there enough times, and I've had success and also I haven't had success. You learn from both.
"I've been lucky over my career to have had successes. And I can only say, I've done it before, and know that I've done it – I know I can pull these shots off and I just keep reminding myself of these things.
Winning breeds winning and the more you win, the more you understand how to do it, and you do it different ways. I've done it with great ball-striking, I've done it with lousy ball-striking, I've done it with great putting and so-so putting and sometimes I've done it with my short game. If you're able to do it different ways, it just breeds more and more confidence when you're put in that situation again."
Don't be surprised if he gets there again at Bay Hill.
For tickets to the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard or for more information, log on to 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 Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.