Legendary host pleased with course setup, potential field
No longer a competitor in the PGA Tour event he founded 27 years ago, Arnold Palmer nevertheless is eager to host another edition of the Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard. The 76-year-old legend says that although he misses the competition, he has found his tournament an enjoyable enterprise simply by serving as its host.
"I always liked the challenge of playing. When you recognize that it's not fun to play when you aren't doing well, then you move on," Palmer said. "I had to come to that decision. But in other ways I enjoy the tournament as much as ever, and in some ways more so. I enjoy watching the golf, which I couldn't do when I was on the golf course. There are a lot of great players out there and it's fun to see how the course challenges everyone. I enjoy seeing the galleries and a lot of friends."
The 28th Bay Hill Invitational is scheduled for March 13-19 at Palmer's Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida. One of the premier stops on the PGA Tour, the Bay Hill Invitational traditionally draws one of the strongest fields among golf tournaments from around the world.
The defending champion is Kenny Perry, who became just the second man over age 40 to win the Bay Hill Invitational, joining Ben Crenshaw. Perry established a three-stroke lead after 54 holes and held on for a two-shot victory over Vijay Singh and Graeme McDowell.
Winner of 62 PGA Tour events, including seven major championships (four Masters, two British Open titles and one U.S. Open), Palmer continues to cut back his active playing schedule to focus on golf course design and other pursuits.
"I don't have many plans for golf this year," Palmer said. "There are people I work for, but I don't know that I will play in the events they sponsor (on the Champions Tour). I am considering it, but that's all. I'll be around. I'll always be around to promote the game; that wonâ€™t ever change. But at this point I have no plans to play very much at all."
Over the years Palmer has turned the Bay Hill championship course into one of the most demanding on the PGA Tour with its thick rough and humps, mounds and bunkers protecting large, firm greens. In years past he has instituted changes here and there, some subtle and others quite dramatic. The par-72 course again stretches to 7,267-yards.
"We expect the golf course to be absolutely tip top," Palmer says. "There are really no changes from last year. Last year proved to be a good test of golf. The rough will be much the same as last year – not long but very intense, very full. It will put more of a premium on tee shots, which I like to see. The scores reflected the difficulty of the course last year, and the player who won it, Kenny Perry, he played very well to be able to win. It was an exciting finish, right down to the end. That's what you want."
"Everything we can control we like to control and we like to do our very best to put on a great tournament."
For tickets to the 2006 Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard, or for more information, log on to the tournament web site, www.bayhillinvitational.com, or call the Bay Hill ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women.