Jason Day has the honor of being the last winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard who received the full Arnold Palmer treatment, a perk no one else will ever get to appreciate. There was the handshake with the tournament host, followed by pictures that included Day’s family. Later, he shared a celebratory drink and some one-on-one conversation with the King at Palmer’s home.
“To be able to win last year and have that celebratory drink with him and being the last person to be able to do that is a special honor,” Day, 29, said Wednesday as he prepares to defend his title in the $8.7 million event. “That's the real cool part of it, because I get to have that memory of actually standing with him, talking to him, and being his champion. Stuff like that you just don't forget. So, to be able to close the way I did was great.
“The Arnold Palmer Invitational is always one of those events that you want to win and to have on your resume when you finish up playing golf.”
A native of Australia ranked No. 2 in the world, Day won wire-to-wire last year but had to grind out a closing 2-under 70 to beat Kevin Chappell by a stroke with a 17-under 271 total. He had arrived at Bay Hill without a win in 2016, but the victory, secured with a clutch up-and-down for par from the back bunker on the 72nd hole, was part of a stretch of three wins in six starts, including at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship the following week and another wire-to-wire triumph at The Players.
A repeat performance on Bay Hill’s challenging Championship Course would suit him just fine. Day, who has 10 PGA TOUR titles, including the 2015 PGA Championship, is winless in 2017, though he has played just four times. He was recently slowed by the flu that forced him to withdraw from the WGC-Mexico Championship. But the former Orlando resident, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio, is healthy, and he is trying to not get caught up in results too much.
This he knows from experience.
“It has been a slow start, but I think last year you guys were asking the same thing right around this time and I ended up winning this week and Match Play as well,” he pointed out. “So, it would be nice to be able to get on to a roll like that. Overall, I think it's coming along. This is obviously a very important stretch coming up, just to see you how the state of my game is, going into Augusta, and I feel positive about the outcomes here, because, obviously, the previous finish last year and then, obviously, the Match Play. But once again, I got to go out there and just kind of get in my own little world and forget about everything else.”