Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
Expects Large International Contingent, March 12-18
International players haven't won many times – just twice in 28 years – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, but they've always been welcome. The top foreign-born players of the modern era have regularly teed it up at Palmer's Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida, since the tournament began in 1979. The 2007 edition preserves that tradition.
Prominent among this year's crop of international talent is Henrik Stenson, currently the No. 5 player on the Official World Golf Ranking. Stenson makes his debut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational fresh off his first official PGA Tour victory at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Stenson has won his last two starts, also beating a field at the Dubai Desert Classic that included Tiger Woods, a four-time winner at Bay Hill and the No. 1 player in the world.
Other early commitments from the international community include former Arnold Palmer Invitational winners world No. 6 Ernie Els and No. 40 Rod Pampling of South Africa and Australia, respectively. Els captured the 1998 title; Pampling is the defending champion after beating Greg Owen by a stroke. The top four finishers and seven of the top nine a year ago all hailed from abroad.
Other foreign-born players ranked among the top 50 in the world who have already committed to appear in the $5.5 million tournament scheduled for March 12-18 include No. 8 Retief Goosen, No. 9 Vijay Singh, No. 13 Sergio Garcia, No. 14 Paul Casey, No. 16 Nick O'Hern, No. 20 Colin Montgomerie, No. 21 Jose Maria Olazabal, No. 25 K. J. Choi, No. 28 Robert Karlsson, No. 33 Michael Campbell, No. 34 Stephen Ames, No. 35 Aaron Baddeley, No. 36 Justin Rose, No. 37 Niclas Fasth, No. 38 Angel Cabrera, No. 45 Jeev Milkha Singh, No. 48 Johan Edfors, and No. 50 Mike Weir.
No player from home or abroad is hotter than Stenson, who is the highest-ranking Swede ever in the World Ranking and currently the highest-ranked European player. "I think I've established myself within the top 20, and then just recently moved into the top 10," said Stenson, 28, a rookie on the PGA Tour, but hardly an unknown quantity on the European Tour, where he has five victories. "I can't say that I go straight out and say I should be No. 5 or No. 6 in the world, but obviously that's where I am at the moment."
Stenson has been on a roll for more than a year, having won twice on the European Tour last year, and then playing solidly for Europe in its Ryder Cup victory over the United States. Stenson, in fact, sank the winning putt in Europe's nine-point run away.
"The winning putt at the Ryder Cup wasn't that much of a deal. I mean, I was proud to be part of that team, the winning team, and we would have won the Ryder Cup with or without my putt," said Stenson, who in his only other start in Florida finished third last year at The Players Championship. "It would have been a different thing if it was a decider, and obviously winning individual events is a bit different, as well. So both the experiences are ones that I cherish very much, (but) they're different."
If Stenson still seems a bit of an unknown quantity, that won't last long, according to reigning U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. "He suffers from the fact that he plays most of his golf outside the U.S. so people in the U.S. don't talk about what he does. But he's been winning tournaments for three or four years," Ogilvy pointed out.
"I can't see why he can't win anything. He can win anything he wants. He hits it long; he hits it decent; he obviously chips and putts pretty well. He's not afraid to win golf tournaments. I can't see any tournament he couldn't win, really." When he arrives at the Bay Hill Club, Stenson should definitely have winning on his mind.
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.