At the first contesting of the Arnold Palmer Invitational since the King’s passing, it’s going to be all about the King, as it damn well should be.
And while it’s a disgrace that not every top golfer in the world will be strolling Bay Hill’s beautiful fairways, you have to be happy to see the focus rightfully placed on the man who made modern professional golf what it is.
Marci Doyle, tournament director, told Golfweek’s Jeff Babineau she misses her boss.
“To me, it’s just his presence. He was always here. He was riding around (in his cart), saying hello, stopping and chatting as if you were a lifelong friend. With him, you were always the only person in the room.”
Babineau writes there will be some special touches at Bay Hill this week. In addition to a fivesome of tournament hosts—Peter Jacobsen, Graeme McDowell, Annika Sorenstam, Curtis Strange and Tom Ridge—there’s this:
Competitors will register in the King’s upstairs office, which remains pretty much untouched from his annual transition north to Latrobe, Pa., last year. Players will sign items that will be dispersed to fans who had sent in memorabilia to Palmer that he never got to sign. Some of Palmer’s medals and trophies will be on display around the course. Saturday, a 13-foot statue of him was unveiled behind the first tee.
There will also be a special ceremony remembering Palmer on Wednesday in which Sam Saunders, Palmer’s nephew who spoke so beautifully at his memorial, will speak.
Graeme McDowell tried to quantify Arnold Palmer’s unquantifiable impact.
“For guys like me, who grew up in the Tiger Woods era, you feel the Tiger impact, and you don’t really feel the Arnie impact, when Arnie was probably more important in the modern game than Tiger. I mean, that’s a big statement. It’s very hard to compare, because to me they did very different things. Tiger transcended the sport. Arnold was the first golfing superstar, really, the first guy that did it all.”