ORLANDO, Fla. – Billy Horschel made his opinion on this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the absence of several of the top players clear last week on social media, tweeting that it was “disappointing” only 10 players from the top 25 in the world committed to the tournament in the first year since Palmer’s death. (As of now, 14 of the top 25 players will tee it up at Arnie’s Place.)
Horschel, who grew up in Grant, Fla., about two hours from Bay Hill, and said it was one of the first golf tournaments he ever attended as a child, didn’t back off from his opinion Tuesday afternoon following a lengthy range session.
“It’s Arnold Palmer’s event. We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Horschel said. “You can’t miss it. Obviously I understand it falls in the schedule where people can’t play, but they should have either played it last year when they knew it could possibly be his last one, or they should have played it this year when there’s so much going on to honor him.”
Horschel said he didn’t receive any backlash from fellow pros for his comments on Twitter and that he wasn’t calling anyone out specifically. But he’s certainly passionate about this tournament and the debt owed for Palmer’s contributions to the game.
“Support him and honor him by coming and playing his event,” Horschel said. “Some guys have to just take a step back and understand where things fall. It’s one year you have to change your schedule up a little bit. I just wish guys would have understood a little bit more, and maybe they do, and I’m not trying to call people out. I’m just saying he meant so much to the game of golf, and I know everyone knows that, but honoring him by playing his event would have been nice.”
Graeme McDowell, a two-time runner up and tournament co-host, said Tuesday he understands why some chose not to play and mentioned that the tough Bay Hill course isn’t for everyone.
“I don’t think it’s reflective of how they feel about Mr. Palmer at all,” McDowell said of players who skipped the event. “I really feel like this year was always going to be a good field and it is a good field. Obviously there are guys who are not here and they may be unfairly criticized for that. I really have been a believer in that guys will remember and respect Arnold in their own way and being here or not being here this week really to me has no bearing on that.”
One thing everyone agrees on is the fact that this year’s tournament is missing something much more than a handful of the world’s top players.
“You know deep down that Arnie’s not here,” Horschel said. “Didn’t see him in the lunch room, walking around. You didn’t feel that presence around knowing that he could show up at any minute.”