5 things: Tiger, Phil biggest draws at Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – On the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, here are 5 Things you need to pay attention to:
1.) Tiger and Phil are here: Sure, they’re fifth and sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking, but they’re still the PGA Tour’s two biggest draws. Bay Hill will be Woods’ final tuneup before Augusta National. He’s coming off a 10th-place finish at Doral, a week during which his new swing held up in Miami’s winds.
“I played so much better at Doral when the wind blew,” Woods said. “I’m able to feel much more comfortable shaping the ball both ways.”
Woods won his last two appearances at Bay Hill – in 2008 and 2009 – with birdie putts on the 18th hole.
2.) Pairings party: There’ll be plenty of star power at Bay Hill around 1 p.m. Thursday. Woods will play the first two rounds with Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson, who rank eighth and second in driving distance. They tee off at 12:56 p.m.
“I’ll be the Corey Pavin of my group,” Woods said. “Seriously. I’ll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try and make putts. Those guys will be bombing it way out there past me.”
3.) Pairings party, part 2: The group behind Woods, Woodland and Johnson will feature defending champion Ernie Els, Ian Poulter and Jhonattan Vegas. Phil Mickelson tees off at 8:26 a.m. with Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan, a repeat of the final pairing at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Mickelson shot 69 in the final round to finish one shot back of Bubba Watson; Mahan struggled to a 73, while Haas shot 75.
4.) Back at the Bay: The AJGA used to conduct one of its major championships, the HP Boys Junior Championship, at Bay Hill. Several players that had success in that event are in the Bay Hill field. Rickie Fowler won in 2006. Kyle Stanley won by five in 2005, and was third the following year. Sam Saunders, who grew up at Bay Hill, held the 54-hole lead in 2004 before finishing third behind PGA Tour rookie Bobby Gates. Fowler, Stanley and Saunders are in the field this week.
5.) Masters spots are in the line: With the Masters two weeks away, players not already exempt must either win one of the next two PGA Tour events or be ranked inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking after this week to earn their invitation.
Matteo Manassero and J.B. Holmes are the only two players ranked between Nos. 45-60 not already in the Masters. Both are playing Bay Hill this week. Manassero’s ranked 55th; Holmes is 59th. Manassero finished 20th at last week’s Transitions Championship.