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A New King Of The Hill?

by   |   March 23, 2010

One thing is for certain this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational – there will be no defending champion. In fact the absence of Tiger Woods is a gaping one at Orlando’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge – in the last ten times this event has been played Woods has once six of them, including the last two.

Prior to Tiger Woods the winner was Vijay Singh in 2007 and the mighty Fijian is also absent this week due to a back injury.

So besides the King, Arnold Palmer himself, who will be the focal point this week on the PGA Tour? It might be less of whom and more of a what. The big story might just be the arena itself – the newly renovated Bay Hill golf course and how the players adapt to the changes.

The 7381 yard behemoth (142 yards longer than 2009 now sports 103 bunkers but be assured, the latest changes at Bay Hill were far more than window dressings. The layout was tackled and revamped specifically with the PGA Tour players in mind. With holes number 6 and 12 now playing as par fives the par has returned to 72. 

Arnold Palmer spearheaded the rebirth of the golf course with his design team, taking into account just how the best players in the world now take on golf courses. That included using all resources available to determine proper bunker placement. "PGA Tour Shotlink data was used extensively to properly site bunkers and now reflects the new distances of the modern game." said architect Brandon Johnson.

Emerald Bermuda grass now graces the putting surfaces for more consistent maintenance. And around each of those 18 green spaces the player will now have to test their short game even more due to firmer conditions that will require exquisite and precise touch.

Having hosted the PGA Tour since 1979 Bay Hill looks to be a better test of golf now, even with the generous fairways still intact. Always a second shot golf course, it will be even more now with greenside hazards pulled closer to the greens. The green changes also allow for a larger variety of hole placements – leaving players, spectators, and media lots to talk about besides the golfers themselves. 

Surely this all will help identify a quality new champion, which is exactly what Mr. Palmer was looking for when he prompted the renovation.

"I love the Bay Hill course, it's my home, which is why it was so important to me to be involved with everything." said Palmer. "The renovations really add some new dimensions of play for Tour players and our members."

"I've introduced firm, fast playing conditions on slopes around greens mowed at fairway height that run away from the green surface and take the ball farther away from the intended target instead of stopping it, like the previous heavy rough did." said Palmer. "With these new conditions we hope to add creativity to recovery shots.”

With that in mind the new conditions might just narrow the list of players capable of becoming the new King of the Hill – at least until Mr. Woods returns to seek his 7th title that is.

Heavy favorites would have to the cadre who can keep the ball away from the 4 inch rough, a nasty mix of Bermudagrass over seeded with perennial ryegrass. Although Phil Mickelson has a tendency to visit the tangle more often than others, the liberal fairways width and the requirement of creativity might just suit the 1997 Bay Hill champ and help to usher him back into the winner’s circle.

With recent wins and fine spells of play you cannot also ignore a couple other guys who can really move the ball – Dustin Johnson and Ernie Els. They are among the 2010 PGA Tour winners (11 of 13) set to tee it up Thursday in pursuit of the $1.044 Million first place prize. 

Seeing how the best players in the world adapt to the new layout should be quite interesting but one player will prove he is up to the challenge.

The true King of Bay Hill, Arnold Palmer, has laid out a quite a test for 120 players in the championship this week and how they work their way through that exam should be quite a show to behold.

Notes:

FedEx

The top four players in the FedEx Cup standings are playing this week: Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Camilo Villegas and Ben Crane

West Penn Connection

Rocco Mediate is making his 22nd appearance at the tournament. He grew up in Western Pennsylvania idolizing Arnold Palmer.

Am Champ

2009 United States Amateur Champion Byeong-Hun An makes his first PGA Tour appearance this week.

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This report provide to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)

One Comment

  1. Mayre

    November 3, 2012 at 9:35 am

    This review is from: If you play golf once a week or every day this book is a must read, espelialcy if you are in the over 50 crowd and your range of motion has suffered from years of neglect, meaning stretching, weight training, fitness walking, biking etc. To jump out of the car and into the cart is an invitation for injury even if you are young and fit. It’s just that the young and fit don’t break as easily or quickly as the older and stiffer like myself. What I like about this book is that he covers all the aspects of how to play good golf without injury. It is not a cookbook of exercises to make you stronger and more flexible. He really wants you to understand what you are doing to your body when you swing a club and how if not done correctly it can lead to injury. He guides the reader through the process of evaluating how to better care for yourself both off the course, just before you play, and the importance of what comes after a game. The book is divided into three parts. Be sure to read the first part about performance enhancement as it does more than tell you how to get that extra 20 yards off the Tee but how to do it without throwing your back into a spasm. He goes through the mechanics of how your body works for the more challenging part of the game which is mostly the long game. Most golfers are safe from injury when putting but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to squat on the ground and read the green? This section goes through the pre game warm up of 5 minutes, the 15 minute warm up if you have time, how to stay limber through 18 holes exercises, and then the cool down. I espelialcy like the mental game exercises as too many golfers raise their blood pressure when the wheels come off their game. It not only ruins their game and a good day of golf but often the people that are playing with them get affected by negative attitude. Staying mentally calm is really important in golf and critical to the short game when it comes to controlling adrenaline. Part 2 goes into a series of exercises that you can build a regime around based on your fitness, flexibility, and time. They range from simple stretching to some more robust near calisthenics. It is his advice to do what you feel comfortable doing and build up to the harder exercises if your doctor says it is ok. Part 3 goes through the injuries that happen to golfers. It is a good summary of why they happen, what they feel like, and how to avoid them. The book is well written, not preachy, and easy enough to understand and follow the principles he advises for golfers.

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