Els Looks For Third Bay Hill Win
By Scott MacLeod, via Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)
It has been home to many incredible moments. Just as its namesake struck countless monumental golf shots in his career fittingly his tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, has been witness to an endless parade of memorable occasions.
In recent times several of those came by the putter of Tiger Woods who has won six titles at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. In 2008 Tiger rolled in a 24-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to beat Bart Bryant by a stroke. A year later he repeated the dramatic finish with a 12 foot birdie in the dark on the final hole to win by a stroke.
In the midst of an uncharacteristic win drought Tiger is back this week looking for win #7, one that he craves not to silence the doubters but to prove to himself that he is ready to compete for The Masters in two weeks.
But Tiger’s path to a win will be no easy one, as usual the field in Orlando in chalk full of talent including fifteen of the top twenty players in the FedEx Cup standings and eight of the top twenty from the official world golf rankings.
The #13 man on that chart also happens to be the defending champion this week and Ernie Els is not quite ready surrender the hand-crafted sword that is awarded to the victor. Els, who also won this tournament in 1998, is quite comfortable at the club and on the heels of his charity tournament to benefit the Els for Autism Foundation on Monday, is raring to go. He is trying to peak for Augusta but wants to prove he is ready now.
“I'm excited to come here,” said Els in addressing the media on Tuesday. “We have got a great field. We are going to have great weather. So I think with Tiger in the field again, I see Phil is playing, we have got some really great players here, so it should be a great week.”
Playing into Els’ favor will be the weather that threatens to see temperatures hovering near 90 degrees most of the week. That is an environment the South African is very comfortable in and he expects that it will prompt some good scoring conditions. “So to play in heat will be great. The golf course will change. You're right there; it will play a lot firmer. I remember last year, even the greens were quite firm. Depends on if we have wind with warm weather, it will be really difficult, because the greens will get so difficult, and this course is quite long. Some of the holes are quite long, so you come into greens with a lot of wind and very firm greens; it could change your outlook on scoring. There's not too many birdie holes there. But I've not played a practice round. I've heard, my caddie walked it yesterday and he says the greens are really firm. If it there's no wind, the guys will find a way to score. I think scoring could be good this week.”
Among the other top ranked players that will join Tiger and Ernie this week will be Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk and one who launched himself into the top shelf of the FedEx Cup race last week with a win at The Transitions Championship – Gary Woodland.
Woodland, who now lives in Orlando, says his last 48 hours after the victory have been hectic but that he is thoroughly focused on playing well this week at a course he admires and feels is a good fit for him. I love the golf course. I think it suits me pretty well. I think you can use your length out here. I think it's a long golf course. I think it's a hard golf course and I'm really looking forward to staying at home this week and playing here.”
My pick of the week? Got to be Scotsman Martin Laird. Laird is coming off a tied for 5th at the Transitions and 10th at Doral. He's wants another PGA Tour victory in a bad way and his length will help him immensely at Bay Hill.
- The last player in his 20s other than Tiger Woods to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational was Chad Campbell, who won the event just shy of his 30th birthday in 2004.
- Since this tournament began in 1966 as the Florida Citrus Open, only three non-Americans have managed to win, including Ernie Els of South Africa in 1998 and 2010, Australian Rod Pampling in 2006 and Vijay Singh of Fiji in2007.
- Since the start of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 1966, only Fred Couples (1992) and Tiger Woods (2001 and 2002) have won the Masters and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the same year.
2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Dates: March 21-27, 2011
Where: Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando, Florida
Format: 72-hole stroke play
Defending Champion: Ernie Els
Purse: $6,000,000; Winner’s Share: $1,080,000
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Canada's Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)