• Rory McIlroy set for Arnold Palmer Invitational debut
• Eight-time winner Tiger Woods won't be at Bay Hill though
ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL
The top five golfers in the world will all take to the Bay Hill course tomorrow for the start of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament that world No.1 Rory McIlroy will compete in for the first time.
Consistently drawing in one of the strongest line-ups for a PGA Tour event, half of the world’s top 50 are in action with McIlroy aiming to step up his Masters preparation as he pursues a career grand slam.
The Northern Irishman was at Augusta last week, where he played a round with NFL star Tom Brady, but will be hoping to improve on his performances on American soil so far in 2015.
McIlroy missed the cut at the Honda Classic and despite finishing T9 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship two weeks ago, he was never in contention to win the competition and admitted being ‘disappointed’ with how he had played.
World No.2 Bubba Watson will be hoping to build on his third-placed finish at Doral, while No.3 Henrik Stenson is coming into the competition on the back of two consecutive T4 finishes.
One player who won’t be at the Arnold Palmer Invitational though is eight-time winner of the event Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champion is continuing is self-enforced absence as he looks to get his game ‘tournament ready’, hinting that his sights are set on Augusta in three weeks’ time.
Woods said through a statement on his website on March 13: “I spoke to Arnold today and told him that I will not play in his tournament this year. I'm sorry I won't be in Orlando next week, but I know it will be a really successful event.”
American Matt Every won the event last year – his first on the PGA Tour – beating Keegan Bradley by one shot and he revealed his delight at returning as reigning champion.
He said: “It’s good to be back. It was cool seeing my picture coming and it gave me good feelings. My picture is on the tickets and that’s never happened before, so I’m excited to play golf right now.”
Scot Martin Laird, who won the tournament in 2011, tees off at 1.08pm alongside Scott Stallings and Zach Johnson, while Russell Knox, who will be hoping to build on his T3 performance at the Honda Classic three weeks ago, is off at 12.44pm.
Selected groups (local times)
8.11 – Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott
World No.2 Watson hasn’t been outside the top 15 in the four events he’s played so far in 2015, with a runner-up finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Australian Scott will be keen to bounce back after his missed cut at the Valspar Championship last week, while Waste Management winner Koepka skipped last week’s event.
8.23 – Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Henrik Stenson
After consecutive T4 finishes in his first two PGA Tour events of the season, Stenson is being hotly tipped for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he finished T5 last year. He tees off with AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am winner Snedeker and reigning FedExCup champion Horschel.
12.56 – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler
All eyes will be on the world No.1 as he makes his Bay Hill debut. He’s in a group with world No.5 Day, who won the Farmers Insurance Open last month and Fowler, he hasn’t recorded a top ten finish yet in 2015. His best showing was at Doral, where he came T12.
Arnold Palmer Invitational :: Your thoughts
Can Rory McIlroy win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his first appearance at the tournament? Leave your thoughts in the 'Comments' section below.