Sign up for our daily newsletter

Latest news, reviews, analysis and opinion, plus unmissable deals for bunkered subscriptions, events, and our commercial partners.

Nick Dunlap may only be a few weeks into his professional career, but he’s already been handed one of the most unusual starts in PGA Tour history.

Dunlap, the 20-year-old college kid who shot to stardom and turned pro after his victory at the American Express, is debuting at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week.

And he is doing so alone, flying solo in his first two rounds after being named in a solitary first group at Bay Hill.

• Rory McIlroy reveals why he won’t join LIV Golf

• Tiger Woods handed major role on new PGA Tour board

The bizarre scenario emerged after Tony Finau’s late withdrawal left the limited-field tournament with 69 eligible players. Organisers then decided not to call up an alternative who hadn’t qualified and also opting against making a three-ball.

It is not uncommon for a player to tee it up as just a single over the weekend if an odd number of players make the cut or there are late withdrawals.

But the Tour’s choice to isolate Dunlap in the very first grouping of the week raised eyebrows far and wide.

Former PGA Tour pro and CBS commentator Colt Knost was one of many to voice his frustration as he hit out at the circuit on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.

“I love the PGA Tour and want it to be the best Tour in the world but what are we doing?” Knost said. “I know Tony Finau was eligible and chose not to play but how in the world can we not have an alternate list? Just go to the next guy in line.

“This is so unfair to Nick Dunlap that he has to play by himself but it’s so easy to fix – just put another guy in there!

“When guys went to LIV, everyone bumped up a spot and other guys went in. So if Tony’s not playing, let’s just bump everyone up a spot but we should not be playing short at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.”

• Major champ fears more PGA Tour stars will join LIV Golf

• Viktor Hovland: LIV Golf absence ‘devalues’ world rankings 

Justin Thomas, meanwhile, said the decision was “strange”, but stressed that “these events don’t have alternate for a reason.”

“I think they could have thrown him with a thrown him with a three ball or another two ball or something,” Thomas said. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily like ‘we have one now, we need to add a person because we only have one.'”

Dunlap recovered from a horror triple bogey early on to post an even-par 72 in his opening round at Bay Hill, finishing three holes ahead of two-ball C.T Pan and Stephen Jaeger in just under four hours. A tournament volunteer was made responsible for keeping the American’s card.

He plays on his own again on Friday, but will be stuck between two two-balls with his 10:20ET tee time.

author headshot

Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

More Reads

Image Turnberry green

The bunkered Golf Course Guide - Scotland

Now, with bunkered, you can discover the golf courses Scotland has to offer. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.

Find Courses

Latest podcast

The 2024 Masters Commute – Final Round Recap LIVE from Augusta