Different Strokes: Bay Hill missing more than just Arnie

Meanwhile, four Irish head for nine-hole test, word of mouth, Twitter twaddle and more

Graeme McDowell will join Rory McIlroy in playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell will join Rory McIlroy in playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images


Some familiar figures will be absent from the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill resort in Orlando, not least the man after whom the tournament is named. That image of Arnie greeting his newest champion – be it Tiger Woods eight times, or Jason Day once – is one that won’t ever occur again after the legendary golfer’s death last year.

Others missing for different reasons will be Woods, recuperating on his back injury with no date yet ascertained for his return to tournament action, and Pádraig Harrington, also on the injured list. World number one Dustin Johnson has decided it doesn’t fit into his pre-Masters schedule. Same for Jordan Spieth. Shane Lowry has a new baby in the house.

However, Rory McIlroy – who made his competitive return at the WGC-Mexico Championship a fortnight ago after a seven-week break due to his rib stress fracture – will again seek to add his name to the list of champions and ideally rev up his own preparations for Augusta where he played a practice round on Monday in cold and wet conditions.

McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are the only two Irish players in the field at Bay Hill. G-Mac failed to gatecrash his way into the WGC-Dell Matchplay (the qualifying cut-off point came at the Valspar) and, so, has decided to divert to the Puerto Rico Open next week instead. For now, though, it’s all about Bay Hill, Arnie’s tournament.

In all honesty, McDowell most likely needs to win a tournament to get a late invite in the Masters but he has performed well in the past at Bay Hill (runner-up twice, in 2005 and 2012) and, for good measure, is one of the tournament hosts this week for what he acknowledges is a “big, tough course.”A bit of karma is due to go his way, maybe?

McIlroy’s build-up to the Masters, hampered by that rib injury, has been a fitful one with only two competitive outings so far this year, in the South Africa Open (where he played through the injury to finish runner-up) and in Mexico, where he led at the midway stage only to fall away to finish. The world number three has also included an old favourite of his, the Matchplay, in his itinerary, but – like McDowell – will seek to make an impact at Bay Hill, especially given the role Palmer played in growing the sport’s popularity.

Shane Lowry, meanwhile, intends to resume action at next week’s Matchplay which will be his final warm-up ahead of the Masters. Lowry – who became a father for the first time last week after his wife Wendy gave birth to a daughter, Iris – has opted to return home after the Matchplay, to skip the Houston Open, and then fly back stateside for the Masters.

Speaking at the launch of Under Armour’s apparel sponsorship of all GUI national teams, Neil Manchip – Lowry’s coach and also GUI National Coach – said Lowry was gearing up for the Masters: “He loves it there, it’s his favourite place in the world to play golf. Shane loves the shapes off the tee, loves the greens ... (in preparing), he’ll be looking at his tee shots, stuff around the greens, pin placements, where the really fast putts are, where the difficult spots are and plan for Augusta as best as we can.”

Four Irish head for nine-hole Sharjah test

Four Irish players are in the field for this week’s European Seniors Tour stop-off in the desert, where a little piece of history will be made by the staging of the Sharjah Senior Masters on a nine-hole course.

Ronan Rafferty, Des Smyth, Philip Walton and Brendan McGovern, who secured his tour in topping the Q-School finals, are in action in the tournament which takes place at Sharjah Golf & Shoooting Club in the United Arab Emirates.

Using a nine-hole course for 18-hole rounds has presented difficulties for the organisers, although tournament director Simon Higginbottom believes utilising different tee boxes on the Par 3s and Par 5s – the third, fourth, sixth and eighth holes – will give the limited 57-player field fresh challenges in each round.  The yardage of the course will cvary between 5,922 yards and 7,462 yards.

One many slightly more familiar with the course than others is former European number one Rafferty, who played there last year – along with Smyth – in a promotional event. Rafferty has shown some intent to make an impact on the circuit this season in attending the European Tour’s Performance Institute in Dubai to prepare for the Sharjah Masters.

Word of Mouth

“I’ve worked my butt off to get here. I’ve slowly improved each and every year. I’ve won at every tour level that I’ve been on, and now I can call myself a PGA Tour winner” – Canadian Adam Hadwin after finally securing his first title, overcoming a late double-bogey (on the 16th) to claim the Valspar Championship.

“She’s telling me where to be and what to wear ... and I’ll show up on time” – Hadwin on his style of wedding planning. His win in the Valspar got him into next week’s WGC-Dell Matchplay but he won’t be playing, as it clashes with his wedding.

By the numbers

680,400: After so much bad luck, something finally fell Patrick Cantlay’s way. The American – who’ll turn 25 on St Patrick’s Day – was playing on a major medical exemption on the PGA Tour this season after a series of back injuries, including a stress fracture of his vertebrae, hampered his career since turning pro. His runner-up finish to Adam Hadwin in the Valspar earned him a cheque for $680,400, which enabled him to regain full tour status.

In the bag

SSP Chawrasia, Hero India Open

Driver – TaylorMade M2 (10.5 degrees)

3-wood – TaylorMade M1 (15 degrees)

5-wood – TaylorMade M1 (17 degrees)

Hybrid – Callaway Diablo Edge Tour (21 degrees)

Utility iron – Srixon Z-UTI

5-iron to PW – Ping I200

Sand Wedge – Titleist Vokey SM6 (54 degrees)

Lob Wedge – Titleist Vokey SM4 (60 degrees)

Putter – Odyssey Metal-X #6

Ball – Titleist ProV1x

Twitter Twaddle

“Disappointed not to be honouring the King, Mr Palmer and playing in the @APinv this week. Hope everyone has a great week” – Shane Lowry has a good reason to be absent, after his wife Wendy gave birth to daughter Iris.

“Sadly missing the 2017 API. I really wanted to be there. My best wishes to the Palmer family & everyone at Bay Hill” – Tiger Woods on being unable to make it to a favoured haunt of his, where he won eight Invitational titles.

“Prepping for @LPGAfounders #almosttime #cantwait” –  Stephanie Meadow has had to be patient in waiting for starts on the LPGA Tour this season. This will only be her second tournament outing.

Know the Rules

Q: A player with a downhill putt picks up loose impediments between his ball and the hole but leaves some behind the hole. An opponent or fellow-competitor removes loose impediments behind the hole that might have served as a backstop for the player’s ball. What is the ruling?

A: In equity (Rule 1-4), the player is entitled, but not required, to replace the loose impediments.

The opponent or fellow-competitor is permitted to remove the loose impediments by Rule 23-1, and accordingly he is not in breach of Rule 1-2 (see Exception 1 to Rule 1-2). However, if the opponent or fellow-competitor has refused to comply with a request from the player not to remove the loose impediments, the opponent loses the hole (see Decision 2/3) or the fellow-competitor is disqualified (Rule 3-4) for intentionally denying the player’s right to have the loose impediments left in position. The same principles apply to the removal of a movable obstruction in similar circumstances.

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