Woods, Mickelson star attractions
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the biggest stars, but they are far from the only storylines to watch during the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Check out everything you need to know before action tees off later this week at Bay Hill.
Woods proved he still has it last year at Bay Hill — as a player and a drawing card.
Woods was in contention on Sunday until some late miscues and Rory McIlroy’s back-nine blitzkrieg. But The Arnie might have been the biggest winner last March.
Woods’ first appearance at Bay Hill since 2013 generated record crowds and a massive spike in TV ratings. Ticket sales were up more than 50 percent from 2017. Every upgraded tournament pass, on-site parking pass and hospitality event sold out.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Marci Doyle, CEO of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s final round earned a 3.2 rating and 5.0 million viewers on NBC, up 129 percent in ratings and 134 percent in viewership from last year (1.4, 2.1 million).
Expect more of the same this week when Woods returns seeking to win for the ninth time at Bay Hill and break his tie with Sam Snead for the most wins at a single event.
Arnold Palmer wanted to see the game’s best tee it up at his tournament. The King often would invite top players with a phone call and would receive one if Bay Hill did not fit their schedule.
Palmer is gone, but the field at his event will be as strong as ever.
Woods, Mickelson, defending champion McIlroy, reigning U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka and world No. 1 Justin Rose are among
13 of the top 20 golfers in the world rankings expected in the 120-player field. Fan favorite Rickie Fowler, 2018 runner-up Bryson DeChambeau and 2017 winner Jason Day are other big names scheduled to play this week.
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are notable absences, but none is surprising. Johnson last teed it up at Bay Hill in
2011, while Thomas’ only start was in 2015. Spieth never has played in the event.
“The field this year is the best it’s been in 12 years,” Doyle said. “We are looking forward to hosting these players, along with all the fans who will undoubtedly witness some exciting golf here at Bay Hill. I know Mr. Palmer would be proud.”
The Florida Swing is intact again, thanks to the return of The Players Championship to March — a week after the API. Yet the fourtournament tour of the Sunshine State poses plenty of challenges and tough decisions for players.
The month-long stretch is sandwiched between two World Golf Championships and on the cusp of a condensed major championship season resulting from the PGA Championship’s move to May. Players pursuing millions of dollars and a shot at history have to pick and choose even more vigilantly when and where to play.
The big winner this year has been The Arnie, where a star-studded field will arrive Monday. Meanwhile, the Honda Classic, which concludes Sunday, drew just three of the top 20 players in the world rankings, and two of them (Fowler, Koepka) also are playing Bay Hill.