Only 10 of the top 25 players in the World Ranking will tee it up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which prompted Billy Horschel to tweet: “Disappointing. Totally understand schedule issues. But 1st year without AP. Honor an icon! Without him wouldn’t be in position we are today.” While the turnout might seem underwhelming, only nine of the top 25 played last year at Bay Hill. Do the pros owe it to Arnie to play at the event that bears his name? Or is a cramped schedule that features a couple of WGC events in the run-up to the Masters to blame?
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): It would certainly be nice to see a bigger turnout from the top-ranked players, but the rerouted “Florida Swing,” which now passes through Mexico City for a WGC event, throws a wrench into travel plans for the top 60. Arnie deserves all the tributes that can ever be given, but players also need to do what’s best to prepare for Augusta. The API is in a tough spot on the calendar. Hopefully it can slide to a friendlier week when the Tour re-works the schedule.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF (@JoshSens): I hate to drift into the area of moralizing “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” but this was a big symbolic miss for professional golf, to say nothing of a blown PR opportunity. Yeah, schedules are tight, but these guys had plenty of time to adjust theirs. When Palmer passed away, it could have been a time for everyone to do everything they could to show up at the first one. A big show of force in support of the man who did so much to shape the game. I understand the idea of gearing up for the Masters. But there was a time when gearing up for the Masters meant showing up in Augusta and playing practice rounds. What’s wrong with that?
John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar (@johnwould): Players simply cannot play every event, especially with the Masters on approach. The top players set a schedule that gives them the best chance to compete at courses that fit their game, as well as in terms of being in the right frame of mind and physical condition to compete at the Masters, and all of the majors. Would it be wonderful if everyone got together to play at Bay Hill this year to honor Palmer? Sure. But the schedule is very cramped, and you can’t blame the guys who don’t play.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The best way to honor Arnold is to be genuine with fans, play with some flair (if you got it!), talk to the writers (and the TV people) and remember that the game made you, not vice-versa. Going to Bay Hill is a one-off gesture of no particular consequence.
Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF (@joepassov): I’m torn here. The same thing happened at the AT&T Byron Nelson a few years back. When Byron was alive, all the top stars showed up at his tournament, even though there were few fans of the host course, simply because they had so much respect for the man himself. After his passing, the top names stayed away in droves. I’m almost persuaded by JW’s argument that the players need to do what’s best for them and their careers, especially in regards to the Masters run-up, but ultimately, I’m with Josh on this one. At least show up this very first year after the King has left us, pay your respects, and whatever you do in 2018 and beyond, fine.
courtesy of Golf Wire