While PGA tournaments don’t usually make headlines on Tuesdays before the event, Tiger Woods has sent ripples around Orlando, Florida by announcing that he is pulling out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational this weekend. Woods is still bothered by the back spasms that caused him to withdraw from the Honda Classic three weeks ago, and severely hampered his play in the Cadillac Championship the following week.
The decision to withdraw from the event at Bay Hill was monumental for Woods. He has been champion of this event eight times in his career, and skipping this week has caused speculation that his back problems are more than just a nuisance. On Woods’ website he says that he personally called Arnold Palmer and informed him of the news, sending his regrets to the area fans and everyone else associated with the tournament. In regards to his health for the Masters in three weeks Woods gave no assurances, saying only that it was too early to tell, adding that he would continue to be evaluated by his doctors.
There was more bad news for the Orlando tournament when Jason Day, the 4th-ranked player in the world announced that he would not be playing either. Day won the WGC Accenture Match-Play championship in Arizona in February, but has not played since that tournament because of a sore thumb. Like Woods, he is also concerned about being healthy enough to play in the Masters.
With Tiger Woods out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational the focus shifts to the players who will be there. World No.2, Adam Scott will be there, and he’ll be in an interesting group with Justin Rose and Patrick Reed. Rose got a top-ten finish at the Valspar last week in Palm Harbor, Florida, and Reed is coming off of his first big win at the Cadillac Championship at Doral. Even though he has yet to break through in the win column this year Scott is playing well, posting 4 straight top-25 finishes.
Bubba Watson is always a crowd favorite, and will be playing with another crowd favorite and friend Ricky Fowler, who finished in a tie for third at this tournament last year behind Woods. Watson picked up a win earlier in the year at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera on the west coast swing. Playing with Watson and Fowler will be former FedEx Cup champ Brandt Snedeker. Also in the field will be John Senden, who ended a 7-year drought by winning the Valspar Championship last week. His group will also include Russell Henley who broke through to win the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and Charles Howell III.
Fans at Bay Hill will also get a chance to watch Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson and Keegan Bradley among the rest of the field of 120 golfers. And even though they would probably not admit it, with eight-time champion Tiger Woods out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, they have to think that their chances just got better for taking home the $1.1 million first-place prize money.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky
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