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PGA TOUR's Bay Hill: The Final Dance of the Florida Swing

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IMarch 24, 2010

CHAMPIONS GATE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 01:  Arnold Palmer at the 14th hole with his grandson Sam Saunders during the first round of the 2007 Del Webb Father Son Challenge on the International Course at Champions Gate Golf Club, on December 1, 2007 in Champions Gate, Florida,  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter is onsite at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

 

The associated video is available on YouTube.com at the following link:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbgtOUSkXzs

Bay Hill is once again be the final dance of the PGA TOUR's swing through Florida. There is no doubt it is the Grand Finale of this Florida Foursome of PGA Tour events.

Down near West Palm Beach, the fireworks have already gone off at PGA National with Columbian Camilo Villegas' win in the Honda Classic. After winning the last two playoff events in 2008 and going winless last season, this is his third PGA Tour win and a much-needed one.

Veteran Ernie Els won again on one of golf's biggest stages at the World Golf Championship just west of Miami. The "Big Easy" made it look "easy" strolling to a four-stroke victory on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral.

Last week on the west coast of Florida, soon to be 40-year-old Jim Furyk won his 14 th PGA Tour event outside of Tampa.  Furyk, winless since midseason 2007 at the Canadian Open, survived the "Snake Pit" of the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Resort.

That brings us to the home of the King of Golf: Arnold Palmer and his newly-renovated Bay Hill golf course here in Orlando.

Shortly after last year's tournament the course was closed for four months.

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New tees stretch the course to almost 7,400 yards and par is back to a conventional 72.

The difficult uphill 4th hole is now an easier 561-yard par-5 and the 16th with water fronting the green is now a 511-yard reachable par-5 that will undoubtedly bring more drama into the finish at Bay Hill.

Every bunker has been modified and repositioned.

Fairway bunkers are farther from the tee, thereby narrowing landing areas.

Greenside bunkers are closer to the putting surfaces thereby reducing the target area for approach shots.

The greens have been regrassed and enlarged a bit creating more than 40 new hole locations.

Basically, with the exception of the routing this is a new golf course and a new challenge for the 120 PGA Tour players in the field.  

Tempered in the legacy of Bobby Jones, Palmer has utilized his tournament to showcase top amateur golfers and this year is no exception.

Last year when he was 17-years-old, South Korean Byeong-Hun An won the United States Amateur Championship.

He is the youngest to do so, even younger than fellow South Korean Danny Lee who won in 2008 and younger than Tiger Woods when he first did it at age 18 in 1994.

Byeong-Hun An is playing in his very first PGA Tour event. Also in the field this week are young sensations Danny Lee, Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, and Rickie Fowler.

An old timer, this year's European Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie is in the field.

Wouldn't it be something if the 46-year-old Scotsman won his first PGA TOUR event? And then went on to win his first major at the Masters?

Montgomerie is paired with Rickie Fowler while another veteran Steve Elkington is paired with Ryo Ishikawa.

Golf is a game where the kids can play and compete with their legendary idols.

Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption after finishing T17 at the Honda Classic.

Wouldn't it be something if Arnie gave himself an exemption and tee time with grandson Sam so he could show him how it is done under tournament conditions?  

The dramatic ending to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard will not be the same this year.

For the last two years, Tiger Woods made a theatrical putt right down there on the 18th green to win this tournament by one stroke.

In fact, that 24-foot winning putt in 2008 was the same as the one that put the kibosh on Phil Mickelson back in 2001, back when we were just getting use to dramatic last minute one stroke victories for the King of Excitement on the PGA TOUR- Tiger Woods! 

Tiger has dominated this tournament in the last decade winning six times including four in a row from 2000 to 2003. In 2003, he won by 11 strokes.

Surely we will have an exciting finish on Sunday afternoon. Then, it will be only one week until we see Tiger return to the game of golf at the Masters.

This is Andy Reistetter at Bay Hill. Until next time, good golfing and good living my friends.

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com

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