Passion for excellence drives Arnold Palmer to always seek improvements to the tournament that bears his name
"We start thinking about the next tournament as soon as the last putt drops on the previous one," Arnold Palmer says about the tournament that bears his name at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. "We think about it all the time to make it better. 'What can we add? What could we possibly do a little better?' I find it exciting to try and meet the challenge of making a golf tournament as good as it can be. I enjoy that.
"I like what we have done through the years," Palmer adds, "but I am never satisfied. And I've been that way with things my whole life."
The 36th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard is scheduled for March 17-23 on the Championship Course at Bay Hill. Tiger Woods is the two-time defending champion, and he will be going for his 10th career victory at Bay Hill and a record ninth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. Only Sam Snead has won a single PGA TOUR event eight times, his coming at the Greater Greensboro Open. A field of 120 players will vie for a $6.2 million purse with the winner collecting more than $1 million ($1,116,000).
Palmer, 84, who won seven major championships among his 62 TOUR titles, says he would not be at all surprised if Woods wins his tournament for a ninth time.
"It's amazing what he has done here, winning eight times, and also the U.S. Junior Amateur here (in 1991). He has played it very well, and I think he has been pretty impressive," Palmer says. "His game seems so well-suited for the golf course, and he has figured out how to make a score no matter how well he's playing, though seldom has he not played very good golf at Bay Hill. The golf course can be hard and fast, it can be soft, but he does what he needs to do."
As far as what Palmer and his tournament staff need to do to prepare for the prestigious invitational, Palmer says that there have been no changes to the golf course and no real alterations to their approach to putting on a premiere tournament. A renovation of the locker room was among the upgrades last year. The 2014 edition is more about upkeep and maintenance and sustaining excellence that "the King" infuses into the tournament.
The most important element, of course, is the golf course. The par-72 Championship Course that measures 7,381 yards once again should be in prime condition for the game's best players.
"We're in a good position," Palmer says. "We keep doing the same things, and I think as far as the golf course goes, it doesn't need me to do anything more as far as changes to it. The players are happy with the condition of it and the changes we did make the last few years. Now it's a matter of making sure that it remains in the very best shape possible.
"The length of the golf course is about right. We have hazards that keep things interesting," Palmer adds. "We could make it longer, but we don't find that necessary when the design and the challenges, the bunkers and such are enough to demand good golf shots.
"We can make it tougher. We can make it a lot tougher. But we choose to keep it playable for the membership and our guests, and when the tournament comes here, we have a formula in place to set it up as a good test, but not a test where it's in any way tricked up.
"The golf course, I think, has a good balance. It gives and it takes."
The tournament has given Palmer a great sense of satisfaction throughout the years - particularly with its contributions to Arnold Palmer Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies - since it picked up in 1979 where the Florida Citrus Classic left off. He has used his decades of experience with tournament golf around the world to make the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard a top-notch event. It hasn't always been a smooth journey, but it's one Palmer has relished.
"I think about where we came from when we picked up from the Citrus tournament and how far we've come, it's a source of great satisfaction how much it's grown and how successful it's become," Palmer says. "Every year we have new objectives that we want to achieve. I've tried to take everything I've learned about tournament golf and put it into this event.
"I have to say that we get to a certain point right after the new year where the excitement begins to build for the tournament because it's getting closer, and I look forward to that time and the anticipation of another tournament."
For tickets to the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard or for more information, call the Bay Hill Club ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843, or visit us on the Internet at www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com. Tournament proceeds benefit Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.