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The First Look: Arnold Palmer Invitational

The PGA TOUR returns to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, the TOUR’s fourth designated event of 2023. World No. 1 Jon Rahm – with three wins in six TOUR starts this season – leads a star-studded field in Orlando.

FIELD NOTES: Forty-four of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking are set to tee it up at Bay Hill – the most in any event since last year’s Open Championship … The field includes the top 30 on the FedExCup and all 13 TOUR winners so far this season … Scottie Scheffler returns to defend his 2022 title … Other Arnold Palmer Invitational winners returning to Bay Hill include Tyrrell Hatton (runner-up a year ago), Jason Day, Francesco Molinari and defending FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy … PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global is well-represented in the sponsor exemptions. The No. 1 player in the Class of 2022 and current No. 1 are both in the field. Pierceson Coody, who has won two of his first 15 Korn Ferry Tour starts since turning pro last summer, is in the field, one week after making the cut at The Honda Classic in his first PGA TOUR start as a pro. Ludvig Aberg, the current No. 1 in PGA TOUR U, is trying to extend his lead in the standings. The Texas Tech star arrives at Bay Hill after a win Feb. 22 at The Prestige in La Quinta, California. The top spot in PGA TOUR U is especially important this year, as the No. 1 player after the NCAA Championship will earn immediate status on the PGA TOUR and be eligible for all full-field, open events. Also in the field on a sponsor exemption is Cole Hammer, a teammate of Coody on the Texas team that won the 2022 NCAA Championship. Hammer, who finished fifth in last year’s class of PGA TOUR U grads, had a T5 finish late last year in The RSM Classic. Other players competing at Bay Hill on sponsor exemptions include major winners Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson and Padraig Harrington, as well as 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year Justin Suh. DP World Tour winners Adrian Meronk and Thriston Lawrence also received invitations.

Highest-Rated Players in the Field

FEDEXCUPWinner receives 550 FedExCup points.

COURSE: Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, par 72, 7,466 yards. Bay Hill will once again host the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as it has every year since 1979. It’s a mostly flat layout but features water challenges on most holes. The past two iterations have featured blustery, rock-hard conditions. The 2022 final-round scoring average was 75.48, compared to 75.49 a year prior. Scottie Scheffler won at 5 under last year, while Tyrrell Hatton won at 4 under in 2020 – the highest winning total since 1983. One thing that Hatton and Scheffler had in common for their wins? Elite iron play. Scheffler was first in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green last season at Bay Hill, while Hatton was second in the same category in 2020.

STORYLINES: The Bay Hill field is loaded with star power. This season’s first three designated events have been won by Jon Rahm (Sentry Tournament of Champions, The Genesis Invitational) and Scottie Scheffler (WM Phoenix Open) … Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele are teeing it up at Bay Hill for the first time since 2020. Morikawa finished T9 that year, while Schauffele was T24 … World No. 9 Justin Thomas is set for his first start at Bay Hill since 2015 … Jason Day, winner of the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational, returns to Bay Hill on a heater. He’s fresh off three consecutive top-10 finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open, WM Phoenix Open and The Genesis Invitational … Rahm has a chance to join Fred Couples, Ernie Els and Hale Irwin as the only players to win the TOUR’s three elevated, player-hosted invitationals: Tiger Woods’ The Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. Rahm won The Genesis earlier this month and the Memorial in 2020.

72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Payne Stewart (1987)

18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Andy Bean (Round 2, 1981), Greg Norman (Round 2, 1984), Adam Scott (Round 1, 2014)

LAST TIME: In some of the toughest conditions in tournament history, Scottie Scheffler fired a final-round, even-par 72 to finish one clear of Tyrrell Hatton, Billy Horschel and Viktor Hovland. It was Scheffler’s second TOUR win in three starts, having earned his maiden TOUR title at the WM Phoenix Open three weeks prior. It was a day – and tournament – purely of survival, with tough scoring conditions all week and a lightning-fast golf course. Only 10 players finished the tournament under par. Hatton made seven birdies in a final-round, 3-under 69; he finished an hour ahead of the final group and looked well positioned to win the tournament. Scheffler, however, hung tough with a birdie at the par-5 12th followed by six consecutive closing pars. Scheffler’s 5-under total was one ahead of the three-way runner-up. Chris Kirk and Gary Woodland finished a shot further back and tied for fifth, with Kirk earning a spot at The 150th Open at St. Andrews via the Open Qualifying Series.

HOW TO FOLLOW (ALL TIMES ET):

Television: Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC).

PGA TOUR Live is available exclusively on ESPN+

Radio: Thursday-Friday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m. ET. Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio)

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