ORLANDO, Florida – The Arnold Palmer Invitational Golf Tournament is contested each year at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge near Orlando, Florida. In 1979, the tournament changed its name and made a permanent move to the Bay Hill Course, owned by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer. This prestigious event, which is part of the PGA Tour, can trace its roots back to the inaugural 1966 Florida Citrus Open Invitational. The event was founded in 1979 as a successor to the Florida Citrus Open Invitational, which debuted in 1966 and was played at Rio Pinar Country Club, east of Orlando, through 1978. Arnold Palmer won the Florida Citrus Open in 1971.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge edges along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes, sprawling across 270 acres of softly undulating landscape that provides more elevation changes than what can be found on most Florida golf courses but not enough to be considered hilly. The straightforward course does not have any hidden hazards or surprises. Water hazards come into play several times throughout and strategic mounding and bunkering also provide challenges.
The first 18 holes at Bay Hill (Champion and Challenger nines) were designed by Dick Wilson in 1961, and were built by Bob Simmons. Considered one of Wilson’s best works, the course illustrates his typical approach of slightly elevating the putting surfaces to improve visibility and drainage. Simmons designed and built the additional 9 holes (Charger nine) after Wilson’s death.
Since Palmer’s death in 2017, the winner receives a red cardigan sweater in memory of the seven-time major winner. The reigning champion is Scottie Scheffler, who finished 1 shot ahead of a three-man chasing pack of Viktor Hovland, Billy Horschel, and Tyrrell Hatton in 2022. This was Scheffler’s 2nd win in the 2022 season following his 1st win two weeks earlier at the Waste Management tournament in Phoenix.
This year’s tournament has a number of World Ranked players heading into town to square off on one of the most popular golfing venues on the PGA Tour. The 19 of the top 20 ranked players who are scheduled participants are: John Rahm, Barrika, Spain, Scottie Scheffler, Ridgewood, NJ, Rory McIlroy, Hollywood, Northern Ireland, Patrick Cantlay, Long Beach, CA, Xander Schauffele, La Jolla, CA, Will Zalatoris, San Francisco, CA, Max Homa, Burbank, CA, Justin Thomas, Louisville, KY, Colin Morikawa, Los Angeles, CA, Victor Hovland, Oslo, Norway, Tony Finau, Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sheffield, England, Sam Burns, Shreveport, LA, Tom Kim, Chang Wou, South Korea, Cameron Young, Scarborough, NY, Jordan Spieth, Dallas, TX. Sungjae Im, Cheongju, South Korea, Billy Horschel, Grant, Florida, Shane Lowry, Clara County Offaly, Ireland. The field includes 20 Major championship winners and five past champions. Jason Day (2016) and Francesco Molinari (2019) join Scheffler, Hatton and McIlroy as previous winners at Bay Hill.
Six months ago, Commissioner Jay Monahan announced the tour planned to add four additional elevated events to the schedule that already included nine other tour stops previously given that designation. Those events are the Players Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the three FedEx Cup playoff events and three invitational tournaments (Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial Tournament). With an increased purse of $20 million, the Arnold Palmer Invitational will award $3,600,000 and 550 FedEx Cup points to its 2023 champion. This amount is more than the winner’s checks for both the Masters (won by Scottie Scheffler) and the PGA Championship (won by Justin Thomas) last year.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be the second of four tournaments being held in the State of Florida in 2023. The Honda Classic tournament was held at the PGA National Members Club in Palm Beach Gardens February 23-26. The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge March 2-5. The Player’s Championship will take place at the TPC Sawgrass Course located in Ponte Vedra Beach March 9-12. The Valspar tournament is the last of the four Florida PGA Tour events and is being played on the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor March 16-19.
The PGA knows that the State of Florida has one of the largest year round golfing populations in the country. That population increases dramatically during the winter season so what better time to offer four PGA Tour events in the “Sunshine State” that give both Floridians and their winter guests a chance to see a PGA tournament up close and personal.
Warm Florida breezes, coupled with watching some of the best golfers in the world? Priceless!