Hatton beats his demons
“Success in golf,” Arnold Palmer said, “depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.” Indeed, Tyrrell Hatton had to tame his temper even as he tamed Bay Hill. He led by three but pulled driver on the 11th, his ball finding the water and leading to double bogey. Cue the negative self-talk as he wacked himself with the handle of his putter. On the 12th tee, with Harris English having joined Hatton at the top, caddie Mick Donaghy made sure his man regrouped in time to avoid trouble and further chaos. Hatton hit “one of the best tee shots that I hit” and fought Bay Hill to a draw with seven closing pars while others succumbed. “It was really tough out there,” he said after becoming the first since Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open) to win with two over-par weekend rounds (73-74). “And obviously I was getting frustrated at times, but nowhere near the blowups that I am capable of. And it's just one of those days where you just got to stick in there, and patience is one of the hardest things with me.”
“It's an incredible feeling to win at such an iconic venue and with obviously Arnie's name to it.”
“You Must Play Boldly to Win”
He took dead aim and never held back. Came up big in the biggest moments. The “slope-shouldered giant from Latrobe, Pa.” came to the 1971 Florida Citrus Invitational – the tournament that would become the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard – with a chance to atone for his close call the year before. And, true to form, he seized it. Palmer chipped in at the third hole (“Arnie’s Army goes ape”), stuck his approach to birdie the 17th, and signed for 68 to beat Julius Boros by a shot. It wasn’t just the writers and editors at the Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press who were giddy with delight. Palmer’s thrilling performance transcended golf. Again.
“You must play boldly to win,” the King said, and it was as true then as it is today. Palmer didn’t just win the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, he drove the first green to spark a seven-shot comeback – thereby authoring one of the most memorable shots of the 20th century. He won the ’61 Open Championship by hitting a 6-iron from a blackberry bush. Palmer’s bold style changed the game forever.
Here, we celebrate some of the most unforgettable moments at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. The pin-seeking that yielded a miracle, the spectacular final-round comebacks, the putts that fell in the darkness on 18 as if guided by some unseen force. All were thunderously bold moments that shook Palmer’s Bay Hill while paying homage to the man himself.
Rory McIlroy’s fast finish
During a sprint to the finish at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ignored the Tiger Woods roars and generated a similar fervor previously reserved only for Woods or Arnold Palmer himself.
Matt Every: Magic at Bay Hill
Growing up in Daytona Beach, Matt Every attended his first TOUR event at Bay Hill. “My father would take me over here with his buddies and kind of let me roam around.”
Mickelson channels the King
Phil Mickelson had missed the cut in his previous two starts at Bay Hill and was three back standing on the 11th tee in 1997. That all changed in a hurry. Palmer, who had undergone prostate surgery nine weeks earlier, saw a familiar boldness as Lefty went 5 under for his next four holes. The masterstroke: his 270-yard second shot over the water at the par-5 12th hole, setting up an eagle. The club: driver. It was the first victory in Florida for Mickelson, who tied the course record with a back-nine 30 en route to a 7-under 65. “With it being Mr. Palmer’s tournament and seeing a couple of pictures of him in the locker room holding his putter up on an Arnie charge, I just thought it would be kind of cool if I was able to do that,” Mickelson said. “Sure enough, a couple of putts fell, and I tried to emulate the master.”
“With it being Mr. Palmer’s tournament and seeing a couple of pictures of him in the locker room holding his putter up on an Arnie charge, I just thought it would be kind of cool if I was able to do that.”
- Phil Mickelson
Gamez’s miracle harpoons Shark
It was one of the boldest shots in the history of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Robert Gamez trailed Greg Norman by one when he took aim from the fairway on 18 from 176 yards and two-hopped his 7-iron into the hole for eagle. Norman failed to birdie either of the final two holes, leaving the 21-year-old Gamez with his second TOUR victory in quick time. “I just wanted to make a good solid swing and I hit it just flush,” he said. “It started drawing and I thought it was going to be really close, and then it went in and I was just real excited. I proved to myself as well as to everybody else that I can play with the best.” As for Norman, he could only tip his hat, having lost both the 1987 Masters (Larry Mize) and 1986 PGA Championship (Bob Tway) to hole outs from opponents. “I’m unhappy I didn’t win the golf tournament,” Norman said, “but I’m happy for him. He hit a great shot.” Johnny Miller called it, “One of the great shots in the history of the game … no question.”
“One of the great shots in the history of the game … no question.”
- Johnny Miller
Woods upends Mickelson
Woods won his first Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2000, and really got ’em talking when he repeated in ’01. Fighting his game, he made a coast-to-coast birdie putt on 14. He nearly went out of bounds on 16, but stuck his tee shot inside two feet at the par-3 17th hole to pull even with Phil Mickelson, up ahead. At the 18th, Woods would have gone out of bounds left had his tee shot not hit a fan. As he sized up his approach from 191 yards, NBC’s Johnny Miller said, “He’s looking right at it, Roger. He’s not looking left. I mean, this is a hero shot, if he does it.” With a 5-iron, Woods flushed the shot. His ball cleared the water and stopped 15 feet from the pin for birdie, and with Mickelson watching, his young daughter, Amanda, in his arms, Woods made the putt. “To be honest with you, that was probably the best shot I’ve hit all week,” he said of his bold approach at the last. “Excluding the 2-iron I hit the other day on No. 4.”
“To be honest with you, that was probably the best shot I’ve hit all week.”
- Tiger Woods
Tiger’s favorite putt at Bay Hill
On three occasions Woods has made the curling, left-to-right putt at Bay Hill’s 18th hole to win the tournament. The first time came in ’97, when he didn’t have his best stuff from tee to green but still found a way to break Phil Mickelson’s heart. The second time was in 2008, and Woods again didn’t have his A game but still found a way to score. It came down to a 24-foot putt, which Woods jarred to beat journeyman Bart Bryant for his 64th TOUR win, tying Ben Hogan for third on the all-time wins list. It was also Woods’ fifth win in as many starts that season. He was most proud of his 5-iron approach at the last. “You have to understand,” he said, “I had not hit the ball well the last three days.” Of his bold final stroke that found the bottom of the cup, he added, “I kept telling myself I’ve done this before. I did it against Phil.”
“I kept telling myself I’ve done this before. I did it against Phil.”
- Tiger Woods
An unforgettable shot in the dark
It had been 286 days since Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open and had knee surgery, and now he was five behind Sean O’Hair to begin the final round. But as Arnold Palmer said, “The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.” Three early Woods birdies cut the lead to one. Another on 15 gave him a share of the lead, and O’Hair bogeyed the par-5 16th. Woods gave the lead back with a bogey from the lip of the bunker on 17, so for the second straight year he would go down 18 tied for the lead. He split the fairway, leaving 160 yards to the pin. O’Hair was on in two. With the sun setting, Woods knew he had to be bold. His wedge shot left him just under 16 feet for birdie, on a familiar line. O’Hair missed, Woods didn’t, and flash bulbs cracked and popped as he gave another trademark fist pump amid the road of the crowd. “I hadn't been in the mix since the U.S. Open, so it was neat to feel the heat on the back nine again,” he said. “… You just remember how to do it. It hasn't been that long for me, but you just have that feel of what to do and it's a matter of getting it done.”
“The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”
- Arnold Palmer
Rory McIlroy’s fast finish
During a sprint to the finish at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ignored the Tiger Woods roars and generated a similar fervor previously reserved only for Woods or Arnold Palmer himself. Early on the back nine, McIlroy was tied for the lead with Henrik Stenson, but Woods, up ahead, had pulled within one. The fans were getting loud, and McIlroy knew the only way to respond was with bold shots of his own. Birdies on 13 and 14 kickstarted his push, and a chip in on 15 for a third straight birdie sent shock waves across Bay Hill. Another birdie at 16 made it four straight and he closed with a long-range birdie on 18 for an 8-under 64 and his first TOUR win since the 2018 Tour Championship. This time it was McIlroy himself who went bananas. “I gave myself birdie chances on basically every hole,” he said. “Just executed shots the way I wanted to when I needed to. A 64 in those conditions out there, with it being firm and fast, to get into the winner's circle again, it feels really good. I’m really proud of myself.”
“You’re never far away from producing golf like what I did today.”
- Rory McIlroy
Matt Every: Magic at Bay Hill
Growing up in Daytona Beach, Matt Every attended his first TOUR event at Bay Hill. “My father would take me over here with his buddies and kind of let me roam around.” Neither father nor son could have known then that Every would make history there. The first bit of magic came when he attempted a shot from the edge of a pond at the third hole, final round, in 2013 – and holed it. (The shot was later deemed one of the top 10 shots in tournament history.) He won for the first time at Bay Hill in ’14, blinking back tears. “I…I…I can’t believe I won,” he said. He and his wife had a daughter and named her Quinn Palmer Every, then he won again in ’15, his approach on 18 covering the flag before settling some 17 feet behind the hole. He made it to finish one ahead of Henrik Stenson (70). “You watch tournaments on TV and guys make a 20-footer on the last and everybody goes nuts,” he said. “It’s cool to close one out like that.”
“I…I…I can’t believe I won.”
- Matt Every
Arnie’s Driver off the Deck
Arnold Palmer kept charging even as a 73-year-old in 2004, playing the last hole of his last round at the tournament that now bears his name. Standing some 230 yards from the pin at the watery 18th hole, he could’ve played it safe, but that wasn’t his style. After all, he hadn’t just quietly gone from TOUR stop to TOUR stop throughout his career – he learned to fly and even set an aviation record. Now, Palmer turned to his caddie, grandson and future TOUR pro Sam Saunders, and called for the big dog. "What other people may find in poetry, I find in the flight of a good drive," he once said. And so it was that his last approach shot at his beloved Bay Hill was a sensational stinging driver off the deck that trundled onto the green and fed toward the pin. “That shot was obviously incredible,” Saunders said later. “… He enjoyed impressing people and pulling off a tough shot. He still was trying so hard even though he was going to miss the cut. He still had that fire.” Bold to the very end.
"What other people may find in poetry, I find in the flight of a good drive."
- Arnold Palmer
Loren Roberts: Boss of Bay Hill
Loren Roberts was a journeyman at age 38, an “agate-type player,” as Sports Illustrated scribe John Garrity would put it. In a dozen years on TOUR he’d never won; winners, he noticed, had a certain physicality, like Palmer. So heading into the ’94 season, Roberts worked on physical conditioning and his swing with instructor Jim Suttie. “It felt like I’d gotten a little something extra, finally, into my game,” he said. The results: a runner-up finish in Tucson, a T7 at Doral, and then his breakthrough win at the Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill. He would register top-10s in three of the four majors that year, including a 20-hole playoff loss to Ernie Els at the U.S. Open, then win at Bay Hill again the next year. Roberts’ ’95 win included an Arnie-like burst of nine birdies in the second round. “It’s hard to describe the feeling,” he said, “but to win on Arnold Palmer’s course against a strong field in a good tournament made it even all the more special.”