History of the Arnold Palmer Invitational
In the beginning
Arnold Palmer fell in love with Bay Hill after an exhibition match against Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry and Dave Ragan in 1965, and he purchased the private golf resort in 1976. It has been his family's winter home ever since. The restricted field tournament, which is played yearly at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, was renamed to honor the legendary golfer in 2007.
The event at Bay Hill has given a number of golfers their first -- and, in some cases, only -- PGA Tour victories. Playoff wins secured first wins for Bob Byman in 1979 and Mike Nicolette (pictured) in 1983. Robert Gamez (1990) and Paul Goydos (1996) also hoisted their first trophies at Bay Hill. The course has special significance for Loren Roberts, who followed his first victory in 1994 with his second in 1995.
When the PGA Tour promoted the tournament at Bay Hill to elite status in 1984, it reduced the size of the field and increased the quality of the players. Gary Koch won the title that year, shooting a final-round 63 and besting George Burns in a playoff.
Tom Kite earned his first Bay Hill win by topping Jack Nicklaus and Denis Watson in a playoff in 1982. Seven years later, in Nestle's first year as the event sponsor, Kite became Bay Hill's first two-time champion. Again, he achieved his success in a playoff. This time it was Davis Love III who was on the losing end against Kite.
Record 72-hole score
In 1987, Payne Stewart achieved the lowest aggregate score in Bay Hill tournament history. He shot a 264 to claim the title at what was then known as the Hertz Bay Hill Classic. Stewart donated his winning check to the Florida Hospital Circle of Friends in memory of his father.
In 1990, Arnold Palmer redesigned all 18 greens at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Among the many tweaks he made to the course, one of the most major involved the overall distance. He increased the total yardage from 7,103 to 7,196, which in turn changed par from 71 to 72.
On his 72nd hole at Bay Hill in 1990, Robert Gamez earned his first career PGA Tour title with a spectacular shot. Using a seven-iron, he drilled an eagle on the par-4 hole, forcing Greg Norman to finish in second place.
Fred Couples blew away the rest of the field at the then-named Nestle Invitational in 1992. He won by nine strokes, a record margin of victory which stood for 11 years. The season featured one of his strongest starts ever, and he spent 16 weeks as the top-ranked golfer in the world.
Tiger takes charge
Comparisons have often been drawn between the two, so it's only fitting that Tiger Woods has achieved so much success at the event linked to Arnold Palmer. Woods won four Bay Hill titles in a row from 2000 to 2003, becoming just the third player in PGA Tour history to win the same event that many times. His record 11-stroke victory in 2003 was even more impressive considering he battled a case of food poisoning prior to the start of the final round. Tiger has won a total of six times at the event.