Francesco Molinari returns to Arnold Palmer


Francesco Molinari returns to the course of Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, in Orlando, Florida, where he scored his last individual victory four years ago. One of the most prestigious competitions and “elevated tournaments” on the PGA Tour, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard (March 2-5), features a $20 million prize pool with $3.6 million first coin. .

It was March 10, 2019 when Francesco Molinari, with a great comeback from 17th place, recovered five shots from the leader, the English Matt Fitzpatrick, in the final round, relegating him to second place with two delays after a fantastic 64 (-8, eight birdies). In all 276 (-12) strokes and a further feat in the first round with a “hole in one” (hole 7, par 3, 203 yards, 4 iron). It is hoped that the memory of that triumph will give the Azzurri the right push and motivation to resume the journey that this year began under the best auspices with the success as captain and player of the Continental Europe team in the Hero Cup and fifth place in the following Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and then suddenly stopped with three cuts in a row, one on the DP World Tour and two on the American circuit.

Francesco Molinari, Arnold Palmer Invitational

Field as befits a tournament dedicated to a great champion, Arnold Palmer, who moreover gave his very personal final touch to a course owned by him since 1974 and originally designed by architect Dick Wilson. Scottie Scheffler, world number two, will defend the title in a context of 120 starters in which there will be 19 of the top 20 in the World Ranking and, expanding the squad, 27 of the top 30 and 44 of the top 50.

The overflowing Spaniard Jon Rahm is favored, three successes in the season (the last in the Genesis Invitational in mid-February) and returned to number one for two weeks, after having made Scheffler descend from the throne now eager to get back on it as soon as possible. One more reason to be interested in a competition that promises competitive spirit, good play and entertainment. And it cannot be otherwise when at the start are Rory McIlroy (n. 3), winner of the event in 2018, Patrick Cantlay (n. 4), Xander Schauffele (n. 6), Will Zalatoris (n. 7), Max Homa (#8), Justin Thomas (#9) and Collin Morikawa (#10).

And not only. Many others have just claims to play a leading role, among whom we remember Viktor Hovland (n. 11), Billy Horschel (n. 20) and Tyrrell Hatton (n. 26), all three second last year with the latter scored in 2020. And again Tom Kim (n. 15), Jordan Spieth (n. 17) and Sungjae Im (n. 18). There will also be two other past winners on the field, but with little chance of emerging: Jason Day (2016) and Martin Laird (2011).

The tournament, now in its 58th edition, was born in 1966 with the name of Florida Citrus Open Invitational. Over the years it has changed its name several times, albeit in some cases with slight changes, before reaching the current one in 2007.

The event has a real star in Tiger Woods, who won it eight times in 14 editions (four in a row from 2000 to 2003 and two doubles 2008-2009 and 2012-2013), while the other six multiple winners did not go beyond the two hits: Jerry Heard, Gary Koch, Tom Kite and Ernie Els in different seasons and Loren Roberts (1994-1995) and Matt Every (2014-2015) scored consecutively. Since 2014 the winner is granted a three-year exemption (i.e. he can play for three seasons on the PGA Tour regardless of his position on the money list instead of two as after successes in normal circuit races), while since 2017, one year after the death of Arnold Palmer, the winner himself wears a red cardigan in memory of the champion who won this race in 1971.

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