Rickie Fowler has a special affection for Bay Hill – a venue provokes memories of the late, great Arnold Palmer, with whom he had a fond personal relationship.
Fowler has previously told the infamous story from 2016 when he skipped the King’s invitational in his schedule to prepare for the Masters, so he travelled to Orlando to tell him in person.
Palmer died later that year, but Fowler has a healthy bank of memories and times spent with the golf icon whose contribution to the game’s growth in the 20th century cannot be overstated.
After the first round of this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, Fowler looked back to 2013 when Tiger Woods secured his eighth title at the tournament, but things could’ve been so different.
Fowler made a triple-bogey on the 16th hole to fall out of contention, but he could still take away a surreal moment from the clubhouse after the drama played out.
“That was great to be able to be in there,” Fowler said. “It was a bummer because I wanted to go win and had a chance to play with Tiger in the final group and was trying to give him something there.
“Especially on 16 I had a chance to try and stuff one in there and I pulled a 7-iron a little bit. So that kind of ended my chances.
“But, hey, [I] gave it a shot. Then we all had drinks in the locker room afterward – and that’s a memory that I’ll always have, hanging with Arnie and TW there in the locker room.
“Be nice to be a little different, maybe this year or some year in the future, to be in there and have a drink and toast him up top.”
Woods isn’t in the field for a shot at a ninth Bay Hill title as he continues his rest and preparation for a tilt at the Masters which will likely be his next appearance on the Tour schedule.
Fowler is very much playing like the man of old that won five times on the PGA Tour and regularly contended on Sundays at major championships.
He only played in one major in 2022 – the PGA Championship at Southern Hills – having plummeted as low as 185th in the world rankings.
But Fowler is back in the top 70 after solid performances at Torrey Pines, Scottsdale, and Riviera.
But Bay Hill hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds in the past for the 34-year-old. His eventual third-place finish in 2013 is his only top-10 to date, so it would some week to end his four year winless streak.
“This one’s always a highlight being here. Having been a recipient of the Arnold Palmer Award,” he added. “I have a great relationship with the family and the foundation.
“Puma does a lot with the clothing and being able to give back to the foundation. It’s a fun place. Everyone here’s great, from the staff, the family, the foundation.
“The golf course is just brutal. It’s fun in a way. Like you know what to expect. It’s hard. You just got to try and be smart out there. You can never let up.”
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