A hole-in-one early and a monster putt late played important roles as Francesco Molinari became the fourth consecutive international champion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard. The 36-year-old Italian, the reigning Open champion, rode a 28-hole run of bogey-free golf to a final-round 64 and a two-stroke victory with his 12-under-par 276, his second in the United States.
The ace came at the seventh hole in the first round, helping Molinari get off to a respectable 69 start, four strokes behind the leader, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello. He remained within range with 70-73 as other international stars and a rejuvenated Keegan Bradley dominated the middle rounds. Bradley and England’s Tommy Fleetwood jumped four strokes in front of the field Friday, Bradley with 67-68—135 and Fleetwood with 69 and a 66 punctuated by a pair of eagles.
The overseas influence continued Saturday as Bradley (75) and Fleetwood (76) faded and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, seized the leading spots on a crowded leaderboard that had 21 players within five shots of the lead. Fitzpatrick shot 67—207, a stroke better than McIlroy’s 66—208. Molinari was one of six men five off the pace.
Out nearly two hours before the leaders, the veteran Italian was nearly flawless Sunday, his 45-foot birdie putt across the 18th green producing the 64 that was one shot shy of the tournament-record final round shot by Gary Koch in 1984. He then waited as one after another came up short. Fitzpatrick came closest with 71—278 and three other internationalists – Fitzpatrick, Bello and South Korea’s Sungjae Im – tied for third at 279.
A blazing finish brought victory to Rory McIlroy and frustration once again for Henrik Stenson. Two strokes off the pace of third-round leader Stenson, who had finished in the top-five in three of the previous four APIs, McIlroy birdied five of his last six holes for a closing 64 and, with his 16-under-par 270, a three-shot win. It was a turn-around for the Irishman from a year earlier, when he was tied for the lead after 70 holes but finished fourth behind Marc Leishman. Then, too, it came after unimpressive showings in his earlier four 2018 starts in the United States.
Stenson, making just his second start of 2018, held or shared the lead for three days. He jumped off to a one-stroke lead over tour rookies Talor Gooch and Aaron Wise with a 64 of his own Thursday. Bryson DeChambeau, who, as reigning U.S. Amateur champion, had the best finish (27th) by an amateur in API history in 2016, overtook Stenson the second day, shooting 66 to the Swede’s 69 as they matched 133s. Henrik moved a stroke ahead Bryson with a 71—204 on a windy Saturday as McIlroy climbed within two shots with a 67 with a 12th-hole eagle and birdies on two of the last three holes.
The key to McIlroy’s winning surge Sunday was a chip-in birdie on the 15th hole on the heels of a pair on the two previous holes. The Irishman followed with two more at the 16th and, fittingly, the clincher at the18th, where so many APIs have been decided. DeChambeau bogied the last hole for 68, but took second place with his 273, a stroke ahead of Justin Rose, another player with a good record at Bay Hill. Stenson shot 71 and finished fourth. The victory was McIlroy’s14th on the PGA Tour.
A putt of 51-and-a-half feet put Marc Leishman in position for the then most important victory of his career on the PGA TOUR. The eagle it produced on the par-five 16th green in the final round jumped the 33-year-old Australian a stroke past the three other contenders duking it out for the prestigious title and he carried that slim lead to victory over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, the co-leaders entering the final round.
Leishman, the second successive Australian winner (Jason Day) and third (Rod Pampling) from Down Under to win at Bay Hill, moved into contention with a second-round 66, three shots behind Hoffman, who also had a 66 for the leading 134. Hoffman had trailed first-round leaders Emiliano Grillo and Matthew Fitzpatrick by a stroke. Marc slipped back with a second 71 Saturday as Kisner, with 68, surged into the picture. Hoffman fought off four bogeys with a three-straight-birdies finish to shoot 71 and retain a share of the lead with Kisner at 201.
Rory McIlroy, who was 11 shots off the lead after 36 holes before firing a 65 Saturday, moved into serious contention in the early going Sunday. Kisner, a one-time winner during his two previous seasons on the PGA Tour, built a three-stroke lead on the front nine as Hoffman once again faltered going out. McIlroy capped his charge with a near eagle of his own out of the trees at the 16th hole to tie for the lead before Leishman took over with his monster putt there shortly thereafter.
Rory’s bid dissolved when he three-putted the 18th as Leishman parred the last two holes, one-putting the final green from three feet after an errant tee shot into heavy rough forced him to play safely short of the green. Leishman’s winning score was 69—277. It brought him the enhanced first-place prize of $1,566,000, other valuable qualification rewards and, for the first time, a special red cardigan sweater, a new and permanent tribute to tournament namesake Arnold Palmer.
The 18th green was the stage for another dramatic outcome at Bay Hill when Jason Day climaxed his solo wire-to-wire run with a one-stroke victory. A splendid, 30-yard bunker shot across the treacherous putting surface to set up the winning, four-foot par putt as Day scored his eighth victory on the PGA TOUR and first in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
Playing in just his fifth tour event of the season, the 28-year-old Australian got off to a flying start on the beautifully-groomed and re-grassed course. He opened with a six-under-par 66 and led five players by a stroke, then widened the edge to two over Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson with a follow-up 65 for 131, just a shot off the tournament's first-36-holes record. Day maintained that margin on a rainy Saturday with a two-under 70 for 201, his stronger challengers-to-be Sunday - Kevin Chappell, Troy Merritt and Stenson, headed for his fourth straight top 10 at Bay Hill - bunched at 203.
Jason struggled with his game most of the way on the final day. After a chip-in birdie at the second hole, he absorbed three bogeys on the next four holes and yielded the lead to Chappell. Kevin held or shared it until a failed tee shot at the 18th hole cost him a bogey, just as Day was dropping a clutch 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th to regain first place. Jason also missed the 18th fairway, though, and his cautious shot from the right rough landed in the far left trap at the green. Needing a par to win, he saved the Day with the brilliant sand shot.
As so often happens at Bay Hill, the 18th green provided the decisive dramatics as Matt Every pulled off a rare (except for Tiger Woods and Loren Roberts) repeat victory. Hanging tough all afternoon as he battled Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and fellow American Morgan Hoffmann, the early-rounds leaders, Every rolled in a downhill 17-foot birdie putt on the final hole. That gave him a 66, a one-stroke lead and a nervous wait before Stenson’s birdie bid from 22 feet at the 18th green for a tie and a playoff missed on the high side.
Hoffmann, winless through his first three years on the PGA Tour, held the lead after each of the first two rounds with his 66-65 start in calm, unusually-hot weather that produced predictable low scoring. Stenson, then No. 3 in the world rankings, surged two shots in front of Hoffmann and three ahead of, among others, Every. Hoffmann fell back on the final nine, leaving things in the hands of Stenson and Every, who ran off six birdies in a nine-hole stretch through the middle of the round. He caught Stenson when Henrik three-putted the 15th and 16th holes, the latter for a par, so it all came down to those final putts on the demanding 18th.
An interesting parallel: Every’s back-to-back victories in the API Presented by MasterCard were his first two wins on the PGA Tour just as were those posted by Loren Roberts in 1994 and 1995.
A hint of things to come for Matt Every appeared at the ninth hole in Sunday’s final round when he made birdie off a pulled tee shot that normally would have gone out of bounds. Bolstered by that good fortune, the 30-year-old went on to pick up his first PGA TOUR victory in an exciting finish that ended as a disheartening day for Adam Scott.
The reigning Masters champion blistered the course with a tournament-record-tying 62 Thursday and jumped off to a three-stroke lead. He followed with a 68 to stretch his margin to seven shots, his 130 tying the tournament’s 36-hole record. The lead slipped to three over Keegan Bradley, though, as Adam absorbed four bogeys in his third-round 71-201. Every moved into contention, four back, matching Bradley’s 66 as the day’s low rounds.
Scott and Bradley both faltered on the front nine Sunday and, when Every followed the ninth-hole birdie with three more on the next four holes and Scott bogied the 14th, he led by three. Matt opened the door, when he bogied the par-five 16th, but hit the pin from the sand to save par at the 17th, then bogied again at the 18th for 70—275.
Scott’s last chance dissolved when he three-putted the 16th for par, but Bradley, still alive with birdies at the 16th and 17th, just missed a 30-foot putt for another at the final hole to tie and force a playoff.
Tiger Woods matched one and took another step closer to another of the game’s most important records with his firmly-executed eighth victory at Bay Hill. He joined Sam Snead, whose eight wins in Greensboro stood for decades as the most victories in the same event, and his 77th PGA TOUR triumph inched him to just five behind Snead’s equally long-standing all-time victory total.
After positioning himself just off the pace the first two days, Woods jumped in front Saturday and, after a vicious thunderstorm Sunday forced play into a Monday finish, he methodically strode to victory with a final 13-under-par 275.
Justin Rose, on his way to his best-ever showing at Bay Hill, jumped off in front by two Thursday with a 65 as playing partner Woods shot 69. Rose followed with a 70 Friday and was joined at the top by Bill Haas (69-66). Tiger also shot 70, then, as he so often has done, spurted into a two-shot lead with a solid 66. Rose, with 72, slipped into the runnerup group with Rickie Fowler and John Huh.
Fowler was paired with Woods Sunday and stirred up the strongest challenge, although it didn’t come until Monday morning. The two only got in two holes before torrential rain and violent, destructive winds swept the area and left the course unfit for a continuation of play that day. Fowler held his own and trailed by just two Monday until he put two balls in the water fronting the 16th green. Tiger coasted home, winning by two shots over Rose, even with a safe bogey after driving into the rough at the treacherous home hole.
The 2012 tournament had a familiar ring to it. Tiger Woods was back. His seventh professional victory at Bay Hill had the earmarks of many of the previous six – in position from the start and in command at the end. This time, he finished five shots to the good, 13 under par at 275, needing only a final-round 70 for that margin as runner-up Graeme McDowell struggled to a 74 Sunday.
McDowell was just a shot back at 206 after 54 holes, with two-time Bay Hill winner Ernie Els and Britain’s Ian Poulter in a challenging position at 208. But, McDowell absorbed a double-bogey out of the box Sunday and, although taking a bogey at No. 2, Tiger birdied four of the next six holes and was never threatened after that.
Charlie Wi, who had never fared well at Bay Hill in the past, generated early hopes of snagging his first PGA TOUR win with starting rounds of 66-68. He shared the lead Thursday with Jason Dufner and with Woods Friday as Tiger opened with 69 and followed with a bogey-free 65. As Wi fell back with weekend rounds of 76-78, McDowell moved within a stroke with a dazzling 63, then matched Woods’ 71 Saturday to set up the final round’s feature pairing.
A putt that didn’t drop ultimately decided the outcome of the 2011 tournament. Facing an ominous 87-foot putt on the final green, Martin Laird eased the ball just three feet from the cup and holed out for a one-stroke victory at the end of a rollercoaster round. The 28-year-old Scot, the first European winner ever at Bay Hill, posted 75, the highest final round in tournament history and since 2008 on the TOUR, and was eight-under-par at 280.
He avoided a playoff with Steve Marino, who at one time late Sunday was ahead by three shots, bogeyed the 15th, double-bogeyed the 17th when he buried his tee shot in the front trap, but made a rare birdie at the 18th to tighten the pressure. Laird, who finished next to last in his only previous start at Bay Hill in 2010, fell behind when he double-bogeyed the 11th, but he rallied with birdies at the 15th from out of the trees and 16th from the back bunker. He then parred the tough finishing holes, getting it up and down from over the 17th and with the brilliant first putt to virtual tap-in range on the final green that has experienced its share of great putting.
Spencer Levin, playing in his first API, was the other contender of note. He opened the tournament with a 66 and a three-shot lead and entered the final round just two shots behind 36- and 54-hole leader Laird before tumbling with four early bogeys Sunday.
Ernie Els became the tournament’s fourth multiple winner in the second Monday finish of its 32 years at Bay Hill when he mustered four consecutive challenging pars on the rain-forced extra day for a two-stroke victory. The 1998 champion one-putted three of those concluding holes and escaped trees on the other for a closing 71 and an 11-under 277.
Kevin Na, winless on the PGA TOUR, pressured the South African that Monday, when he moved within a stroke with a two-putt birdie at the 16th, restored as a par-five along with the fourth hole in the full-scale renovation of the course after last year’s tournament. But he drove into the thick right rough at the 18th, bogeyed for 69 and dropped into a runner-up tie with Italian newcomer Edoardo Molinari.
Davis Love III, who has posted three seconds (including a playoff loss) and a third over the years, launched another bid with a wild opening 66 (an eagle, seven birdies and three bogeys) to share the lead with J.B. Holmes. Els, D.J. Trahan and Ben Curtis joined Love (six birdies, five bogeys) at the top Friday with 137s, then Els inched a stroke in front with his second straight 69 Saturday. Curtis shot 70 for the runner-up slot, but Trahan and Love fell from serious contention.
Els was coasting toward victory Sunday with a five-shot lead as threatening weather moved in. But he dumped his approach from a fairway bunker into the water at the short 13th for double bogey and gave up another stroke at the par-three 14th. His lead over Na was then just two when play was halted by a thunderstorm.
Tiger Woods followed a familiar pattern in 2009 when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the sixth time in 10 years. In 2001, Woods made a spectacular birdie with a 15-foot putt on the 18th green to nip Phil Mickelson by a shot. In 2008, he rolled in a sharp-breaking 25-footer there to edge Bart Bryant. Sean O’Hair was the 18th-green victim in 2009 as Tiger drilled in a 16-footer to complete a career-matching, five-shot comeback, again winning with the final putt.
O’Hair had promising victory hopes at Bay Hill dashed for the second year in a row. He had faltered in 2008 after entering the final round in a five-way tie for the lead after shooting 63 the third day.
Sean moved three strokes ahead of first-round leader Jason Gore (65-70) with 65 of his own for 132 in 2009’s second round and stretched the margin to five Saturday despite bogeys on three of the last four holes. He shot 71. Meanwhile, Woods, in just his second start after his nine-month layoff following knee surgery, matched that score and took over second place with some remarkable scrambling.
Despite some early miscues after heavy early morning rain led to a delayed, double-tee start Sunday, O’Hair clung to first place until he put his approach in the water at the 16th and fell one behind. Woods, who had conjured up brilliant saves at the 13th and 14th, then dropped back into a tie when he buried his tee shot at the par-three 17th in the front bunker. That set the stage for yet another dramatic triumph in the fading light of dusk.
Bay Hill’s famous 18th hole produced another sensational finish. As has often been the case in past tournaments — the seven-iron eagle deuce of Robert Gamez in 1990, for instance — the 2008 decision came on the 72nd hole. For the second time among his record five victories at Bay Hill, Tiger Woods sank a lengthy winning putt on the demanding 18th green, this time a severely breaking 25-footer for birdie and a one-stroke victory over Bart Bryant, who had posted his 67 and 271 minutes earlier.
To remain unbeaten through his first five appearances of the year, Woods had overcome a slow start with a pair of four-under-par 66s in the final two rounds to gain his 64th circuit title. Five off the pace of Fred Couples and J.J. Henry with 70 the first day and seven behind Vijay Singh’s 66-65–131 after his 68 Friday, he surprisingly found himself in a five-way tie for the lead Saturday when Singh, the defending champion, backed up with 73 into a deadlock with him, Bryant, Bubba Watson and Sean O’Hair, who shot 63, the low round of the week.
Woods and Bryant edged ahead of the others Sunday. Bart reached nine under with birdies at Nos. 12 and 15 and parred the tough finishing stretch. Woods three-putted the 10th, but birdied the 13th to get back to nine under and ran off four pars before dropping the winning putt on the home hole.
Vijay Singh shrugged off the near-misses that had plagued him at Bay Hill in tournaments past when he added the newly named Arnold Palmer Invitational to his impressive bag of victories. It was the second win of the season and 31st on the PGA TOUR for the 44-year-old Fijian, his 19th win since turning 40. Just two years earlier, Singh appeared to have victory in hand before putting his approach on the 72nd hole into the watery “Devil’s Bathtub” and lost to Kenny Perry, settling for his third runner-up finish in the tournament which he has never skipped since joining the TOUR.
Singh worked his way steadily up the ladder after opening with 70 and trailing co-leaders Tiger Woods, Vaughn Taylor and Paul Casey by six strokes. Rocco Mediate jumped ahead Friday with 66-65–131, and Singh was still three back when Taylor shot 67 Saturday and led at 202. Vijay surged in front with a front-nine 31 Sunday and virtually clinched matters when he birdied the 12th after a risky shot through a tree. Mediate bounced back from a disastrous 76 Saturday with an early 67 Sunday for 274, which became the runner-up score after Singh bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 and posted his own 67 for 272. Starting the day within range, three-time winner Woods had a rare collapse (76) and tied for 22nd.
Disaster decided the outcome again the very next year. Just when he seemed to have the victory secured, Englishman Greg Owen shockingly three-putted the 71st green from near tap-in range for a double bogey. That brought Rod Pampling back into a tie and Pampling won with his par as Owen bunkered his approach and bogeyed the 72nd hole. It was an unexpected blessing for the 36-year-old Australian, who had carried a four-stroke lead into the final round. Pampling, just the second overseas winner in the tournament’s 28-year history, closed with a 72 and was 14 under par with his 274 total.
Neither player was close the first day, as Bart Bryant and Dean Wilson shot 66s, a stroke in front of Ernie Els, Chad Campbell, Ben Curtis, Lucas Glover and Jason Gore. Pampling entered the picture Friday when he shot 65, the day’s low round, for 135 and, with Robert Allenby, trailed Glover (67-67) by one. Pampling, who had only two previous victories during his 12-year international career, surged into his four-stroke lead Saturday when he birdied two of the last three holes for 67–202. Owen was at 206 with Glover (72) and Darren Clarke, who tied the tournament record with his nine-under-par 63.
Owen took full advantage after Pampling faltered with an out-of-bounds drive at the 13th hole Sunday. Owen went a stroke ahead with his sixth birdie of the day at the 16th and had a two-shot lead when Pampling bogeyed the 17th before Owen missed a 40-inch par putt and, too hastily, a shorter one coming back to give Pampling the new life he needed to grab the victory.
Kenny Perry completed a rare trifecta when he hung on to win a cliff-hanger at the 72nd hole. After enduring the loss of a three-stroke lead on the three previous holes, Perry slipped home a two-shot winner after Vijay Singh hit his seven-iron approach into the water in front of the 18th green. Thus, Perry added victory at Arnold Palmer’s tournament to previous ones at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial and Ben Hogan’s Colonial, all exclusive invitationals, among his eight PGA TOUR titles.
A Thursday morning downpour threw the tournament schedule off kilter for the rest of the week. No one got past the 13th hole before play ended for the day at 10:26 a.m. Half the field got to the 36-hole juncture Friday, the rest just finished their first rounds. By the time everyone had 36 holes in on Saturday, Perry, at 70-68–138, had a one-shot lead over Charles Howell III and Stephen Ames with Singh, Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi another stroke back.
Perry was still in front when the third round was completed Sunday morning. He shot another 68 for 206, three ahead of Singh and four in front of Ames and Choi. After 14 holes of the final round, he still had the three-shot margin, but Singh then birdied the 15th and 16th and Perry bogeyed the 17th off a strong chip to even matters before the decisive 18th, where Singh, going for the victory, saw his perfectly struck seven-iron drop five feet short and bound into the lake. Perry then executed a routine two-putt par for his 70–276 and the two-stroke win over Singh (69) and Graeme McDowell (66).
The Arnold Palmer magic of old rubbed off on Chad Campbell as he mounted a charge in the final round that erased a faltering Stuart Appleby’s husky lead and went on to a resounding six-stroke victory. Campbell was grouped in the first two rounds with tournament host Palmer, famed for come-from-behind victories in his glory days, and impressed him with his contending rounds of 66 and 68.
Tiger Woods’s quest for a PGA TOUR-record fifth consecutive win at Bay Hill came a-cropper. After opening with a solid 67 that put him in a four-way tie, one stroke behind leaders Darren Clarke, Shigeki Maruyama and Campbell, Woods struggled through three over-par rounds and tied for 46th place. Maruyama led after 36 holes at 132, two ahead of Clarke, Campbell and Appleby, who then took a commanding four-stroke lead over Campbell when he shot 68 on a moderately windy Saturday amid four warm, sunny days.
Early in the final round, the tournament clearly became a two-man battle between Appleby and Campbell.
A two-stroke swing at the ninth hole, where Campbell birdied from the trees left of the fairway and Appleby bogeyed from trees on the opposite side, shifted the momentum to the quiet Texan. When Appleby bogeyed again at the 11th and three-putted for another at the 14th, Campbell had the lead for good. Two subsequent birdies and Appleby’s bogey-double bogey finish established the final margin. Campbell shot 66 for an 18-under-par 270 and Appleby, took a 76.
Not even a stomach virus could slow down Tiger Woods’s pursuit of another victory at Bay Hill. Stricken Saturday night on the eve of the final round, Woods never faltered in a constant and often driving rain Sunday as he turned a four-stroke lead into a record 11-shot rout. Visibly ill throughout the round, Tiger punched out a solid 68 for a 19-under-par total of 269, the lowest final score in 11 years at Bay Hill. The widest previous winning margin was Fred Couples’s nine-stroke victory in 1992 by the same score.
Woods never gave the field an opening on the weekend as he played the last 44 holes without a bogey and at 14 under par. He lingered just a stroke off the lead the first day as six players — Stewart Cink, Jonathan Kaye, J.L. Lewis, Jeff Maggert, Aaron Baddeley and Trevor Immelman — opened on top with 69s. Then, he took charge in the rain-delayed second round. Playing seven holes late Friday and 11 early Saturday morning, he shot 65 for 135 and moved three strokes in front. When he followed with a 66 later in the day, he widened the gap to five shots over Brad Faxon with his 201. Stewart Cink was in third place at 208 and four others were eight back at 209.
No one mounted any semblance of a charge at Tiger Sunday. It was more a battle for second place, particularly after Woods reached the green on the par-five fourth hole with his three wood and holed the 12-foot eagle putt to expand his margin to eight strokes. Faxon managed only a 74 and Cink a 72, as they finished in a four-way tie for second place at 280 with Kenny Perry and Kirk Triplett.
It seemed to have become a foregone conclusion that Tiger Woods would win the Bay Hill Invitational. Enjoying the comforts of home, Woods prevailed for the third year in a row, this time stepping away to a four-stroke victory, matching his margin of victory in 2000. Woods emerged from a six-way tie for the first-round lead at 67 to take a commanding four-stroke advantage Friday, then frittered most of it away Saturday before opening up the final gap Sunday with a closing 69 and a 13-under-par 275.
Once again Phil Mickelson was his chief protagonist down the stretch, even though Woods’s 74 Saturday allowed 14 players to get within three strokes of him, Len Mattiace closest at one-back 207. Mickelson, whom he nipped with a sensational birdie at the 72nd hole in 2001, trailed Tiger by just a stroke Sunday before putting his second shot in the water in front of the 16th green from an extremely difficult position in the trees right. With that last threat gone, Woods birdied there and parred in. New Zealand’s Michael Campbell eased into second place with 71–129, a shot ahead of Mickelson, Mattiace, John Huston and Rocco Mediate.
With the victory, Woods became Bay Hill’s first three-time winner and the first player ever to have won three different tournaments (Bay Hill, Memorial and NEC Invitational) three years in a row. As in 2001, it was his first win of the TOUR season and the 30th in the early stages of his sixth full calendar year on the circuit.
Bay Hill was a welcome sight — and site — for Tiger Woods when the PGA TOUR reached Orlando. He hadn’t won yet in 2001, but was back home and playing on the course on which he had scored a solid victory in 2000. Tiger did prevail, joining Loren Roberts as the only back-to-back winners of the Bay Hill Invitational, but only after one of the tournament’s most gripping finishes. Phil Mickelson, the 1997 champion, applied the pressure when his brilliant par save at the 18th for 66–274 meant Woods had to birdie the hole behind him to win. He did just that after a hooking tee shot hit a spectator and stayed in bounds. Tiger followed with a staunch 191-yard five-iron shot from the rough after a drop and ran in the 15-foot putt for his 15th TOUR victory. Nobody else was even close as he joined Roberts and Tom Kite as the tournament’s only two-time champions.
Woods had to play catch-up after opening Thursday with 71 and trailing five players, including Mickelson, by five. He closed the gap to two Friday with 67 as Paul Goydos, the 1996 winner, posted his second 68 and, with 136, led five men by a shot, Woods and five others by two. Tiger then moved in front with a 66 Saturday, his 204 putting him a shot ahead of Sergio Garcia, two in front of Chris Perry, three on top of Vijay Singh, and four ahead of Mickelson and five others. His Sunday 69–273 completed the job.
A sparkling four-stroke victory at Bay Hill was one of the jewels in Tiger Woods’s spectacular season. Woods had things pretty much in hand from the start, took command the second day and was never seriously challenged after that as the Isleworth resident won in his own neighborhood for the first time, although he took his first of three U.S. Junior Amateur Championships at Bay Hill in 1991. It was his third victory of 2000 and his 18th in less than four professional seasons.
Tiger trailed by one shot after the opening round, in which Vijay Singh and Duffy Waldorf mustered 68s. The low scores came in the next round as Woods, Mike Weir and John Huston blasted out 64s, Woods slipping into the lead by one stroke with his 133. Weir was at 134, Steve Flesch (65) at 135 and Huston at 136. A new challenger appeared Saturday as Davis Love III, twice a runner-up at Bay Hill and the third-place finisher in 1999, blazed around in 63 in a round that included two eagles. But it only moved him within two strokes of Tiger, who shot a solid 67 for 200. Weir managed only a par round and dropped six strokes off the pace, but in third place.
For the 13th consecutive time, Woods carried a third-round lead to victory Sunday on a windy afternoon. He birdied the par-five fourth and 12th holes and parred the others for 70 and 270. Love held onto second place, but never challenged, shooting 72 to finish four arrears of the winner. Skip Kendall and two-time champion Loren Roberts had 67s, the day’s best rounds, Kendall placing third at 275 and Roberts tying for fourth at 277 with Neal Lancaster.
Two of Minnesota’s finest — Tim Herron and Tom Lehman — wound up in the tournament’s first playoff in a decade, and Herron prevailed on the second extra hole. Just as was the case when he scored his initial victory in the 1996 Honda Classic. Herron never trailed at the end of any round at Bay Hill. He opened the tournament with a six-under-par 66, heading Bay Hill members Steve Lowery by one and Dicky Pride by two. Davis Love III overtook Herron with 66 of his own Friday as Herron shot 69 and Lehman established his challenge with 69-68–137.
Nothing changed at the top Saturday as Herron and Love fashioned 67s for 202 and Lehman, making his first strong showing since undergoing shoulder surgery the previous November, crept within one stroke with 66. Only Brandel Chamblee (206) was within six strokes of the lead, and Sunday became a three-man shootout.
Love couldn’t make a birdie Sunday and fell out of the lead when he buried his tee shot in the front bunker at the 17th and took his only bogey. Lehman also bogeyed the 17th, then parred the 18th for 71–274. Herron parred in for 274, missing an eight-foot birdie putt at the 18th to bring about the playoff. After both men parred the 18th to start it, Herron wrapped up his third career win with an impressive birdie at the par-five 16th, where he reached the green in two with a five iron while Lehman, in a bunker off the tee, was over the green in three and had to settle for a hard par from 18 feet and the runner-up position.
Ernie Els, who first played at Bay Hill in 1993 after Arnold Palmer, impressed when he played with him in the 1992 PGA Championship, tendered a special invitation, joined the tournament host on the 18th green Sunday evening five years later as the champion. The South African coasted to a 274 total and a four-stroke victory over Jeff Maggert and Bob Estes at the end of a 36-hole Sunday finish. Els did it with a mere 73 in the fourth round after breaking things wide open that morning with a 65 in a high-powered, last-threesome grouping with Tiger Woods and Davis Love III. They were the 36-hole co-leaders at 10-under 134s, two ahead of Els, when the second round was finally completed Saturday after off-and-on heavy rains threw the schedule out of whack for two days.
Woods roared into the first-round lead with a 64, one ahead of Robert Damron, but didn’t get it into the books until Friday as only eight men finished their rounds the first day. Tiger shot 70, Love 66 for the 134s; Els, who had never finished better than 42nd in his five previous Bay Hill starts, had 67-69 for his 136. No one else was closer than 139. A big save early in the Sunday morning round-headed Els toward the 65 while playing partners Woods and Love surprisingly were going the other way, Tiger eventually shooting 73 and Davis 75. At 201, Ernie then had a six-stroke lead over Woods, Estes and Steve Stricker and was never in any danger that afternoon.
The 12th hole, never before a major factor in the victorious marches of the winners, played a key role in Phil Mickelson’s inspired surge to win the 1997 tournament. His eagle at the 570-yard par-five lit the fire that carried Mickelson to the 10th victory of his relatively-brief professional career and his first of the season. It sparked him to a back-nine 30 and a final-round 65, three strokes ahead of runner-up Stuart Appleby with his 16-under-par 272.
The 65 was Mickelson’s second of the week. The first one moved him into contention Friday after his mediocre 72 start had left him five strokes behind leader Paul Stankowski. He was two strokes back of upstart Skip Kendall with the 137 after two rounds and still trailed by two after 54 holes as Omar Uresti, another unheralded player, edged one stroke in front of Mark O’Meara, Tim Herron and Appleby with his 69-67-69–205.
Mickelson wasn’t doing much Sunday until he birdied the 11th hole to get back within two shots of the lead. Then, drawing inspiration from thoughts of host Arnold Palmer’s famous charges, he hit driver-driver at the 12th, putting his second shot on the collar of the bunker-entrenched green. His 50-foot putt dropped and the only eagle of the week on the 12th gave him a two-stroke swing on all of the other contenders, none of whom even birdied the hole. Now 13 under par and in a four-way tie for the lead, Mickelson dropped birdie putts of 15 and 10 feet on the next two holes to take command and his two-putt birdie at the 16th established the final margin.
The 1996 tournament provided an entrance way to the PGA TOUR’s winners’ circle for the fourth time when Paul Goydos scored a one-stroke victory. Goydos, 31, who had struggled for three years just to retain his playing privileges on the circuit, ended the two-year reign at Bay Hill of Loren Roberts, who also broke the victory ice there. Bob Byman, in the 1979 inaugural, and Mike Nicolette, in 1983, were the other first-time winners at Bay Hill.
Goydos was in contention all week as fair weather prevailed, but trailed Patrick Burke and Guy Boros, two other TOUR non-winners, by two strokes with his 208 entering the final round. Goydos shared the first-round lead with Mark O’Meara and Glen Day, shooting his first of three 67s, then fell back with a 74 Friday when Burke and Jeff Maggert went in front with 137s. He moved into a four-way tie for fourth place with the second 67 Saturday with only Burke, Boros, and Maggert in front of him.
All three dropped behind fairly early Sunday and Tom Purtzer became the most serious challenger to the steady Goydos, who didn’t make a bogey over the final 36 holes. He sank a 15-foot par putt at the 15th hole, played the final three conservatively and two-putted the demanding 18th from 50 feet to nip Maggert, who birdied from 15 feet there to edge Purtzer by a shot for the runner-up spot. The third 67 gave Goydos the winning, 13-under-par 275. Maggert and Purtzer closed with 69s.
The tournament had its first back-to-back champion when Loren Roberts, an unheralded winner in 1994, repeated his victory in convincing fashion. He had such a cushion in the final round of the rain-scrambled tournament that, even with bogeys on the last two holes, he won by two strokes with a 16-under-par 272 total.
Roberts stormed in front Friday with 65, matching Mark Brooks’s leading score in the first round. Roberts got in before the first of several storm delays prevented completion of the second round. When everyone had completed the round, the soft spoken 39-year-old, who went on from his 1994 victory at Bay Hill to a runner-up finish in the U.S. Open and by far his best season ever, had a two- stroke lead over Davis Love III with his 133. The field didn’t finish the third round Saturday either, but the 68 Roberts posted Sunday morning maintained his two-shot advantage, then over Brad Faxon. He chipped in for an eagle at the 16th and one-putted for par at the tough finishing hole.
Faxon made an early rush in the final round, catching Roberts at the fifth hole. Roberts regained the lead when Faxon bogeyed the eight and built it to a comfortable three strokes when he sank a 10-foot birdie putt while Faxon was three-putting at the difficult ninth. The only other serious challenge came from Peter Jacobsen, who finished third with 69 for 275. Roberts posted 71 for the win.
A hard-won victory in the 1994 tournament kicked off an outstanding season for Loren Roberts, long a threatening player on the PGA TOUR but never able to snatch the confidence-building win that would elevate him into the upper echelons of the game. The 38-year-old Roberts, in his 11th season on the TOUR, withstood a pressure-laden finish at Bay Hill with tough pars on the last two holes to win by one stroke over Player of the Year Nick Price, Vijay Singh and Fuzzy Zoeller. Loren shot 67 for a 13-under-par 275 total.
Price, fresh from a victory in the Honda Classic, went in front the first day with 66, then slipped one stroke off the pace of Singh, Larry Mize and 1991 Nestle winner Andrew Magee at 137. Roberts was then three strokes back after a 70-70 start. With 68–205, Singh carried a one-shot lead over Price, Magee and Tom Watson, two over Zoeller and Tom Lehman, three over Roberts and Mize into the final round.
First in among the contenders, Roberts missed a birdie at the par-five 16th and two-putted twice from 50 feet on the last two holes for his 67. Zoeller, seemingly headed for his first victory in eight years, hit a wild tee shot into the gallery to the right of the par-three 17th, and the miscue was compounded when the ball bounced off the head of a spectator into the water. He double-bogeyed. That left Singh in command, and he promptly three-putted the 17th and bogeyed again at the 18th when he overshot the green into heavy rough and couldn’t salvage the par.
Ben Crenshaw, chided by host Arnold Palmer for his recent absences from Bay Hill, considered his 1993 presence a command performance, and he made the most of his first appearance since 1988. In a race against darkness at the end of four days of unpleasant weather, Crenshaw eased in with a two-stroke victory over Davis Love III, Rocco Mediate and Vijay Singh.
“Little Ben,” Crenshaw’s venerable putter, helped him sweep away the opposition the last two rounds. The genial Texan required just 50 putts Saturday and Sunday and he one-putted 10 times during his final-round 70. Crenshaw yielded the lead to Love when he took two early bogeys Sunday, but he got those strokes and the lead back by the turn with a pair of birdies and a par from the woods at the eighth hole. He made a brilliant birdie from the rough at the dangerous 11th and was comfortably in the driver’s seat. After one-putting for a last bogey at the 13th, Crenshaw’s only problem then was to finish before dark. The tight squeeze resulted from a late start for television and a 57-minute rain delay. They just made it, Crenshaw with the 70 for a 280 total, the second highest winning score in tournament history, and Love with 71 for his share of second place at 282.
Cold and windy weather plagued the golfers throughout the tournament. Two 67s were the best scores. Rick Fehr, John Cook and Michael Allen led the first day with 69s, then Love slipped ahead Friday with 71-69–140. Crenshaw shot 69 Saturday and carried a one-stroke lead on to victory.
The tournament was an important stop for Fred Couples on his way to the biggest year of his career in 1992. It was the second of the PGA TOUR Player of the Year’s three early-season victories and by far the most decisive as he ran away from the field with a nine-stroke win, then the widest margin in the 14-year history at Bay Hill. He won at Los Angeles in a playoff against Davis Love III and the Masters by two shots during those first four months of 1992.
For all intents and purposes, the issue was settled with Saturday’s third round, in which Couples raced six strokes in front of runner-up Gene Sauers with a nine-under-par 63 and 199. Only Andy Bean in 1981 and Greg Norman in 1984 with 62s posted lower scores and those were registered when the Bay Hill par was 71. An eagle at No. 4 and five birdies coming in highlighted the round as Couples shed all the opposition except Sauers. No one else was closer than 10 strokes.
Fred led from the start, just the third wire-to-wire victory in tournament history. He carved out a 67 on a blustery opening day, a shot ahead of five others, then widened the margin to three strokes over John Huston, Larry Nelson and Mike Harwood with 69 and 136. After the 63 had spread-eagled the field, Couples virtually coasted home on an intermittently-rainy Sunday. Sauers got within four strokes when he birdied the eighth hole, but Couples holed a six-foot par putt and pulled steadily away as Sauers faltered on the back nine. Couples finished with 70–269. Sauers shot 73 for 278.
The tournament was again plagued by wet weather in 1991 and was shortened to 54 holes, as it was in 1986. Andrew Magee didn’t mind as he put a 66 and 203 total on the board before a final rain delay Sunday, and waited out a three-hour postponement and the subsequent finish of the third round by the final two groups before he could claim his second victory on the PGA TOUR. His 13-under-par score was two strokes better than runner-up Tom Sieckmann, one of the delayed finishers.
In fine weather in the early rounds, Mark Calcavecchia and Donnie Hammond led the first day with 66s, then Don Pooley moved in front. Pooley, the 1987 million-dollar ace-maker, had a 66 Friday for 134 to lead Calcavecchia and Sieckmann by a stroke. Magee started with rounds of 68 and 69 and trailed by three after the first 36 holes.
The weather intervened Saturday, a midday delay of more than an hour preventing the final 18 players, the 36-hole frontrunners, from finishing before dark. Just before play was halted, Magee holed birdie putts of six feet at the 14th and 10 feet at the 15th hole. When action resumed early Sunday, Andrew hit the par-five 16th in two shots and eased in a 30-foot eagle putt. He parred the final two testing holes for 66 just before the sodden course became unplayable in the relentless rain with just two groups to finish. They did, as rain fell again, but none could catch the 28-year-old pro, who accepted the winner’s accolades at the 18th green in yet another shower.
Robert Gamez solidified his claim on Rookie-of-the-Year honors with the season’s most sensational and decisive single shot, a scintillating stroke that brought him the 1990 title at Bay Hill. Gamez, who had won at Tucson in his first pro start two months earlier, grabbed the victory when he holed his seven-iron approach from 176 yards for an eagle deuce at Bay Hill’s extremely-difficult 18th hole. It produced a 66–274 and ultimately a one-stroke triumph over Greg Norman. After the Gamez gambit, Norman fell a shot behind and failed to muster a tying birdie on the last two holes. Actually, Larry Mize had the lead by a stroke before Robert’s eagle, but he bunkered his approach at No. 18 and his bogey there put him at 276, alone in third place.
Those three emerged Sunday from a pack of 20 players within five strokes of the lead, held jointly at 207 by Curtis Strange, Scott Hoch and Norman. Midway through the back nine, Gamez, Norman, Mize and Paul Azinger shared the top spot, 1988 winner Azinger later losing his bid when he put his second shot at the remodeled, par-five 16th in the water. With the highest starting round by an ultimate winner in the tournament’s history — 71 — Gamez started the tournament seven strokes behind leader Tom Byrum, whose 64 gave him a three-shot lead on Larry Nelson. Hoch moved into the picture Friday, taking the lead with 68 for 137 as the field bunched up. Bay Hill resident Hoch remained in contention until a bogey at the 14th hole Sunday left the finish in the hands of Norman, Azinger, Mize and the 21-year-old winner-to-be Gamez.
The 1989 tournament played a pivotal role in Tom Kite’s greatest season in which the talented Texan became golf’s all-time leading money-winner and the PGA TOUR’s Player of the Year. Kite launched his drive to the end-of-season honors with his second victory at Bay Hill, becoming the tournament’s first two-time winner. Just as in 1982, the victory came in overtime as Tom defeated Davis Love III with a par-four on the second extra hole. The two finished the regulation distance with six-under-par 278s.
Love, who shared the 36-hole lead at 139 with Mark Calcavecchia and Loren Roberts, went two strokes in front Saturday with 66-205 and Kite moved into second place with 67 for his 207. Tom started fast Sunday and wrestled the lead from Love on the front nine. He retained a one-stroke margin until Davis birdied the 16th. Roberts, whose 66 was the best posted in the miserable cold and wind of the opening round, was the first victim of the 18th Sunday, taking double bogey for 72–280.
That left it in the hands of Kite and Love, the final pairing. Tom put his approach in the water; then Davis failed to close the door, overshooting the green into the deep surrounding rough above the hole. They both made double bogeys and followed with routine pars on the 15th to start the playoff. Both also hit the green at the 16th, but Kite claimed the title when Love left his first putt from 45 feet some eight feet short and missed that one for bogey.
Imagination became reality for Paul Azinger when he scored his fourth PGA TOUR victory in the 1988 tournament. Eight years earlier, when he worked as a counselor for the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at Bay Hill, he dreamed of playing the TOUR and winning there, picturing himself at the last hole with a one-shot lead. The difference in 1988 was that Azinger was in such command at the end that he won by five strokes despite a bogey at the 72nd hole. That gave him his third 66 of the week and his 271 was the third best total in the 10-year history of the event at Bay Hill.
Azinger never trailed, becoming the tournament’s second wire-to-wire winner. His opening 66 was matched by Andrew Magee as 37 players in the field shot 70 or better in perfect weather. Paul’s second 66 was accomplished in more trying conditions as he played through afternoon showers almost as flawlessly and staked a four-stroke lead over Magee (70) and David Frost (70-66). The winds came up Saturday. Azinger plugged to a 73 and clung to a one-stroke lead over Tom Kite, the 1982 winner, who was steady with 69-68-69 for 206.
As often seems to happen at Bay Hill, the final round narrowed to a duel. Azinger led Kite by two at the turn, then Paul parried every thrust by Tom on the back nine. He matched Kite birdies at the 10th, 12th and 13th and got a break when Tom missed a wee par putt after he had bogeyed the 11th. Azinger opened a four-shot lead with his seventh of eight birdies at the 14th as Kite bogeyed. Kite finished with 70 and 276 with Frost and Magee another four shots back in third place.
Payne Stewart proved there’s no place like home in the 1987 tournament. Stewart, a Bay Hill resident and club member for the previous two years, broke a 40-month victory drought as well as the tournament record with his brilliant 264, three strokes ahead of the field. Andy Bean set the old mark of 266 in 1981.
Don Pooley stole a bit of Payne’s thunder that final Sunday when he split $1 million with the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women of Orlando by making a hole-in-one at the par-three 17th.
Several players were in the contending picture early. Brad Faxon, also a Bay Hill member, led the first day with 66, a shot ahead of Frost and Steve Pate, as Stewart opened with 69. South African Frost moved ahead Friday in another of four days of fine weather, shooting 68 for 135 and a one-stroke lead over Stewart (69-67) and Tim Simpson (68-68). Payne shed all of the competitors except Frost Saturday with a 63, third lowest score in Classic history. He had an eagle, eight birdies and two bogeys. Frost shot 65, a score any leader would love, but with 200 dropped a shot behind Stewart. Curtis Strange and Dan Pohl were at 205, nobody else better than 208.
It was all Stewart and Frost Sunday, as both men continued their sterling play. Frost was out in 33, yet fell two shots farther back as Payne fired a 31. They battled head to head to the last hole where, with Frost on the green and trailing by two, Stewart put it away with an unruffled approach and an eight-foot birdie putt for 65 to Frost’s 67.
Heavy weather once again became a major factor at Bay Hill when the 1986 tournament was turned into a 54-hole event and the PGA TOUR made its first-ever 18-hole cut to permit a 36-hole finish Sunday when a Monday extension was ruled out. Dan Forsman, 27, emerged from that Sunday grind with the title, shooting two splendid 67s for an 11-under-par 202 to edge playing partner Ray Floyd and Mike Hulbert by a stroke.
Only 15 men in the starting field of 114 broke par in the opening round Thursday as gusting winds reaching 30 miles per hour at times kept them guessing on club selection. Bob Tway, just getting his outstanding 1986 season revved up, handled the winds best, firing a 66 to take a two-stroke lead over Forsman, Floyd, Dan Pohl and 1982 winner Tom Kite. Rain took over Friday and, despite all efforts, the torrential storms caused cancellation of play that day and Saturday.
His first 67 Sunday morning moved Forsman, a fourth-year man from Provo, Utah, into a two-stroke lead over Floyd, Scott Simpson and Wayne Levi as Tway slipped to 72. Hulbert made his late bid with birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th and parred the 18th for 64, finishing well ahead of Forsman and Floyd, who were matching birdies at the 15th and 16th holes. After Floyd’s chip-in birdie at the 16th, Forsman led him and Hulbert by one, and he preserved the margin for the win with closing pars, making a four-foot second putt on the 18th green to clinch his second PGA TOUR victory.
Long before he had good reason to expect it, Fuzzy Zoeller scored his seventh TOUR victory, winning the 1985 tournament by two strokes with a nine-under-par 275. The victory was a surprise primarily because Zoeller was making only his third start after spending nearly six months recuperating from a serious back operation the previous September.
Only nine players broke par during the warm, windy first round and Zoeller, with 70, was one of them. Morris Hatalsky was the leader at 66, two shots ahead of Mark McCumber. The winds calmed for the rest of the week and the scores dropped noticeably. Paul Azinger led the 37 par-breakers with 65 and the field with 137 after 36 holes. Bill Kratzert had 66 for 138 and Zoeller sat five off the lead after a 72, thanks primarily to a triple bogey when he fired an approach over the 15th green and out of bounds.
Fuzzy made another mistake Saturday with a ball in the water and a double bogey at No. 6, but still moved into a first-place tie with Curtis Strange at 208. He shot 66, Strange 68. Andy Bean, Tom Watson, Larry Nelson and Andrew Magee were just two back.
Zoeller was never seriously challenged Sunday after he broke away from Strange on the front nine. He birdied four of the first seven holes while Curtis was still playing the same stretch in one over par. Watson moved into second place with a birdie at No. 12, but Zoeller maintained his two-shot margin with 11 closing pars for 67 and the final two-stroke edge over Watson.
The 1984 tournament had many similarities to 1982 — a big, final-round rally that put the eventual winner into the tournament’s third straight playoff. In 1984, it was Gary Koch rather than Tom Kite who came from six strokes off the pace in the last round and he didn’t get any help from faltering opponents. Instead, he blazed with a 63 and George Burns needed a 67 to force the overtime.
The weather gods smiled on the tournament as the first day of play produced a log-jammed lead — Hal Sutton, Ray Floyd, Leonard Thompson and Burns sharing it at 67. Friday belonged to Greg Norman. The Australian, who then lived at Bay Hill, tied Andy Bean’s tournament-record 62 (seven birdies and an eagle at No. 6) and vaulted three strokes into the lead over Floyd, Sutton and Burns, who shot 69s for their 136s. However, Greg couldn’t maintain the pace and fell a stroke behind Sutton when Hal shot 67 for 203 Saturday.
Driving problems destroyed Norman, putting woes killed Sutton Sunday and the attention turned to Koch, Burns and Bernhard Langer. Koch, the native Floridian, had started well ahead of the strongest contenders after his rounds of 69, 68 and 72 and put his 63–272 on the board early. Burns made a tough par at No. 18 to get into the playoff.
Both players birdied the playoff 15th hole and Gary made another for the victory off a seven-iron approach to three feet at No. 16. Koch made 10 birdies on the last 20 holes he played.
For high drama, the 1983 tournament had it in abundance. The tournament began with perhaps its strongest field, suffered through three days of unpleasant weather and was climaxed with a pulsating wire-to-wire victory by a then-little-known pro, Mike Nicolette, who grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, a short distance from Latrobe, the birthplace of his idol, Arnold Palmer.
It was cold and windy during the first three rounds and the conditions scoured the field of some of its star entries. Through the ruins stepped the mustachioed Nicolette. He led by two after his 66 the first day, by three after his 72 the second day and his third-round 71 put him six strokes in front of Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman, formidable challengers indeed for the young non-winner, who was grouped with them for the final round.
Four consecutive bogeys on the front nine knocked Ballesteros out of the chase and Nicolette still led Norman by five at the turn. Mike lost two strokes with a birdie/bogey result at No. 14 and another when he bogeyed No. 15. An out-of-bounds iron approach from a fairway trap and a tough double-bogey at No. 16 dropped Nicolette into a tie and the two matched pars at No. 17 and bogeys at No. 18 to force a playoff.
Norman was long with his approach to the big 15th green on the overtime hole, Nicolette just short of the putting surface. He got down in two from three for the win when Greg three-putted.
Bad weather again plagued the tournament in 1982, this time with so much rain and fog, and even a tornado alert, that the winner — Tom Kite — wasn’t crowned until Monday afternoon. Even that was delayed, since Kite went an extra hole with Jack Nicklaus and Denis Watson before winning.
The weather problems began the first day when the start of play was delayed nearly an hour by heavy rain. But, the round was completed with Scott Hoch and Mick Soli shooting 65s for the lead, one in front of Bob Eastwood and Craig Stadler. Nicklaus moved into the picture Friday when morning fog and afternoon thunderstorms prevented half the field from finishing. He (69-67) and Stadler (66-70) led at 136 when play was suspended and Hoch (65-71) joined them when the round was completed Saturday.
Officials planned to complete the tournament with 36 holes Sunday, but another storm cut four hours out of the middle of the day and only the third round was completed. Nicklaus took sole possession of the lead with 67 for 203. At that point, Watson trailed by three and Kite, by six.
Nicklaus’s game went south Monday in fine weather, only birdies at No. 15 and No. 16 keeping him alive at 75–278. Watson shot 72 for his 278 and Kite birdied the 15th and 17th holes for the 69 that forged the three-way tie. The playoff ended quickly at the first hole — No. 15. Nicklaus lipped out a birdie putt, Kite chipped in from 20 feet and Watson missed his salvaging putt from 15 feet.
Andy Bean, who made an early run at the title in 1979, ran away with it in 1981. The powerful Bean, who commuted from his Lakeland home 30 miles down I-4 and had played Bay Hill countless times in his amateur days, staged a record-breaking performance as he rolled to a seven-stroke victory.
In contrast to the previous year, the weather was perfect all four days and Bean took full advantage of it. He shot rounds of 68, 62, 67 and 69, setting a tournament record with 18-under-par 266.
Tom Watson opened the tournament with 64, the third year in a row that the leader had that score the first day — and didn’t win. Also ahead of Bean that Thursday were Rod Nuckolls at 66 and Hubert Green and Mark O’Meara at 67.
Bean and Watson left the rest of the field behind Friday. Andy’s 62 set a course and tournament record, Tom shot 66 and at 130 they were in front by five strokes. Bean made nine birdies, all from short range, and missed three others from inside eight feet. Watson had driving problems Saturday, including a triple bogey at No. 9, and slipped three shots behind Bean, whose 67 gave him a 197 for 54 holes.
Bean put victory out of reach of the others early Sunday when he birdied the first two holes and Watson bogeyed the second, starting toward a 73 that was still good enough for second place at 273. Curtis Strange picked off third place with a closing 67 for 275.
The tournament endured miserable, winter-like weekend weather in its second year when Dave Eichelberger, clad for a day on the ski slopes, found a closing 74 good enough for a three-stroke victory on a Sunday when almost half the field failed to break 80. Eichelberger’s winning score of 279 wasn’t particularly high, primarily because the weather was fine for the first two rounds and he shot two fine scores. He took a back seat to Dan Pohl Thursday. Pohl missed the course record by a shot with his 64, two strokes better than Leonard Thompson. Then Eichelberger added a 66 to his starting 69 for 135 and a one-shot over Pohl at the halfway mark before the weather turned sour.
Steady, cold rains forced suspension of play at mid-afternoon Saturday with 30 players still on the course and Eichelberger and Pohl tied for the lead. The wind-chill factor was down in the teens when they completed the round early Sunday morning. Eichelberger, wearing pantyhose, two pairs of pants and four sweaters, handled it best. He birdied the fearsome, par-three 17th and his 70 gave him a three-shot lead over Thompson when the final round began later in the day.
Eichelberger was never seriously challenged that frigid afternoon and he ended Thompson’s fading hopes when he again birdied the 17th hole. Leonard also shot 74 for 282. Pohl and Jim Colbert tied for third at 288.
Arnold Palmer and his associates breathed new life into Orlando golf when they moved the 13-year-old Florida Citrus Open from Rio Pinar to his Bay Hill Club and its more difficult and attractive 7,103-yard course.
Higher scores resulted overall and the 278s that sent Bob Byman and John Schroeder to a playoff were higher than all except one of the winning scores in the 13 years at Rio Pinar. Byman prevailed with a par on the second (16th) extra hole after both parred the opening (15th) playoff hole.
Andy Bean got away winging on a calm first day with 64, taking a one-stroke lead over Jim Colbert, who had two eagles in the round. Through 11 holes in the second round, Bean had built a six-stroke lead and was 11 under par. But, he took two bogeys on the way in for 69, still good enough to stretch his margin to two strokes, then over Ed Sneed. Enter Byman, who had gained a spot in the field in the Monday qualifier. He shot 70 for 207, which gave him the lead when Bean skied to 76 and 209. In between were Sneed, Schroeder and Rex Caldwell.
Byman birdied three of the first five holes in the final round, then held on as all the challengers except Schroeder fell back. His eventual 71 brought the tie when Schroeder went two over par on the back nine for 70 and his 278. Bean, Bill Rogers and Hale Irwin finished at 279.