Rory McIlory, Brandt Snedeker, Sam Saunders 1:08 P.M. No. 1 (Thurs.) 8:23 A.M. No. 10 (Fri.)
This will be an emotional week for many at this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard with it being the time the event has been played since the death of the tournament’s namesake last September. The stellar field includes four of the top five in the world and has several featured groups, but one that stands out above the crowd.
While anyone who has ever played on the PGA Tour has some connection to the man affectionately known as “The King,” there is none more so than Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders.
Saunders has conditional status on the PGA Tour, but this week he gets to play in the tournament for the eighth time and will be in the marquee pairing alongside Rory McIlroy and Brandt Snedeker. It is not standard operating procedure for a sponsor’s exemption to land in a TV pairing, but this is not an ordinary week.
“It’s very personal. It means a lot to me to make it a great event,” Saunders said on PGATour.com. “I want it to be one of the strongest events on the PGA TOUR this year and for many, many years to come, and that is going to take an effort on everyone’s part without my grandfather being around in person.”
McIlroy took last week’s Valspar Championship off after a tie for seventh at the WGC Mexico Championship. He returned to action in Mexico after missing six weeks when he aggravated a rib injury at the European Tour’s SA Open in January.
“It’s going to be different,” McIlroy told the AP. “But I don’t think that should be a sad thing, necessarily. You look at the grandstands on 18 and you see all the colorful umbrellas and there’s so much around here that reminds us of him, so, it will be different. … It should be a celebration of what has been a great life.”
Golf Channel has live coverage Thursday and Friday and early coverage on the weekend. NBC has live coverage on Saturday and Sunday. PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com will have coverage all four days.