They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Whether or not you believe that old saw, absence is what the golf world will ponder this week as the PGA Tour arrives in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the first staged without Arnold Palmer, a legend who was not just the tournament’s host but the game’s heartbeat.
Conspicuous, too, by his absence from the field at Bay Hill will be Tiger Woods, sidelined still by a balky back that appears increasingly likely to put a premature end to one of golf’s greatest careers. And although an early-spring schedule replete with consequential events leading into The Masters means players such as Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have opted to skip Bay Hill, their failure to show up to pay homage to Arnie figures to be a talking point – perhaps unfairly so.
Despite all those missing in action, golf is no Chuck Norris movie. A pair of young talents, Adam Hadwin and Patrick Cantlay, asserted their presence on Sunday with a stirring duel at the Valspar Championship along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Hadwin, a 29-year-old Canadian who burst to prominence by shooting 59 at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, prevailed by a stroke ahead of Cantlay, a 24-year-old Californian who as an amateur once shot 60 in a PGA Tour event but has more recently endured injury and personal tragedy.
And across the globe in New Delhi, SSP Chawrasia won his national championship, the Hero Indian Open, for the second consecutive year. Chawrasia, 38, now has won four European Tour titles in India, making him a most formidable presence on his native turf.