Thumbs up to Rory McIlroy.
Same to Jason Day.
And Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson and every player who committed to playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week.
You all get a special Arnie-style thumbs up for honoring Palmer’s presence at Bay Hill, the first time his course hosts his event since the King died in September. Those of you who rearranged your plans to make sure you were there, you are especially appreciated, because the PGA Tour schedule has never been more challenging for Palmer’s event in the run up to the Masters.
It’s tempting here to say “shame on you” to the top players who are skipping this week.
It’s especially tempting to rant against any player who isn’t at Bay Hill this week because he doesn’t like the golf course. Apparently, that’s one reason only five of the top 10 players in the world rankings and 14 of the top 25 are playing.
“There are some people who do not like that course, and they are absolutely not disrespecting Arnie,” said Ian Poulter, who is in the field this week.
Sorry, but there is disrespect in not enduring the inconvenience of a course that doesn’t suit your eye for just this one special week.
Robert Damron was right in his analysis Monday on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. You hear players say how much they have to thank Palmer for all the time, but . . .
“They are not backing it up by showing up,” Damron said.
He was also right about what the field list always meant to Palmer.
“He took it personally when guys didn’t show up,” Damron said.
This is all true, but it’s also true that some top players are skipping because the Masters is three weeks away, and they’ve faced hard choices mapping the best way to prepare to win a jewel in golf’s Holy Grail.
Here’s another hard truth: The Masters is the Masters, and it trumps everything.
It’s a precious chance that affects every week leading up to the Masters.
So it’s best to go “thumbs up” to those player at Bay Hill this week, instead of “thumbs down” to those who aren’t.
It’s best to focus this week’s celebration on all things Palmer, and worry about the depth of the field list down the road, because if you care about Palmer’s legacy, there are real worries about this event’s future and where it falls on the schedule.
If the API’s timing is incovenient for some this year, the first year of Palmer’s absence, with the event squeezed between two World Golf Championships before the Masters, what’s going to happen in the future? What help does Arnold Palmer’s event need from the PGA Tour after all the help he’s given to the PGA Tour?
Let’s hope we’re giving the PGA Tour a “thumbs up” sometime soon for helping secure this event’s future as a lasting celebration of all things Palmer.