Trick shots and a packed house — the party is officially back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational


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ORLANDO — Fans who are attending the Arnold Palmer Invitational this weekend in Orlando will quickly notice something as they make their way around the beautiful grounds — the party is back at Bay Hill.

Last year Arnie’s legendary tournament allowed just a limited number of fans as we continued to do our best to get through a global pandemic.

This year, however, it’s back to a full house with huge grandstands around the par-3 17 and iconic par-4 18th, giving the tournament the feel of being one of the special tournaments of the year.

But it’s not all so serious stuff. Mastercard, the longtime title sponsor, has made sure fans have fun while at Bay Hill and nothing shows that more than the trick shot station that sits just past the 18th tee. This week some big-name Instagram influencers — Coach Rusty, Tisha Alyn, and Tania Tare — put on a show for fans on Wednesday and Justin Rose surprised a young fan by showing up and hitting some shots with him. Fans will be able to try it out for themselves all weekend long.

That sense of fun is something that isn’t lost on the pros who are playing this week. Max Homa told Golfweek the night before the tournament that it’s important for the game to try new things and highlight the many different ways fans are consuming different forms of golf content on social media.

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“Professional golf is an entertainment product,” Homa said. “The competition matters, of course, to us but to everybody else they just want to be entertained. Some people probably care who wins, some people more than others, but every single person watching wants to be entertained. Trick shots are entertaining, long drive stuff is entertaining. That’s the point of why we are here and it’s also why you have Coach Rusty or Tania coming out and hitting trick shots — it’s to put on a show and give people something to look at.”

Rose agreed with Homa and said he knows Arnold Palmer would have loved to see all sorts of people having some fun with some trick shots at his tournament.

“He had a spirit and a playfulness about him and I always thought that was cool,” Rose said of Palmer. “Whether it would be having a beer with the boys in the bar or putting his arm around a young kid and giving him some encouragement, it just felt like he appealed to a massive cross-section.”

Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s Chief Marketing Officer, said having a good time at Bay Hill is always one of his company’s top priorities.

“I think golf, particularly, is not perceived to be as energetic and involving as, for example, football. (Golf is) understated and subtle and stuff like that but that’s old-school thinking.” said Rajamannar, who added Mastercard will be helping fans with other things like contactless payments at concession stands and souvenir shops around the course.

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“We want to bring new energy to this tournament. Here, generally, this occasion is to celebrate all of us getting together after two years of a pandemic, we have a strong field, and we’re helping the community. And we want to have fun and that’s why we have all of these things going on, like the trick shot station. We don’t need to have that serious, concentrated look here. We just want to have fun.”

It should be a fun weekend on the course with a ton of big names playing well.

Homa is one of those guys and he was quick to notice how great the scenes look around the 17th and 18th holes.

“The finish of this golf course – the amphitheater feels big, which it should because again, the name that’s attached to this tournament is a big deal, the title sponsor is a big deal, and the golf course is hard and it’s a big deal. And add Tiger Woods has made a lot of amazing shots and highlights at this golf course so it should feel like a big event.”

Rose agreed.

“The PGA Tour has elevated this event to being one of the top 3 or 4 most special events on the PGA Tour schedule and I think it has a rightful spot there,” he said. “There’s something about this golf course and this venue that creates a little bit of drama.”

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