Is the 'Palmer' a good idea?

Originally Published: March 15, 2006
ESPN.com/Golf Digest

Who's playing the Palmer this year? Who's going to win the Palmer? Did you catch the final round of the Palmer yesterday?

Hmmm … has a pretty nice ring to it.

In case you haven't heard, the Bay Hill Invitational, which has been Arnold Palmer's event for so long, takes on his name next year, too; the event will officially be renamed the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Is it a wise move by the PGA Tour? Should other former players have their own event? Our experts opine in this edition of Fact or Fiction.

Palmer
Palmer

• The PGA Tour made a smart move in renaming Bay Hill the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. This was a no-brainer, and you could argue it should have been done sooner. Palmer is one of the game's all-time icons, one of its most popular players. If ever a tournament should be named for a player, this is it. And there is precedence. Byron Nelson's name went on to the Dallas event in 1968, when he was just 56 years old.

Brian Wacker, assistant editor, GolfDigest.com: FACT. Well, it certainly won't hurt naming this tournament after the king. And as long as Palmer is associated with this event at his home club, you can bank on it continuing to draw one of the better fields in golf. Of course, if Tiger Woods, who won four in a row at Bay Hill from 2000 to 2003, keeps winning, Arnie might have to change its name to the Tiger Woods Invitational.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT. There is perhaps no name in the game of golf that has as much equity as Palmer's. The man is an instinctual genius at promoting the game, and his name should always be associated with it.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FACT. Want to promote the sport's history and take advantage of the game's most popular figure ever? Then slap his name on this tournament. Anytime the tour can align itself with Palmer, it gets an A-plus for marketing and sense of history.

Nicklaus
Nicklaus

• More events should be named after the game's great players.

Sobel: FACT. Could the Memorial (or even the Honda) someday become the Jack Nicklaus Classic? Could a Greensboro event be known as the Sam Snead Open? Yes and yes. But let's hope the tour doesn't cross the line and name, say, the Deutsche Bank Championship, of which Woods is unofficial host, after him while still a full-time member of the tour. We could see this trend getting out of hand in a hurry.

Harig: FICTION. Both Nelson and Palmer have been the face of their tournaments and have been heavily involved in promoting and nurturing them. That should be the minimum requirement for a tournament to be named after a player. There is no tournament named for Ben Hogan or Snead, for example. Even the Masters is not named after Bobby Jones. Nicklaus would be the next logical choice, as he has been involved with the Memorial Tournament since its inception in 1976. Unless he objects to it, the Memorial might also undergo a name change.

Sirak: FACT. As long as we don't get carried away. I can see a tournament named after Snead or Hogan, but I draw the line at Herman Kaiser.

Wacker: FICTION. We already have events named after Nelson and now Palmer -- not to mention an entire tour named after the Golden Bear. Time will tell if Nicklaus adds to that by stamping his name on the Memorial or Honda Classic. That begs the following question: Who's left? Sure, there's Gary Player and Snead and Hogan (remember the Ben Hogan Tour?) and Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, but it helps when the tournament host is actually still alive, and in most instances, that's simply not the case. What's next? The Vijay Singh Malaysian Open?

Garcia
Garcia

• Pick to win -- Bay Hill Invitational.

Wacker: SERGIO GARCIA. His putting is still a problem, but Garcia has a solid track record at Bay Hill -- he tied for eighth there last year, ninth in 2002 and fourth in 2001. Length and accuracy, plus course knowledge, are what's needed at Bay Hill, and Sergio has both. I expect him to hit it close enough on his approach shots that putting won't be a problem this week and for Garcia to pick up his first win since last year's Booz Allen Classic.

Harig: STUART APPLEBY. He lives nearby, he has contended at Bay Hill before and it's about time he won a tournament other than the Mercedes Championships.

Sirak: CAMILO VILLEGAS. The kid is going to win at some point this year, and he seems to play well every other week. He hits Bay Hill right in cycle. I want to know what Arnold thinks of his belts.

Sobel: SAM SAUNDERS. OK, a guy can dream for a storybook finish, right? Palmer's 18-year-old grandson, who recently won the Bay Hill club championship by 17 strokes, won't win, but it'll be fun to root for him anyway.

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