Tidbits From Bay Hill, Pre-Tourney Edition
By Stephanie Wei under Behind the Scenes

Arnie: Still The King

Just another friendly reminder that these posts will no longer be accompanied with pictures because of PGA Tour media regulations. Sucks, I know. My apologies. I’m looking into a solution, but it’s not going to be overnight. Good new is, I collected some interesting tidbits from inside the ropes on Tuesday and Wednesday (along with following Matteo Manassero and Edoardo Molinari play four holes during a practice round on Monday).

*Arnold Palmer is still The King. The interview room was packed with eager members of the media to pick The King’s brain. It’s always enjoyable just to listen to his thoughts. Sometimes he can’t hear the full question, but he’ll still give a great answer. There were definitely more people at Arnie’s presser than there were at Tiger’s. Surprised? I’m not (even though Tiger gave a splendid one yesterday).

*Henrik Stenson, aka “The Stense,” gave his usual looper Fanny Sunesson a week off from hauling his bag this week.

As you may know, The Stense keeps a driver in his bag, but rarely puts it in play. Why? Because, well, it ends up in the no-fly zone and he kills his 3-wood, anyway. I noticed there were two drivers in the bag on Wednesday afternoon. I asked if he planned to play with it since I’d heard it often goes sideways.

The Stense, who has an unbelievably hilarious dry humor, replied, “Oh no, I’m hitting driver now. I’m ripping it.”

So, it’s going — what, like 400 yards?

“No, it’s a soft 390,” he deadpanned. “I’ve been a bit low on confidence and struggling so I haven’t hit much drivers. I’m working my way back and it’s getting better. That (3-wood) goes like a standard driver when I hit it good. A lot of times there is no point to try to hit it any further.

“Certain courses, I mean that is why I said Sawgrass suits me so well. A lot of other guys if they hit driver they might be a little too far and hit into some of the trouble and 3-wood is not long enough. My 3-wood puts it in the right spot a lot of times.”

The Stense might hit driver on a few holes at Bay Hill this week or “whenever there is the right hole and a lot to gain.”

He said, “16 is a big advantage (to hit driver). 12 is another one, but again it is a narrow angle to hit the fairway. If you clear the right-hand bunker, then you might get a little kick and go in the left (fairway) bunker.  It all kind of depends on pins, what you are trying to achieve.”

*As you may remember, Henrik interviewed himself recently. How did that come about?

“It was the guys at European Tour Weekly,” The Stense explained. “We did some stuff in Arizona before, shooting hoops at the Wildcats stadium there. And now we wanted to do something else.

“The first thought was to do it in the car. I was going to drive and have myself in the backseat answering questions. We didn’t want to take the risk of crashing the car with me in the back seat, so let’s just do it at the table.”

I asked him on Wednesday afternoon, “What would you ask yourself and how would you answer it right now?”

The Stense paused for a moment and then said, “Are you ready to let out those reins and get going? Like we are reaching in the home stretch now, we better start putting some pace on. At the races, time to let the speed up a little bit and get it going again.”

The response?

With a big smile, Henrik barked, “Yes sir!”

*Steve Marino won a big event last Sunday. “A major,” joked his caddie GW Cable. Marino and GW won the member-guest tournament at Medalist Golf Club, beating Robert Allenby and Robert Floyd (Ray’s son).

*Dustin Johnson, who recently moved to Jupiter, Florida, has a sweet new toy — a boat. “It’s sick,” said Marino, who lives nearby in Tequesta, Florida. “That thing is so fast.”

*Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton feels great about his game. “I just tee it up and try to win and if it’s good, I’m there,” said Compton on Wednesday. “That’s a hard thing to say to people. I go to these Nationwide events like I did the last two weeks and I played pretty good. I should have won, but other than that, it was good.”

Asked for his opinion on the proposed changes for Q-School and Nationwide Tour members to earn their PGA Tour card, Compton said, “These guys are talking for hours on end about categories — what’s this going to put this. I don’t have time for that.”

*When Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey tees it up on Thursday, it’ll be the first time he sees the course. “Sometimes it is good to not see the course, sometimes it is bad,” he said. “This course is known for being so tough and you know it would help to get a look at it but if I don’t this afternoon I’m not going to worry about it. I trust my caddie with his information. A lot of caddies have told me the trouble is in front and that nothing is hidden.”

Two Gloves didn’t play any practice rounds and limited his time at the range because he’s been nursing an injury. The week before the Honda Classic he endured a cartilage rib injury. Despite the pain, he’s played the last three tournaments.

“I guess (the injury) could be caused by the wear and tear from traveling and playing so much,” said Gainey. “Last week I plugged it in the bunker and I could hardly get out of bed. I’m not making excuses, everyone out here has to play through pain.”

Doctors have cleared him to play as long as he can handle the pain. He’s been prescribed “heat, stem and ice,” along with “deep tissue massage and rest.”

But it doesn’t seem like he’s doing a good job on the rest part.

*Between Doral, the Tavistock Cup and the Transitions Championship, Justin Rose played 11 tournament rounds in a row (if you count the pro-am at Innisbrook). A friend of Rose’s said half-jokingly, “Justin needs another week in the Bahamas.”

*Kevin Streelman, who placed T7 here last year, is looking for another top-ten finish at Bay Hill. “Coming in (down the stretch) is fun,” said Streels. “You know 16 par five is a little more exciting for everybody, and seventeen you gotta hit a great shot and eighteen if you hit a good tee shot you got a decent chance at birdie I mean you shouldn’t have more than a seven or eight iron.”

*The greens at Bay Hill are playing really, really firm. At one point on Monday, Edoardo Molinari said the greens felt “bouncy.” Which means they’re not as receptive to spin and feel a bit hollow.

*Johnson Wagner said on Tuesday that the greens were already fast and firm. We were chatting by the putting green late in the afternoon and he gestured at the maintenance crew working on the practice green. “It’s nice seeing them out here on a Tuesday concerned about how firm the
greens are and watering them,” said Wagner. “They are gonna get brick hard by the weekend.

“You got to play all around pretty solid, you got to drive it nice, the roughs up, coming into these greens you want to leave it in the right spots, so your iron game has to be spot-on. Greens are undulated and fast, so I think you have to have the whole package this week.”


Alright, I’m going to get ready to watch arguably the three best athletes on Tour,  Tiger, Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson.

(AP Photo/John Raoux)