Tiger’s dominance at Bay Hill highlighted a special relationship

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Born nearly a half-century apart, raised on opposite ends of the country, and products of different cultural backgrounds, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods shared a common thread – their love of golf and brilliance at it – that made them a perfect pair.

Their friendship began in 1991 and reached a zenith a decade ago after Tiger captured his eighth Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Tiger celebrated by sharing a deep and robust laugh with the host, clutching the trophy but holding his friendship with Arnold even tighter.

Arnold meant everything to golf. … Everyone got hooked on the game of golf via TV because of Arnold. You finally had someone who had this charisma and they’re capturing it on TV for the very first time.

Tiger Woods to USA Today


Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge is one of three courses where Tiger won a TOUR-record eight times. But the others – Torrey Pines and Firestone – weren’t the beloved home of a legend whom Woods so deeply admired.

It was at Bay Hill, fittingly, where Tiger also started another of his amazing accomplishments. He’s been winning at Bay Hill since he was 15.

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Tiger’s eight wins in the Arnold Palmer presented by Mastercard ranged from the dominant to the dramatic. His combined winning margin at the event was 29 shots, an average of 3.6 per victory. That doesn’t tell the whole story, however.

An 11-shot victory in 2003 – his fourth consecutive win at Bay Hill – showed his ability to separate himself from his peers. The three wins that necessitated birdie putts on the 72nd hole illustrated his flair for the dramatic, a trait he shared with the tournament host.

In case Tiger’s electric celebration after winning at Bay Hill in 2008 (shown above) looks familiar, it’s because the tournament’s namesake celebrated in a similar fashion after shooting a final-round 65 to win the U.S. Open nearly a half-century earlier.

Hat’s off, indeed.


No two men have had a bigger impact on the TOUR, drawing fans from across the spectrum. “(Arnold's) charisma, … his personality in conjunction with TV, it was just the perfect symbiotic growth,” Tiger told USA Today. And Tiger was a star for the Internet age. Technology extended his reach across the globe, serving as a catalyst for the game’s worldwide growth.


There aren’t many accomplishments on the golf course that Tiger is envious of today. But when he arrived at Bay Hill for the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur, he saw a select group that got to meet the club’s famous owner.

“He was handing out some medals to guys that have played in three Juniors and there are only a handful of guys that had done that,” Tiger recalled to reporters a few years ago. “(Arnold) was giving those guys medals and I said, ‘I’d like to one day play in as many Juniors as that.’”


Tiger didn’t just play in three U.S. Juniors. His win in the 1991 U.S. Junior at Bay Hill was the first of six consecutive U.S. Golf Association championships from 1991-96.

He turned professional after winning the 1996 U.S. Amateur, and as Arnold had done decades earlier, decided Orlando, Florida, would be a good place to call home.

Arnold first laid eyes upon Bay Hill a decade before Tiger was born. The course was still new and in a largely undeveloped part of central Florida. But Arnold fell in love immediately, telling his wife Winnie, “I’ve just played the best golf course in Florida, and I want to own it.”

The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard debuted at Bay Hill in 1979. “This indeed was a way I could give something valuable back to the PGA TOUR,” he said.



The course featured a final hole that was fitting for the man who famously declared, “You must play boldly to win.” Winners at Bay Hill must hit a daring approach over water before they can call themselves a champion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.

The friendship between Tiger and Arnold continued with a dinner while the former was at Stanford. “He wanted to pick my brain about a range of … topics, including the pros and cons of turning professional,” Arnold explained. “I was delighted to oblige.”

Arnold graciously picked up the tab but the NCAA ruled that a violation of its rules. Tiger was required to reimburse his $25 meal, and that check became the source of great laughs between the two over the years.

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A casual round in 1997 at nearby Isleworth gave Tiger a glimpse into the competitiveness that made Arnold a 62-time winner on TOUR. Tiger closed out Palmer, then 67, on the 17th hole.

After handing Tiger $100, Arnold demanded a press on the final hole. “I was standing next to Tiger and he was really enjoying watching Arnold grinding it out,” a member of the foursome later relayed. “He said to me, ‘Arnold never gives up, does he?’”

Tiger’s winning ways at Bay Hill began during his most dominant years. His first win at Arnie’s Place came in 2000. It was his 11th victory in his last 18 starts worldwide. He went on to win three majors that year.

He defended his title in 2001, putting an end to ‘slump’ talk as he prepared to complete the Tiger Slam. A 5-iron into the final green set up birdie and a fist pump after he completed his one-shot win (pictured). From Bay Hill, Tiger went on to win THE PLAYERS and then his second Masters, his fourth straight major triumph.


Tiger won at Bay Hill in 2002 and 2003, as well, to become the first TOUR player to win the same tournament in four consecutive seasons since Gene Sarazen seven decades earlier. Tiger won the last of those by 11 shots despite suffering from food poisoning in the final round. “What can you say?” Arnold asked rhetorically.


It wasn’t the last time Tiger left them speechless at Bay Hill. His next two titles at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard came in consecutive years after he sank snaking birdie putts on the 18th hole to win by one.

Tiger was illuminated by flashbulbs after sinking the winning putt in 2009. Daylight was fading, making his intimate knowledge of Bay Hill’s 18th green invaluable.

His next two victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came again in consecutive years. His 2012 win was his first on TOUR in 2 ½ years. “It does feel good,” Woods said. “It feels really good.” His win in 2013 returned him to No. 1 in the world and tied Sam Snead’s mark, set in 1965, for most wins in a single tournament.

Legendary company is kept at Bay Hill, and performing in front of Arnold Palmer only adds to the thrill of victory. Tiger knows that best.

WRITER: Sean Martin, Jim McCabe

PRODUCER: Alistair Cameron


VIDEO EDITORS: Jason Boddy, Jack Morel

PHOTO EDITOR: Keyur Khamar

PHOTOGRAPHY: Associated Press, Getty Images, Bay Hill Club & Lodge, USGA