Every week GOLF senior writer Michael Bamberger identifies — and ranks — the absolute, undeniably, very best* things in golf right now. This week, he’s straight outta Bay Hill. (*or at least mildly interesting)
7. The Italian Detective
Someday, you will Google the phrase “The Italian Detective,” and a photo of Francisco Molinari, preferably in black-and-white and taken in a narrow alleyway, will appear after clicking on Images. He’s an amazing person and golfer (so modest) and no winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been less like Arnold, although he was an amazing person and golfer, too. Molinari’s English is perfect and his Italian of course is better. Then there’s his Spanish, the language he speaks with his Spanish caddie, Pello Iguarán. It’s close to fluent, “95 percent,” Iguarán said on Sunday. Those two Continentals are on an epic road trip. Since May, they have won in England, Washington, D.C., Scotland and now Orlando. Plus Paris. Too bad Arnold’s estate already sold his jet. But the Italian Detective will surely drive to his next stop. Yep, here it comes, TPC!
6. Best Seat in the House
The Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation has a new and much more appropriate name, the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation. They had two daughters, Peg and Amy, and Amy – mother of Sam Saunders – lives on the 18th hole at Bay Hill. When Molinari made that 40-foot bomb on 18 on Sunday, two of Arnold’s oldest buddies were in Amy’s backyard, watching in the shade – Dow Finsterwald, the 1958 PGA Champion, and Doc Giffin, who went to work for Arnold as his aide-de-camp in ’66. Dow was hitting balls at the Orlando Country Club on Saturday, because the range at Bay Hill was closed even to members, what with the tournament going on and all. Doc flew from Latrobe, Pa., to Orlando on Spirit, and now he’ll head home, back to winter. The molds that made them are surely broken. They won’t be at TPC.
5. The Doc Giffin Press Tent
The press tent here is an actual tent, with a Har-Tru tennis court underneath it. It is named, appropriately, for Doc. The actual name is the Doc Giffin Media Center. A better name would be the Doc Giffin Press Tent. The Sunday-night pizza was better than most, better than most. You’ll hear that phrase, in the coming days, as it is on an endless loop, at TPC. They pump play-by-play greatest hits out of the shrubs there.
4. Lucas Glover, Polymath
Lucas Glover (T10), who has the best grip on Tour – it’s half a knuckle strong – came out of the scorer’s room on Sunday with a fresh copy of the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in hand. “You can do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle?” an onlooker said. “Oh, yeah,” Lucas said, smiling broadly. “Isn’t the Sunday puzzle impossible?” he was asked. “Saturday’s harder.” This week, at TPC, Lucas is staying in a hotel near the course, and he’ll do crossword puzzles at night, while others are sharpening their minds via “Shark Tank.”
3. Florida Swingers, an Update
You may recall that GOLF is offering a special prize to the Low Florida Swinger. You have to play the regulation 288 holes of this four-week Florida swing, and be at least 18 years of age, to enter. (Playoff holes are not counted.) Through Week II (Honda and Bay Hill), here are your top-three contenders: Keith Mitchell, at 551; Lucas Glover, at 554, and Rickie Fowler, at 559. And here’s the best news: all three are still in this thing because all three are playing this week at TPC!
When T.I.D. did some post-round Sunday interviews, his victory still a couple hours away, there was a replica Claret Jug on a pedestal nearby. He of course has the real one, but he’ll have to give it back to the R&A, come July. Henrik Stenson, who won the Open in 2016, knows this whole routine well. So does his current caddie, Fanny Suneson, who won two Opens with Nick Faldo. The pendant on her necklace on Sunday was the most charming little Claret Jug you could imagine. A longish list of former British Open winners – including Stenson, Molinari, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy – are expected to be in action this week at TPC.
1. Goodbye, Daylight Savings Time
The Arnold Palmer Invitational ended in a whimper – who was second? – but with plenty of light, as Sunday marked the first day of this new golf year played on so-called standard time. You know what that means — nine holes or the range after work. I’ll be getting to one of my favorite ranges this week, scruffy and authentic and located on the outskirts of Ponte Vedra Beach. It’s the (very) public Palm Valley Golf Club and I once saw Andy North hitting balls there, after a longish day of work at TPC!
Michael Bamberger may be reached at Michael_Bamberger@golf.com.