Harrington Leads The World To Bay Hill


British Open and PGA Championship winner commits to play in 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard

Padraig Harrington, the 2008 PGA Tour Player of the Year, made his commitment Wednesday to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

When the dates were moved forward two weeks to March 23-29, Tournament Director Scott Wellington predicted a stronger field of international players for the 31st annual event at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

"I was delighted when I saw that the Arnold Palmer Invitational was two weeks before the Masters, because it fits my schedule perfectly. I have played the tournament only twice, early in my career, but I look forward to returning," said Harrington, the 37-year-old Irishman who won last year's British Open and PGA Championship.

"The admiration which the players have for Arnold Palmer and the character of the golf course make the tournament one of the most respected on the PGA Tour. I look forward to playing Bay Hill, which offers a tough challenge with an exciting finish – the 16th, 17th and 18th holes make up one of the toughest finishes in golf."

Harrington, currently No. 3 on the World Ranking, is the highest-ranked player who has not competed in the tournament in recent years. He tied for 50th at Bay Hill in 1998 and missed the cut in 2000. His commitment opens the possibility that the Arnold Palmer Invitational could feature all the top-10 players in the world. The other nine have competed at Bay Hill regularly or at least as recently as 2007 or 2008.

"Padraig obviously has been on our wish list," Wellington said. "We have always had one of the best fields of players in the world, including most of the highest-ranked players. But this year we should have more players who have not previously included us on their schedules, and we hope to get several more highly-ranked players."

Harrington has 17 career victories worldwide, including five on the PGA Tour. He won the Honda Classic and Barclays Classic in America in 2005, and claimed the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie for his first major championship and the first by an Irishman in 60 years.

Last year Harrington repeated in the British Open at Royal Birkdale then won the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. He was the first European to win back-to-back major titles, the first European since James Braid in 1906 to win consecutive British Opens, and the first European since Tommy Armour in 1930 to win the PGA Championship.

His first victory was in the 1996 Spanish Open. He has been among the top three European money leaders for seven of the last eight years and won the Order of Merit in 2006.

For tickets or more information on the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, log on to the tournament web site, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com or call the Bay Hill ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.