Arnold Palmer invitational: Eight-time winner Tiger Woods absent at Bay Hill
This week's Arnold Palmer Invitational marks the final stop on the 'Florida Swing' as the PGA Tour heads to Bay Hill.
Last Updated: 19/03/14 3:47pm
First staged in 1979, the event is one of the more prestigious stops on the calendar and for some players it will be their last competitive outing before next month's Masters at Augusta.
Traditionally that has been the case for Tiger Woods - an eight-time winner at Bay Hill - but the world No 1 will not be present this year as he continues to battle a back injury.
Given his dominant course form the 38-year-old would have started as an overwhelming favourite, regardless of his injury problems.
But an anxious Woods now faces a race against time to be ready for the season's first major, while Arnold Palmer's event is missing its headline star.
"I personally called Arnold to tell him that, sadly, I won't be able to play in his tournament this year," explained Woods. "Unfortunately, my back spasms and the pain haven't subsided.
"I feel badly that I won't be able to play in this great tournament this week."
Another injury casualty this week is Jason Day who is still laid low with the thumb complaint that saw him sit out the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
With two of the big fancies sidelined, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson are now vying for favouritism, although it would seem to open the door for another outsider to make a name for himself.
The likes of Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have seen their stock soar after multiple wins in the past few months, while Russell Henley, Scott Stallings and Kevin Stadler have all obliged as big-price winners this term.
Rose, meanwhile, is one of no fewer than eight Englishmen teeing it up this week with Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, David Lynn, Brian Davis, Greg Owen and amateur Matt Fitzpatrick also competing.
Another Briton who could be worth keeping an eye on is Jamie Donaldson who, having finished as runner-up at Doral last time out, was granted special temporary membership of the PGA Tour and will now be playing Stateside for the remainder of the season.
As usual, Sky Sports will have live coverage of all four days, with the first broadcast beginning at 7pm (SS4 HD) on Thursday