The first 40: The Arnold Palmer Invitational

The Arnold Palmer Invitational­—or the Bay Hill Citrus Classic as it was known at the time—first landed on Arnold Palmer’s famous golf club 40 years ago, in 1979. It hardly seems possible that four decades can have passed since then, but time flies when you’re enjoying one of the PGA Tour’s greatest annual traditions. We let the pictures tell the story

The program from the inaugural Bay Hill Citrus Classic. The tournament name has been through a few name changes since then but home has remained Bay Hill. (Program cover courtesy of Alastair Johnston).
Jack Nicklaus just missed the putt that would have won the title in 1982. He lost to Tom Kite and victory at Bay Hill would always elude the Golden Bear.
Playing in 1981, Palmer looks to be willing his tee shot over to the left, just a bit…
In the second round in 1984 Greg Norman matched the Bay Hill course record of 62. The first to score 62 was Andy Bean in 1981 and the next do to it would be Adam Scott, 30 years after Norman.
Always a haven for wildlife, Bay Hill welcomes a rare osprey to the final round in 2004.
Palmer congratulates Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy after Mickelson won what was called the Bay Hill Invitational, in 1997. At the time it was Mickelson’s 10th PGA Tour title.
Palmer with NBA legend Michael Jordan—a devoted golfer—in 1999.
Palmer enthusiastically demonstrates his swordmanship to Ernie Els with the tournament’s Trophy Sword after the South African won in 1998. The sword was replaced with a sterling silver trophy in 2007 (probably safer…)
Tiger Woods hits his approach to the 8th hole during the final round in 2003. Woods would win his fourth consecutive title at Bay Hill by a record margin of 11 shots that year.
Woods poses for the cameras at the end of the day, unaware that he was only halfway to his career record of eight Arnold Palmer Invitational titles.
A fan admires the fruits of autograph hunting at the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Palmer would regularly remind his fellow pros of the importance of making time for their fans).
Palmer takes in the gallery at the 18th green in 2007.
The 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational was the first since the loss of Palmer in September 2016, when Rickie Fowler’s shoes were decorated in tribute to his great friend. He would later auction the shoes for $25,000 in support of the Arnie’s Army Charities.
In 2017, Marc Leishman became the first champ at Bay Hill to don the Arnie’s Army cardigan. Tournament hosts Graeme McDowell and Sam Saunders helped Leishman into golf’s most famous knitwear.
Rory McIlroy will be the defending champ at Bay Hill for the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, March 7-10.

Arnold Palmer Invitational