In an emotional atmosphere at Bay Hill, the first Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament since The King passed away last September, officially got underway on Thursday.
FRIDAY'S QUESTION OF THE DAY: If you could emulate Arnold Palmer one way in your own life, how would you do it? pic.twitter.com/mPPdTQhvz6
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They took somewhat different routes to the top of the leaderboard, but Emiliano Grillo and Matthew Fitzpatrick lead after Round 1 by one shot at 5-under.
Grillo had peculiar start to the day. He bogeyed holes No.3 and No. 4, but went on a flurry, birdying four of the next five holes, capping off No. 9 with a 50-foot putt. Grillo birdied three more holes on the back nine, including another impressive 40-footer on the seventeenth.
Fitzpatrick was all-around steady the whole day. He racked up three birdies on the front nine and two more late on the back nine, parring all the other holes in the round.
Grillo, who played in the tournament a year ago, definitely noticed the wonderful tribute being paid to Arnold Palmer, saying, “They did some spectacular job this year honoring him. Everybody’s wearing umbrella — I have the umbrella on my sweater today — and everybody is carrying the name of Arnold Palmer with great honor.”
Certainly though, no one is feeling more emotions than The King’s grandson, Sam Saunders. He had this to say about the emotional first day:
I started thinking about all the years that I’ve played in the tournament, and I just started thinking about him driving around in the cart and watching me. And just to see it sitting there empty…yeah, that’s hard. I think we all feel that. I had my emotional moment, looked at it, and then got my head where it needed to be to play the next hole.”
Saunders also added about his grandfather, “He’s everywhere. “I see him, I feel him, you hear about him. There were so many well wishes out there toward me today, and his presence is overwhelming. It always will be.”
In terms of his place on the leaderboard, Saunders has a lot of work to do, currently in 58th at 2-over.
But it’s probably a safe bet that this year’s tournament at least, is about a lot more than where he finishes.
Check out highlights from Round 1 below!
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