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Bay Hill Invitational renamed for 2007

The Bay Hill Invitational, the 12th event on the 2006 PGA Tour, will officially become the Arnold Palmer Invitational from next year, Tour officials said on Wednesday.

Held at Palmer's Bay Hill Club in Orlando since 1979, it has been unofficially described as "Arnie's tournament" for more than two decades and attracts one of the strongest fields of the season.

Seven-times major winner Palmer will become the second player to have a PGA Tour event named in his honour after fellow American great Byron Nelson.

"We have been discussing the possibility of a name change with Arnold and his family and how it would be an appropriate tribute to one of the game's all-time great champions and ambassadors," Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.

"There was a strong sentiment to do this, and in the end we determined that it might as well occur sooner than later, particularly now that Arnold has consciously reduced his competitive playing schedule.

"Arnold has been the face of the tournament for a number of years and it makes sense that it bears his name to honour his countless contributions to the tournament and to the PGA Tour."

The 76-year-old Palmer, who stopped playing at the Bay Hill event in 2004, said: "It has been a matter of great pride for me when my name was placed on an entity of one sort or another over the years.

"But I can't think of anything that brings me more pleasure and satisfaction than having it on the tournament that has meant so much to me for so long."

Palmer won 61 PGA Tour titles after turning professional in 1954, including the U.S. Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964, the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in 1960 and the British Open in 1961 and 1962.

With his swashbuckling style of play, prodigious length off the tee, bold putting and affection for the fans, he did more than any other player to popularise the game with the advent of television.

The 2006 Bay Hill Invitational starts next Thursday when American Kenny Perry will defend the title he won by two shots last year.

March 9, 2006


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