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Like Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell has special feelings for Bay Hill

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Everyone knows the impact Tiger Woods has had on the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club. And likewise, having surrendered eight victories to the world’s No. 1 ranked player, Bay Hill has been very good to Tiger Woods.

But Tiger isn’t the only player who has used the Arnold Palmer Invitational as a springboard to a great career. Ireland’s Graeme McDowell credits his first appearance at Bay Hill with igniting his PGA Tour career.

“This has always been a special event for me. My PGA Tour career basically started here in 2005,” said McDowell following his 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational Pro-Am round on Wednesday. “I remember that I was staying in a buddy’s spare bedroom. I remember having to drag myself to the bar one night because it was St. Patrick’s Day during that week. And I remember that I loved the course and ended up finishing second.”

McDowell will be aiming for similar results when the Arnold Palmer Invitational begins Thursday at Bay Hill. Tiger will be at home in Jupiter, probably horizontal with nagging back spasms. He withdrew on Tuesday, contacting Arnold Palmer personally with his apology.

McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, tees off on No. 1 at 1:08 p.m. Thursday. And he is ready for another top finish.

“Bay Hill is in great condition right now,” said McDowell, who lives at Lake Nona. “The rough will be a factor. I heard Arnie wanted the course to play like a U.S. Open off the tee, and Augusta-esque around the greens. If we don’t get any more rain the rest of the week, it will firm up and Arnie will get his wish.”

McDowell shared his opinion regarding Tiger’s back issues.

“Tiger has raised the bar when it comes to physicality in golf,” said McDowell. “He led the way in showing golfers need to be more athletic – fitter, faster, stronger.

“His golf swing is very physical, to the detriment of his body. It’s a shame. Tiger is a serious athlete. He works real hard on fitness, and he creates a lot of power when he swings. It appears his body is starting to struggle because of it. I feel for him.”

But the spotlight is now off Tiger for the next four days at Bay Hill. McDowell hopes, come Sunday afternoon, it will be shining brightly on him.

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