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Quick 9: Arnold Palmer Invitational field is pretty darn good after all

1. The Arnold Palmer Invitational field

The considerable discussion about honoring Arnold Palmer at his tournament has often failed to note that the strength of field this week at the Bay Hill Club is as good as any at the event in the past 10 years, except for the 2013 tournament won by Tiger Woods.

Also, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, the tournament has the strongest field of the 2016-17 season aside from the two World Golf Championship events.

Unless you are of the mindset that every top-ranked player should be at Bay Hill regardless of circumstance, there is an excellent representation of players at the tournament founded by Palmer in 1979. The field has 29 of the top 50 in the world.

"I really have been a believer in that guys will remember and respect Arnold in their own way, and being here or not being here this week has really, to me, no bearing on that," said Graeme McDowell, who in addition to playing in the tournament is serving as a host along with Curtis Strange, Annika Sorenstam and Peter Jacobsen.

2. Missing from Match Play

The API has not been helped coming two weeks after the WGC-Mexico Championship and the week before the WGC-Dell Match Play. Both are considered "must-play" events, and with no cuts and guaranteed money, it is hard to say no to them.

And yet, even those events don't always get everyone. Next week's Match Play will be missing Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Adam Hadwin, whose victory at the Valspar Championship on Sunday helped him qualify. Hadwin is getting married that week and will pass on the tournament.

But Stenson, Scott and Rose long ago had plans to skip the Match Play, and Rickie Fowler also is wavering.

This is the third year of the Match Play's round-robin format, and Stenson is not a fan. He prefers straight knockout, the traditional match-play formula. Perhaps more important, however, is the date two weeks before the Masters. That is causing some players to take pause.

3. Scheduling issues

The PGA Tour will have some decisions to make as it relates to the Match Play, especially if the Players Championship moves back to March, as has been discussed. Even if the latter does not happen, a crowded March would figure to be a priority. Having two WGCs so close, with the API mixed in and the Masters a few weeks later? There were always going to be issues with that.

4. What's next for Tiger?

Without knowing Woods' physical condition, it is impossible to even speculate after he pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and simply said his "rehabilitation" is going well. Has he been able to hit balls? Play any holes?

At this point, talking about the Masters seems silly unless it is in the context of being one of many tournaments in his comeback. Whenever Woods returns, it needs to be with the idea of playing a proper number of events that allows for rest and recovery while also affording him time to practice and develop consistency.

If Woods misses the Masters, it would be the third time in four years that he's been unable to play the year's first major championship. If he does play, that's great, though expectations will surely be beyond what should be realistic.

5. Home winner in India

SSP Chawrasia's victory at his national Open came with a huge amount of home love. Chawrasia won the Hero Indian Open by seven shots Sunday, the fourth European Tour title of his career. And it was duly noted by countryman Jeev Milkha Singh.

6. Surgery for Padraig

Three weeks ago, Padraig Harrington said he was hoping to avoid surgery for a neck and shoulder issue that was bothering him. Harrington said he feared missing this summer's Open at Royal Birkdale, where he won the tournament in 2008.

Harrington wound up opting for the surgery and expects to be out at least two months, but he should have time to prepare for The Open, which begins July 20. He is looking at a late May return.

7. Slow play

First-year PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan addressed the issue of slow play in a first-person piece for Golf Digest and said he has no issues with the speed of the game.

"I don't see a problem with rounds on tour taking four hours, 45 minutes, because it's been consistent around that number for a long time," he wrote. "What drives the small amount of criticism is the impulse in the modern world to do everything faster than we did it last year. So am I going to push for faster rounds? As it stands, no."

It is too bad Monahan feels that way. On some level, yes, there is only so much that can be done. But to think that it is acceptable for three players to take nearly five hours to play golf is hard to believe. Yes, they are professionals and playing for a lot of money. Golf courses are difficult and challenging. There is a lot at stake.

But to just accept it? That seems to send a bad message. And it certainly won't be any consolation to the players -- and it's not a small number -- who believe there are too many slowpokes impeding them.

8. Welcome back, Muirfield

The famous links course in East Lothian, Scotland, was gone from The Open rota for a year, removed and now put back in place by R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers after the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers -- the club based at the Muirfield course -- voted to allow women as members for the first time.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the R&A has a right to take its tournaments to places it chooses. And it made the decision that it would not go to a club that discriminates based on gender. So now that the rules are changed, one of the top courses in the world is back in play, with a very real possibility that The Open returns there in 2022 -- after Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie, Royal Portrush, Royal St. George's and the Old Course at St. Andrews -- although that last one in 2021 has yet to be confirmed. It will be interesting to see where U.S. President Donald Trump's Turnberry course in Scotland fits into any plans. It, too, would seem to be vying for that 2022 slot.

9. Rory remembers Arnie

Rory McIlroy tweeted a copy of the letter he received from Arnold Palmer after winning the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.