ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy returns to Bay Hill to defend his title, and he’ll play the first two rounds alongside another former winner and the reigning Masters champ. Here’s a look at the featured groups this week as the PGA Tour heads to the home of the King for the Arnold Palmer Invitational (all times ET):
7:43 a.m. Thursday, 12:33 p.m. Friday: Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson
Rose makes his first start in nearly a month, having recently lost his No. 1 ranking to Dustin Johnson. He has a chance to get it back this week and will start off alongside Snedeker, who remains in search of his first top-10 finish of the year, and Stenson, who has struggled in 2019 but has finished T-8 or better at Bay Hill five of the last six years.
7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:44 p.m. Friday: Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Ian Poulter
Fowler enters off a near-miss at Honda, having finished second to Keith Mitchell just a few weeks after notching a victory in Phoenix. He’ll play the first two rounds with Day, who was the last player to win this event before Palmer’s passing in 2016, and Poulter, an Orlando resident who has finished T-6 or better in each of his last four worldwide starts.
12:33 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Patrick Reed
McIlroy closed in brilliant fashion last year, burying a lengthy birdie putt to finish off a final-round 64 and earned what turned out to be his lone tournament win of 2018. Joining him will be Leishman, the 2017 champ who already has a win this season in Malaysia to highlight four top-5 finishes, and Reed, who outlasted McIlroy at the Masters and has five top-25 finishes in his first six starts of the new year.
12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau
Mickelson is making a rare Bay Hill appearance, returning to the event for the first time since 2013 with a win at Pebble Beach already under his belt. Joining him will be two of the highest-ranked players in the field: Koepka, who finished T-2 last week at Honda, and DeChambeau, who has thrived this year outside of his most recent start in Mexico. The first-tee handshake might be an interesting one, given that this is the first time the two are grouped together since Koepka described slow play on Tour as “embarrassing” following DeChambeau’s methodical victory in Dubai.