It's not quite the pre-Masters signature event Golf Channel and NBC had hoped for with Tiger Woods bowing out on Tuesday, but the Arnold Palmer Invitational will tee off Thursday at Bay Hill as the final look at many of the world's top players before Augusta. Also, if Woods' back issues persist, this week just may end up being an unintended preview of a Tiger-less Masters.
Golf Channel will have the reins for the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday, before splitting coverage with Comcast sister NBC on the weekend. There are plenty of parties that take a hit when Tiger can't play, but the networks are usually the biggest losers. At least the event can rely on pre sold "Tiger tickets," the stamp and draw of Arnold Palmer, and the recent foothold it has attracting large galleries in the Orlando area. But the interest on the TV side will definitely wane throughout the four days on the final stop of the Florida swing.
Rich Lerner and Frank Nobilo will have the call at 3 p.m. on Thursday, when Woods was originally scheduled to appear in the pre-weekend broadcast window. Now, Golf Channel will get … Brice Garnett, the alternate who replaced Tiger in the marquee afternoon group and will be out with Graeme McDowell and rising American star Harris English. The group just ahead of that trio will now probably get the most camera time, with Henrik Stenson, Keegan Bradley, and Isleworth local Ian Poulter starting their round at 12:56 p.m. ET on the first tee. Expect to see a lot of Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson during the opening round coverage as well. Adam Scott, the highest rated player in the field, is out in the morning draw and will be done with his round before GC comes on the air.
If you love golf so much that you're sitting in your office deciding to stream it instead of the first day of the NCAA Tournament, well, you might have your sports priorities mixed up a bit. But if you want to check out from your occupational duties extra early before the basketball starts at Noon, PGATour.com will have their @Live featured holes stream up and running by 8 a.m. ET. This is the third time in four weeks they're putting this stream in play, and they'll once again focus on a par-5, No. 12 at Bay HIll, for this week (with supplemental coverage at Nos. 16 and 18). If you have extra screens and want to stream all of the sports at work on Thursday, Golf Channel will have their usual simulcast going via their LiveExtra service at 3 p.m. Here are all your media options for the first day at the API:
Thursday's first round coverage
3 to 6 p.m. -- Golf Channel
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- PGATour.com featured holes stream (Nos. 12, 16, 18)
3 to 6 p.m. -- Golf Channel simulcast stream
Noon to 6 p.m. -- PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 93/208)