Arnold Palmer Invitational
Why an early morning par from a club pro to make the cut at Bay Hill made seven other tour pros very, very happy
To cash in on the big money being offered at most of the PGA Tour’s newly minted designated events—at least for the time being—a pro golfer must first make the cut in those events. Which is why Greg Koch decided not to rush things on Friday night as the sun was setting at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
With his tee shot on the par-4 ninth at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando having landed in the left rough just outside a fairway bunker, and sitting on the cutline at two over par, Koch told officials he would come back and finish his last hole of Round 2 on Saturday morning. It was an understandable decision considering that Koch is no ordinary participant in the Bay Hill field. The 35-year-old is head of instruction at the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando who won the PGA of America section title to earn his spot in the field. This is just his sixth career PGA Tour start, the last coming at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship last October. In his previous five starts—including the 2021 PGA Championship, where he earned one of the 20 spots for club professionals—Koch had yet to make a cut.
Upon returning Saturday just before 7 a.m., Koch played his second shot from 208 yards, the ball coming up short left in the fairway, 97 feet from the hole with a bunker to carry. Koch then delicately hit his third shot to 3½ feet, and rolled in the par putt to finish off a one-under 71 and play his way into two more rounds. Needless to say, it was a big deal for the Orlando native who played matches at Bay Hill back in his high school days.
TourCast's rendering of Koch's second shot (above) and third shot (below).
Koch wasn’t the only one happy that he made the par. So were seven other tour pros who were sweating things out watching from near the clubhouse, albeit from a slightly different perspective. You see, had Koch made birdie on the ninth hole, he would have dropped the cutline to one over par as he would have been the 65th player with that score or lower. That would have meant that Ryan Fox, Davis Thompson, S.H. Kim, Alex Noren, Zach Johnson, Seamus Power and Russell Henley, all having finished at two over the previous night, would have missed out on the chance to play the weekend, move up the leaderboard and get a crack at some of the $20 million prize money payout being offered at the event.
Suffice it to say, those seven pros should probably find a way to find Koch at some point on Saturday and congratulate him for making the cut, then thank him for not making a birdie and knocking them out of the tournament.