The Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla., plays host to this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. As you would expect, many of the biggest names in golf, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III will be on hand.
As always, the King, Arnold Palmer, will make his presence felt and there's no denying he'll have a rooting interest as his grandson -- Sam Saunders, a Nationwide Tour player -- tees it up.
With all eyes on Bay Hill, we caught up with PGA Director of Golf Brian Dorn for a little Q&A. Dorn talked about the remarkable start to the 2012 Tour season, Saunders and more.
PGA.com: As always, thank you for joining us, Brian. So far, the 2012 PGA Tour season has been unbelievable. Great champions and amazing finishes. I don't expect Bay Hill to buck that trend, as there's always some drama there. Can you remember a more exciting start to a Tour season in recent memory?
Dorn: It has been a great start to the season for the Tour -- the wild finishes show just how tough it is to win out there -- no lead is safe. The Tour has been well-represented this year by the established veterans and the youth movement. Some of our former champions seem to be playing well leading up to our event. We are expecting another exciting finish at Bay Hill. Our last few holes make it difficult for a leader to close out the tournament.
PGA.com: I feel like I ask you about him each year, but it's because he's progressing nicely, so let's talk about Sam Saunders for a second. Last year, Sam made it to the final stage of Q-School. He wasn't able to secure his Tour card, but just making it to the finals is a nice accomplishment. What is it about Sam's game -- in your opinion -- that has matured most since he turned professional?
Dorn: For all but a select few, maturing as a golfer on the PGA Tour is a gradual process, and Sam has been working his way through it. Sam knows he can compete at that level and has proven it on occasion. I believe his confidence and comfort level are the keys to his progress and consistency. The talent is obviously there and I believe it's only a matter of time before he breaks through.
PGA.com: We can't talk about this tournament without talking about Sam's grandfather, the King, Mr. Arnold Palmer. I've been to Bay Hill many times and parts of the clubhouse are almost like an Arnold Palmer museum. What do you think is the coolest Arnie memento at Bay Hill?
Dorn: We do have many interesting mementos around the club. Mr. Palmer has accumulated so many trophies, awards and photos over the years that they have supplied more than one museum. I discovered my favorite memento while I was helping Mr. Palmer clean his garage. On the wall is a plaque commemorating his course-record round of 60 at Latrobe on September 13, 1969, with a reproduction of the scorecard. Mr. Palmer noticed I was looking at it and we discussed his round. It was a neat experience.
PGA.com: From your perspective, what's the best part about tournament week?
Dorn: The fact that it is different than the other 51 weeks of the year. Not that I don't enjoy the other weeks, but it's exciting to experience something so different than what you normally do on a daily basis. The opportunity to see the best players in the world compete on your home course is a thrill for our staff and our members.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Brian. Where do you think the 18th hole at Bay Hill ranks on the PGA Tour schedule in terms of drama? We've certainly seen plenty of drama play out on that hole through the years, whether it be a Tiger Woods putt, or in 1990, the eagle hole-out from Robert Gamez to defeat Greg Norman. What makes that hole so special?
Dorn: I think the 18th at Bay Hill is right up there with the best of the PGA Tour. What makes Bay Hill's 18th so special is the fact that it is a tough par -- 458 yard, par-4 with OB down the left side and water on the right from 130 yards and in. With Sunday's back-right hole location, needing a par to win is a difficult proposition. The Tour has some exciting par-5 finishing holes that create opportunities for birdies and eagles, but I think a difficult par-4 is the best way to test a champion.