Arnold Palmer has expressed his surprise at Rory McIlroy’s decision not to play in the PGA Tour event bearing his name for the second year in succession.
Twelve months ago, McIlroy had just been deposed as world number one by Luke Donald when the European pair were absent from the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
McIlroy wrote to Palmer asking for a meeting, who said at the time: "I'm not sure that I know exactly what he wants me to tell him or what he wants to hear from me, but I look forward to seeing him and talking to him.
"He also mentioned in the letter that he will be here to play in the years to come."
That has not happened this year and McIlroy could again be knocked off the top of the rankings this week by defending champion Tiger Woods, but the 23-year-old has stuck with his original schedule.
At his pre-tournament press conference today, Palmer said: "I was kind of kidding when somebody said is he playing? And I said, well, if he doesn't, I'm going to break his arm.
"But it was meant in jest, and it was strictly a passing remark. Frankly, I thought he was going to play, and I was as surprised as a lot of people when he decided he was not going to play. I've had conversations, brief conversations with him some time ago, not recently, about his playing."
McIlroy had considered adding Bay Hill to his schedule following his much-publicised struggles this year, but shot a closing 65 in the WGC-Cadillac Championship won by Woods and will play just once more at the Houston Open at the end of the month before the US Masters in April.