Arnold Palmer, left, poses for photos with his grandson, Sam Saunders, before a news conference during the pro-am for the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, March 18, 2015.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack
March 18, 2015

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Rory McIlroy was in the gym and in a rare moment, he felt out of his element.

Consider his company.

McIlroy was at Augusta National last week with his father and went to the fitness center at the club Friday morning. Before long, in walked Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. The next person through the door about 15 minutes later? Peyton Manning.

''That was my time to leave,'' McIlroy said.

Along with being a little in awe, McIlroy was impressed. The Masters is three weeks away. Training camp for the NFL is four months away.

''It's their offseason,'' McIlroy said. ''I guess for me it was to see all those guys in the gym before their season starts and they're so dedicated and committed to what they do, especially those two guys, Peyton and Tom. They're both in their mid-30s and they want to prolong their careers as much as they can.

''To see them putting so much into it even after 15 successful years ... it was great for me to see. It was inspirational in some ways.''

He said there was some football talk, mostly about all the trades that were going on.

''It was nice to be in that little world for a couple of days and experience it,'' he said.

McIlroy described his two days at Augusta National as 100 percent fun and zero percent serious. It was a father-son outing with Augusta National members, and McIlroy and father Gerry wound up in what he described as the consolation match.

McIlroy also said he played well the first day, though he wouldn't give a score except to say it was in the 60s and not the course record.


KING'S ADVICE: Arnold Palmer had some simple advice for Tiger Woods to turn his game around: Practice and regain confidence.

Woods is missing the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the second straight year. He had a back injury in 2014 and feels he's not ready to compete this year. Palmer said Woods called him to apologize for his absence, though contrary to one reporter's suggestion, the phone conversation did not last one hour.

''Well, first of all, whoever told you it was an hour is full of (it),'' Palmer said in a jocular tone that caused the room to break out in laughter.

Woods, an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, has played only 47 holes in two tournaments this year, which included a career-high 82 in the Phoenix Open and a chipping display that is simply shocking to watch.

Woods has played six PGA Tour events in the last year. He has missed the cut three times, withdrawn twice and finished 69th in the British Open.

''Tiger ... I've known him since he was 3 feet high, and he's a great player,'' Palmer said. ''He was a very talented young kid with his father instructing him. For me to tell you or tell Tiger what he could do, there's only one thing I can say and that's practice and confidence. Regain the confidence he had when he was starting out and that was what made him what he is and that's the way he'll get it back - just regain the confidence and the ability to hit the golf ball.''

Palmer also said Woods should find a coach that he has confidence in ''and go work on his game. And that's my best advice.''


PALMER'S SHOULDER: Arnold Palmer slipped on carpet in his home last December and dislocated his right shoulder.

He still is in physical therapy, with the Masters quickly approaching.

The King isn't playing, but he is determined to hit the ceremonial tee shot with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

''Maybe this week or next week I'm going to start hitting the ball,'' he said, ''and I have every intention of hitting the first drive at Augusta.''


LACK OF COURSE KNOWLEDGE: Sam Saunders said he began to appreciate everything his grandfather - Arnold Palmer - did for golf when he began playing top amateur events and read up on the history, most of it involving Palmer.

That doesn't mean he knows everything.

Saunders has moved to Colorado with his wife and two sons, and he talked about playing one course in Denver called Bear Creek.

''We were teeing off and I said, `Who built this?''' Saunders said. ''And they went, `Um, your grandfather.'''


HAPPY HARRINGTON: Padraig Harrington sat at his locker and was handed a stack of Honda Classic flags to sign.

He won the Honda Classic earlier this month, his first win on a major tour since the PGA Championship in 2008 at Oakland Hills.

''The signings have doubled, tripled,'' Harrington said.

He feigned frustration, though the smile told a different story. Someone mentioned that he was all too happy to bear such a burden.

''Absolutely,'' he said. ''This is good.''

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