Top-ranked Rose, champion McIlroy set for Bay Hill event

World number one Justin Rose, fresh off a victory at Torrey Pines, and defending champion Rory McIlroy were named on Tuesday as early entrants into this year's 41st Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Justin Rose poses with the trophy at Torrey Pines Golf Course.   -  AFP

World number one Justin Rose, fresh off a victory at Torrey Pines, and defending champion Rory McIlroy were named on Tuesday as early entrants into this year's 41st Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Eighth-ranked McIlroy, a four-time major winner from Northern Ireland, won the US PGA event at Bay Hill in Orlando last year, firing an eight-under par 64 on Sunday to defeat American Bryson DeChambeau by three strokes.

McIlroy called the triumph, his 14th on the US PGA Tour, one of the most meaningful of his career and is already looking forward to his repeat bid March 4-10, his fourth start at Bay Hill.

“Obviously last year's victory was memorable for so many reasons,” McIlroy said. “I'm so proud to return to Mr. Palmer's course as the defending champion and look forward to a great week of golf and continuing to honor a legend of the game.”

England's Rose, the 2013 US Open champion and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist, was third in last year's Palmer Invitational and is off to a hot start in 2019. Rose captured last week's Farmers Insurance Open by two strokes over Australia's Adam Scott.

The winner at Bay Hill receives a three-year spot on the PGA Tour instead of the usual two years and this year it debuts as part of the British Open qualifying series, with three spots available for leading top-10 finishers not already qualified for the year's final major tournament on July 18-21 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.