Arnold Palmer Invitational: McIlroy, Day & Stenson among those to honour 'The King'

Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer, a winner of seven majors and seen as golf's most influential figure, died at the age of 87 on 25 September 2016

On the day Arnold Palmer passed away, Rory McIlroy collected such riches in prize money that the knock-on effect was a "tsunami" of cash tumbling into the bank account of his caddie.

That's how JP Fitzgerald described his feelings after checking his balance and finding financial rewards for helping his boss win the Tour Championship and with it the lucrative FedEx Cup last September.

Fitzgerald earned around $1.5m (£1.2m) that week. He performs an invaluable role - but remember he is a caddie not a player.

By contrast, back in the 1950s and '60s it took the great Palmer around 15 years of swashbuckling, captivating competition to come anywhere close to amassing that figure.

Of course, we are talking vastly different eras and inflationary forces have abounded since Palmer's heyday. But no-one did more to popularise professional golf than the man still referred to as 'The King'.

Arnie's Army, as his support base was known, was a global following attracted by this most charismatic of characters.

Palmer brought attention and money and became one of the world's most famous people. He made golf sexy and laid the foundations for the riches enjoyed by today's players, their caddies and the rest of their entourages.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy will feature as one of 14 players ranked in the world's top 25 at the Bay Hill Club this weekend

This week, the PGA Tour stages the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill for the first time since golf lost one of its greatest figures. Palmer died awaiting heart surgery at the age of 87 on 25 September last year.

The great man will never be far from the minds of those competing in Orlando this week and, despite a ludicrously congested schedule, a fitting field has been assembled.

There were worries that the biggest names would be under-represented and last week former FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel tweeted his concern.

"Disappointing. Totally understand schedule issues. But 1st year without AP. Honor an icon! Without him wouldn't be in position we are today."

And yes, world number one Dustin Johnson along with major winners Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott are absent, but 14 of the world's top 25 will tee it up in Florida this week.

Billy Horschel tweet

It is a respectable field headlined by numbers two and three in the rankings - Jason Day and McIlroy - along with Open champion Henrik Stenson.

The Swedish winner at Royal Troon last year agrees there was a responsibility on the biggest names to turn up to honour Palmer. "Absolutely, you can definitely argue for that," he said.

"There's going to be some special tributes to his life. We're putting some umbrellas [Palmer's trademark] on our bags and things like that. So I'm sure it's going to be a great week, and we're going to do our best to honour him."

Former Open winner Louis Oosthuizen went further. "I just think it's a tournament that, if you can, you should play it every year," he said.

"And I'm going to try to do that from now on."

But it is never that straightforward, especially with the overly congested nature of the PGA Tour's schedule in the build-up to next month's first major, the Masters.

Jason Day with the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy in 2016
Jason Day, winner of the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational - players will have pins of Palmer's trademark umbrella on their bags this week

As Rickie Fowler, another top 10 star playing at Bay Hill this week, commented: "The biggest thing is you want to make sure you're ready to go at Augusta."

This is why Stenson and his Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose are skipping next week's WGC Matchplay, a tournament for the world's top 64 players and worth $9.75m prize money.

Rose does not like the idea of playing head-to-head matchplay so close to the Masters but the wider point is that shoehorning in two elite World Golf Championships before Augusta creates tough scheduling choices.

First-world problems they may be, but the current set-up is a mess that made it harder for leading players to honour Palmer this week.

The traditional Florida swing was interrupted by this month's WGC in Mexico City and next week matchplay is introduced when players want to hone scoring skills for their tilts at gaining a Green Jacket.

It is clear the schedule needs shaking up, especially if plans to move back the Players Championship to March come to fruition.

The idea under consideration is to shift the tournament, known as the fifth major, so that an actual major, the US PGA Championship, can move from August to a date in May.

This, in turn, would allow the late summer PGA Tour play-offs an earlier start, with the FedEx Cup being completed before the start of the American football season.

Currently the cash-rich season-ender goes unnoticed in the US because of the sporting behemoth that is the NFL.

These are radical and fascinating schedule proposals under active consideration. Each of the events concerned carries vast prize funds and every stakeholder inevitably wants a slice of maximised exposure.

This is foremost in the minds of Tour bosses - but for this week, at least, they will be better served remembering the man who did most to make possible such multi-million dollar chatter.

Conversations, by the way, that are no longer the sole preserve of players.