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March 4, 2020

Marc Leishman

Michael Robichaud

Sam Saunders

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Orlando, Florida

JOHN BUSH: Okay, we would like to welcome everyone to the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. My name is John Bush from PGA TOUR communications, and I would like to welcome you all here. We are pleased to have these four fine gentlemen here with us on the panel today.

I'll introduce, first of all, the 46th governor of the state of Florida, Mr. Ron DeSantis. We have Sam Saunders, a man who needs no introductions around the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but we are happy to have Sam. As you all know, he is the grandson of Arnold Palmer and PGA TOUR member. Marc Leishman joins us. Our 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational ambassador. And also our 2017 champion. And we're also joined by Michael Robichaud, Mastercard Senior Vice President of global sponsorships.

So thank you gentlemen for joining us for a few minutes this morning. I would like to turn it over now to Sam Saunders.

SAM SAUNDERS: That you, John. It's really a pleasure to be here, an honor to be up here with these three gentlemen. And just another great year to be back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. We have got an incredible golf tournament this year. It really amazes me how we keep making this thing bigger and better, while staying true to the values that were important to my grandfather and our family. So it is really remarkable and I couldn't be more proud of our entire staff for the efforts that they put forth. This is the 42nd year that the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been at Bay Hill. That's really remarkable. It's pretty exciting to think that we'll be coming up on 50 here pretty soon. And I would like to think my grandfather would be more proud than ever of the conditions and the golf course that we're putting for the for the PGA TOUR players this week, but also very importantly, to me, the conditions and product that we have here at Bay Hill year round. We have an incredible golf course, not just for this week and the PGA TOUR players but for our guests to come and enjoy and be able to play the golf course that my grandfather called home and for our members to be proud of a golf course that is a wonderful test day-in and day-out.

We have three ambassadors this year that I'm very proud to, and thankful that for their time. Marc Leishman, our 2017 champion. We have got Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and our friend Darius Rucker, personal friend of the family, someone who my grandfather admired greatly. And really appreciate their time and energy that they're putting forth to help make this event better and better.

So importantly, one of the really biggest reasons why we're all here is for charity and that's something that I've always been so grateful to be a part of the PGA TOUR because they do so much to give back. And here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational we have the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation, which is, obviously, benefitting greatly from this event and doing so much great work not only for the community here in Orlando, but strive to do great things around the world and give back, as my grand father always tried his best to do and make a positive impact on people that he was able to. So the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation has got a great project here locally at Lake Lorna Doone project. It's something we're really excited about and it's a great enhancement to the city of Orlando and I think a lot of people are going to be excited to see what we're doing over there.

And another very exciting thing that's happening this year is the stamp presented by the United States Postal Service. I just got to spend some time with the folks up there and got presented a wonderful framed edition of the new Arnold Palmer stamp that's going to be coming out. And it is really an incredible honor. My grandfather, as many of you know, spent so much time writing letters, thanking fans, congratulating his peers on winning golf tournaments. And it's something that meant a lot to everyone that he touched. And he was, always took great pride in being able to write that letter to someone. So I think he would be absolutely thrilled to have a stamp with his picture on it and it would just mean the world to him. So thank you to the United States Postal Service for that great honor. It really means a lot to our family.

As for the field this year, really exciting. We have got the world's No. 1 player, Rory McIlroy, defending champion. We have got Phil Mickelson, Francesco Molinari, last year's champion. We've got Brooks Koepka, and we've got this really great player over here named Marc Leishman, who also is a champion here. So just an incredible field and I think all of the players are in for a treat this week. It really, the golf course continues to get better and better and I'm very excited to see, with the good weather and the windy conditions we have got the next few days, it will be really interesting to see how things play out. This golf tournament has got enhanced status. We have got a 9.3 million dollar purse this year, carrying a three-year exemption. It's extremely important to players like myself. If you can happen to luck out and win a golf tournament, it's incredible what that means for a career. So this is a huge tournament for each and every one of us to have the opportunity to win. And also we are now part of the open qualifying series. Top-10 players not otherwise, there will be three places to qualify for The Open Championship this year at Royal St. George's. So just another attribute to make this tournament so important and such a great event to be a part of.

And certainly last, but not least, we have to thank Mastercard, our partners. They have been incredible. We are very proud to be associated with such a great organization. Thank you, Michael, and we look forward to many great years with Mastercard and really just setting an example in the future. And I think we have got a great opportunity here to make a really positive impact on the game of golf and continue to grow it and I'm really proud to be a part of what we're doing here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and I hope the folks at Mastercard feel the same way and here's to another 42 great years. Thank you.

JOHN BUSH: All right. Thank you, Sam.

Governor DeSantis, I know that Mr. Palmer was someone that have you long admired. Thank you for your attendance here today and if we can get some comments.

GOV. RON DESANTIS: Yeah, look, we're really excited to be here. I just, just from a Florida perspective you take look at what we have done this year. I mean, we had the Super Bowl in Miami. We have obviously spring training in full affect. You have this great Florida swing, which is just a marquee event right here on the PGA TOUR. Next year we'll have the Super Bowl. We'll have the college football national championship. We have, if you look at the best golfers in the world, I mean, at least half of them live in Florida, probably more than that. I mean, you got Koepka, you got Tiger, Dustin Johnson, Mickelson's moving to Florida. So we really view Florida as ground zero in terms of golf in the United States. And I would say specifically, too, people that watch this tournament and see how beautiful the courses and they can come here, stay and play. You can go to TPC, which will be next week. You can go to these venues in Florida and actually stay and enjoy them for yourself, and so I think we do a really good job in Florida of having publicly accessible golf for folks, and I think that's one of the reasons people want to come here.

Now when we found out that the post office, postal service was going to honor Arnold Palmer, we were thrilled. Certainly believe that it's very well warranted. And then if you look, obviously as a golfer, everyone loved him, phenomenal player, just a great person that you wanted to like. But if you look at what he's done apart from golf, particularly to impact the community here in Central Florida, with the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation, all the great works that they have done, I mean, he's had a legacy that will continue to live on. And so we're really proud in the state of Florida to have Arnold be such an important part of this community. We're really lucky to have had him for a lot of years, lucky to have this tournament here. So what I wanted to do was figure out, okay, what can we do at the state level to show our appreciation for Arnold and his legacy. And I'm a big fan of this drink right here (Indicating). I think he had really good taste, especially in Florida, when -- the weather's really nice now. You come back in August, it be a little hot. You're out there on the golf course or whatever you're doing, you have one of these, it's very, very refreshing. And so I'm proud today to be able to announce that I'm issuing a proclamation from the State of Florida to make the Arnold Palmer the official drink of the Florida Governor's Mansion and I'm ordering that it be served at all executive functions henceforth. And so I know a lot of our guests will be very happy to have access to an Arnold Palmer, and truth be told, my initial instinct, I wanted to make it the official drink of the State of Florida, but then I thought about it and orange juice is currently that. I didn't want to go there. So you know, I didn't get elected here not understanding a little bit about politics. But I do think that this is an appropriate recognition for Arnie and I know, and just think about it. You can do great things on different aspects of life, but I mean, to have a drink where someone that doesn't even watch golf knows what an Arnold Palmer is. That's when I think you've shown that you've really reached a level that is far and beyond what the average athlete or business person is able to do.

So I'm excited. We actually had an event at the governor's mansion last night. Even though this hadn't been announced yet, we did serve the Arnold Palmers there, got a great recipe, everyone liked it. So to the extent you guys ever find yourself coming to a state event at the governor's mansion, rest assured, you will have this drink there for you in his memory.

JOHN BUSH: All right, thank you, Governor.

We'll move to Michael now. Michael, the Invitational continues to get bigger and better. That is in no small part to Mastercard. If we can get some comments from you as well.

MICHAEL ROBICHAUD: Sure. Well, thanks. Good morning, everybody. We are very excited to be here. This is, we do a number of sponsorships around the world, but this is certainly one of the highlights of the year. To be associated with someone that's so diverse, even just what we have heard today, as Arnold Palmer is something we take very seriously and we take as a responsibility and we try as best we can during this week and all of our activities around this to honor that legacy and live up to the high expectations that he and everyone has associated with that and that name and brand.

So this event is something that we plan for all year long. We have got tremendous partners here, both at the PGA TOUR and obviously with the family and the event here, and it's great. So for those that are always wondering where this event's going, we know it's only getting bigger and better and there's work all year long behind the scenes to do that. I think what Sam has talked about, the course is in truly fantastic shape and we get that from the pros, not from guys like me, but to know what that means from a competitive point of view, from an excellence point of view and drawing the best field. And ultimately to really do, to provide the service for the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation, which is we always need to remind ourselves why we are here and why something like the PGA TOUR sets itself aside from so many other sports around the world, that you've got that ultimate objective of helping those that need it most. And this community is no, is one of the best examples of that, what the legacy here has meant. So we're very proud to be associated. We take it seriously and we work very hard to do it, and we're thankful for everybody who participates, all the players, all the work, all the grounds crew, all the volunteers because we all know that none of this would happen without everyone involved.

So we look forward to this week and a great competition and we hope everybody has a little bit of fun.

JOHN BUSH: Thank you, sir. We'll turn it over to Marc now.

Marc, I know of all of your accomplishments and achievements in your career, winning this event in 2017 and now serving as an ambassador ranks really high. If we can get some comments on that.

MARC LEISHMAN: Yeah, well, I want to say thank you to be mentioned even in a group of players that may be thought of for this to be an ambassador is pretty special. And to be selected as an ambassador is really an honor. I've looked up to Mr. Palmer my whole life and, yes, for all his achievements, on and off the golf course, but probably mostly for the way he lived his life and the way he treated other people. And that's something that I've really I try to do as well, try and be like him. And that's why this probably means even more than what it would just because, because of that. So Sam, Amy, and Roy, you're doing great job and the entire Saunders family, continuing to grow this event. I know the players love coming hear. The golf course gets better every year. And with a great sponsor like Mastercard, I imagine it's only going to get better. So I just do want to say it is an honor. Thank you for thinking of me. Hopefully I'll do you guys proud, and let's make this a really good tournament.

JOHN BUSH: All right, thank you, gentlemen. We have time for a few questions. If you'll raise your hand, we'll get a microphone to you.

SAM SAUNDERS: John, if I could say one thing real quick.


SAM SAUNDERS: I get to sit up here, but I would be remiss if I did not talk about the most important people of this entire event. And it really would not happen were it not for my mother, Amy Saunders, my dad Roy Saunders. My mom was left with an amount of work to do that no one can really comprehend, and I have to say the way she has handled all of this and the efforts that she has put in to continue to carry on this legacy of my grandfather, it's really all due to her. And there are a lot of people who have been incredibly helpful to her, but I just, I couldn't go without mentioning how much she means to this event. She is the face behind all of it. She's not sitting up here, but she really is the person who is making all of this happen. So I would like to just make sure that my mom gets the recognition that she deserves, from me at least. Thank you.

JOHN BUSH: Well said, Sam. Okay, we'll open it up to questions. Start right here.

Q. Mr. Saunders, this question is for you. And you as well, the two players that are here. Given Mr. Palmer's legacy and the level of excellence that he played with and carried himself with, does that inspire you guys as players to carry that excellence with you wherever you go. Not just here with the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but with any game.
MARC LEISHMAN: Yeah, I think for, it definitely does. It's not even the on-course stuff. He was one of the most successful players in the history of the game on the golf course. It's the off-course stuff that inspires me more than, I think, that. If there's some kids that want an autograph or want a picture and you've had a bad day, I mean, how bad can it be, you're playing golf for a living, right? But you go over and you do that because you think, Well, what would he have done? And it's little things like that, I think, that you can make yourself better just by, not just at this event but everywhere, just by trying to be like him. He's a pretty good person to try and be like, I think.

SAM SAUNDERS: Absolutely. Just reiterating what Marc said. He really paved the way for us. And in a large way Marc and I and all of us playing on the PGA TOUR, all of us working at the PGA TOUR, we wouldn't really have an opportunity to make a living playing this sport were it not for my grandfather in a large way. And most importantly, just not the way he played the game, but just the way he interacted, the way he, you know, worked with the media, the way he treated fans. And that's something that we all have to think about day-in, day-out. Because at the end of the day, we don't get to play this sport and make an impact because we're good at golf. We get to do it because we're entertainers and you have to do that the right way. And he epitomized doing that the right way.

Q. Governor, there's been some sporting events worldwide cancelled because of the coronavirus. Could that happen in the state of Florida and do you have any updates on the coronavirus?
GOV. RON DESANTIS: So the risk here in Florida remains low, as it does throughout the United States. We have our state Department of Health working with the county officials, since January have monitored over 700 people and this is the public health playbook. As people were coming in from China, they were self-isolating. They were being checked for temperature, symptoms. Almost all of those folks were fine. We have had two people test positive, a third presumptive positive that was related to one of the Italy travel. And so our health officials are going to continue to do that, to contain it, and I think that that's the way to go. We are not advocating any disruption to daily life. And obviously, we're working with the CDC, if that guidance were to change. And also just point out, we are still learning a lot about this. Doctor Fauci did an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine over the weekend. If you look at how this virus has impacted people, overwhelmingly when it gets really serious, it's people who are either elderly or who have underlying conditions. And so we have been working closely with our nursing homes, assisted living facilities, providing them with kind of guidance to limit access if somebody is showing symptoms to those. That's, I think, where we are now. And if we, as we get new information, obviously we'll let people know. But that's where it stands right now in the state of Florida.

Q. For Marc, Sam alluded to the conditions of the golf course being excellent and with the winds are going to come up just a little bit, just maybe assess the challenge this week.
MARC LEISHMAN: It is certainly a challenge out there. I mean, it's such a good golf course. I think it tests every part of your game. I was actually asked the question before, which part it tests the most. And not very often do you say the iron game. Normally you have to hit the fairway or you have to putt unbelievably well, but here you have to hit your irons in the right spot, particularly with how firm and fast the greens get on the weekend. And, I mean, the conditions as good as I've ever seen it, the rough's juicy, the greens are firm. I mean it's as good a test as you'll get. It's fair, you can -- there's going to be some low scores, which is great. If you're playing good golf you can shoot a low score. But if you're a little bit off it can look like you're a lot off, which I think is a sign of a really good golf course. It is certainly a test and I think all the staff have done a great job preparing it and now I guess they will hand it over and see what we can do out there.

Q. For Sam and Marc, obviously there's been some talk of an alternative tour perhaps starting in the future. That would not be good, I would assume, for events like this. What is you guys' stance on an alternative tour?
SAM SAUNDERS: Well it would affect Marc a lot quicker than me, he's a lot, he's ranked a lot higher in the world than I am.

Q. No, but for this event.
SAM SAUNDERS: No, I understand. But here's the thing, I've been around the game long enough and understand the history enough to understand that these have been talks that have gone on for many years. There's always a threat of this, there's always someone out there that wants to do something like this. I think the PGA TOUR's in a pretty good place. I would stick with this TOUR and I believe greatly in the future of it. So whatever happens is going to happen but I think the PGA TOUR will always be, has always been and will always be the best TOUR in the world to play on and it's where the best players are always going to play.

MARC LEISHMAN: Yeah, I mean, I probably don't know enough about it, to be honest. I guess I'm in the situation I'm probably just going to sit back and watch and see what happens. I think that's -- I don't know what else I can do. I'm not going to be one of the top guys, if it does go ahead. So, yeah, I'm sitting back watching and just let it unfold, I guess and see what happens.

Q. Sam, and also Marc I would like to you weigh in as well, but there were always questions for years about how this tournament would fare when your grandfather was no longer with us and yet three years in it's one of the strongest fields of the year to date. I would be curious what you see as its greatest appeal.
SAM SAUNDERS: The legacy of my grandfather, it just doesn't go away. And he's not here to shake hands with the players and see them, but the impact, they feel it, they know how important this event is. And I also think the bottom line is we have just got one of the best golf courses on the PGA TOUR. We really -- guys want to play at the best places. They want to play at the courses where it's challenging but fair, and we have worked incredibly hard here, the entire staff has worked so hard to make this -- I mean, we have had some years in the past where admittedly the course conditions just weren't what we wanted and it's been a struggle. And I can say, over the last four years, I think, playing a full schedule on the PGA TOUR as I have, and, subjectively, I think we have one of the top-5 conditioned courses on TOUR year-in, year-out. The greens are incredible, it's fair but it's challenging, and guys want to come play a golf course that tests every aspect of their game.

And then you throw the fact that my grandfather, this was his home and this is a tournament that bears his name, I think guys want to come be a part of this. And for me the most important thing is just to continue to make it better and better. I ask players, I ask Marc, I ask all of my peers, what do you like, what do you don't like, be brutally honest with me. And I have the unique opportunity to get that feedback and try to relay it to the people here that can continue to make it better. So I think that's really the reason why you continue to see such a great field here and why it's just going to stay on the track that it is.

Q. I have two questions for you. The first one, how does this tournament -- I'm jumping ahead a little bit -- but how does this tournament prepare you for the Masters and the second one, what is your best favorite Masters memory?
MARC LEISHMAN: Well, this event, by the weekend, the greens get really fast, so I guess it prepares you to putt on greens that are running at 13, 14 plus on the Stimpmeter, which is what you have to do well here on the weekend and at Augusta.

Best memory? I mean, probably I was lucky enough to -- well it wasn't me -- but I was lucky enough to be on the 18th green when Adam Scott made the putt in 2013 to, what looked, what we thought was the winning putt, didn't turn out to be. But that's probably my best Masters memory and you know, there's a little bit of disappointment there for me, but that's still a special moment, yeah.

Q. Governor DeSantis, curious how your game is nowadays and what your handicap's like.
GOV. RON DESANTIS: Well we don't -- well, look, I mean I'm a very good elected official golfer because what happens is when I got out there I'll hit some nice long tee shots -- I was a baseball player through college I have clubhead speed -- I'll make some putts, but I hit enough bad shots that people know I have a day job. And that's the danger, if you're an elected official and you're scratch then people say, Well maybe you're not doing the job. So that's kind of my balance, that's been my game and I haven't really been able to enjoy some of what Florida has to offer, just because we have got a day job and I got two young kids and I got another baby on the way at the end of March. So that puts a cramp on your game, for sure.

JOHN BUSH: Well Governor DeSantis, Sam, Marc, Michael we appreciate your time today, I would like to remind everyone to go out to the driving range for our opening ceremony. If you'll be out there around 11 o'clock we look forward to seeing you there. Thank you.

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