Palmer, 86, could have lessened role next week at Bay Hill

Even if Arnold Palmer doesn't do all the things he typically does next week at the PGA Tour event he hosts each year, his grandson Sam Saunders, right, still think he's be out on the range offering his usual brand of advice. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Arnold Palmer's visibility at his own eponymous PGA Tour event will likely be lessened next week from what it's been in recent years.

"It's a very busy week; there's a lot of stuff going on," said his grandson Sam Saunders, who is also a PGA Tour member. "It's tiring for me and I'm 28 years old. At 86, he's doing OK, but I think his availability to get out and be on the course and be seen as much will be limited. But I know he'll still have a huge role."

For years, Palmer has hosted a Wednesday pre-tournament news conference with the assembled media at Bay Hill, site of his Arnold Palmer Invitational. That won't happen next week, replaced instead by a private question-and-answer session that won't be in front of any cameras.

He will, though, still be on site throughout the tournament.

"I know he's still going to be around; he's still going to be out there," Saunders said. "I know all the guys want to see him and he'll want to see all the guys, so hopefully he'll be feeling good and will be able to come out and play a pretty big role.

"But whether he's able to be there in person for some of these moments or not, it doesn't matter. He's still the focus. We all know what he's done and who he is. Whether he can physically be there or not, he's still always going to be there."

As for his grandfather's health, Saunders maintained that just being around the tournament again should help matters.

"He's doing OK. I don't think his liveliness is quite there like it has been, but I think that's pretty common for the age. As he says, getting old is tough. I've seen it in him; I've seen it in my other grandfather. Aging is tough and over the past couple of years, everything is exacerbated a little bit. But he's tough.

"The one thing that will never go away is his toughness. He's not just going to lay down and not do anything. He'll be active and he'll still be out there trying to push it. I wouldn't expect anything less from him.

"All the guys coming to the tournament and seeing the familiar faces will definitely get his spirits up. He'll be excited to see everyone."

Saunders also explained that, just as he's done for years, his grandfather will be on the range with him at some point during the week, analyzing his swing and offering some pointers.

"It's amazing what he can still see and do," he said. "Every now and then, the words of wisdom that come out are mind-boggling. It doesn't seem like he can still have that much knowledge. There are very few people in golf who know the game, physically or mentally, better than him."

As for Palmer's role at another upcoming tournament, that is still to be decided.

Since 2007, he has served as an honorary starter at the Masters Tournament, joined by fellow Big Three legends Jack Nicklaus in 2010 and Gary Player two years later.

"I know he's planning on going," Saunders said of Palmer's Masters plan. "Whether he hits a tee shot, I don't know. But I think just having him standing there would be good. Being part of that is so special to him. Those are the things that if he's having a bad day and he gets to do something like that, it certainly gets his spirits going and he feels better. I think it has a huge influence on the way he feels and the way he interacts. I hope he's at Augusta and I sure think he will be."