ORLANDO, Fla. Jeff Kemp Jersey . -- Tiger Woods was a large part of the conversation on the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And hes not even playing. Woods is missing Bay Hill for only the second time in his career when the tournament starts Thursday on a course that Palmer said is in the best shape ever. Woods has won eight times, including the last two years, but he called the 84-year-old host on Tuesday to say persistent back pain will keep him from playing. "He didnt tell me how bad his back is. I dont think he knows how bad his back is," Palmer said. "I think hes listening to the doctors. And he mentioned that theyre saying that he needs to give it a bit of a rest and see if he can work it out. He was very nice. And I, of course, have great sympathy for the fact that he tried like hell to come here and play. And I appreciate that and the fact that he called. "I think he wanted to play golf this week," Palmer said. "I think that he needs to take (time) -- whether its this week, next week or the following week -- to get ready for Augusta. Certainly, if I were in that position, Id be doing much the same." Most of the chatter was more about the future with Woods. Will he play at the Masters? Stuck on 14 majors for the last five years, can he match or surpass the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus? And what will be the larger obstacle -- his age (38), his health (legs and back) or the competition (long list)? "I dont think 38 years is the ultimate stopping point for his quest to do what Jack did," Palmer said. "I think it lessens the possibility of that happening. Its going to be tough. Its going to be tough to keep the concentration and the type of the game that is necessary to win majors." Nicklaus won four of his majors after turning 38. Ben Hogan, with battered legs from a car accident, won five majors after turning 38. Palmer, however, believes more than age is at stake for Woods. "These young guys are tough, and theyre strong," Palmer said. "And if they continue to play as well as theyve been playing, its going to be tough for anybody -- whether it be Nicklaus or Tiger or whomever it would be -- to continue to win major championships. And were talking about guys that are playing good and coming on." Palmer actually had a list of players he was talking about. Some of them were young, such as Chris Kirk and Harris English. Others had either won this season (Ryan Moore) or played well recently (Robert Garrigus). "I dont know how many you want me to name," Palmer said. "But really, the strength and the ability of these people is very pleasing to me." Graeme McDowell, a runner-up to Woods two years at Bay Hill, said he can understand what the No. 1 player is going through with injuries. He also believes that competition might be an even larger obstacle than his health for Woods to break Nicklaus record. "Hes a physical player who creates a lot of speed and a lot of power and his body is starting to struggle a little bit, no doubt about it," McDowell said. "But Im sure hell fix it. ... But we all talk about how good the fields are nowadays. Taking Tigers fitness and physicality out of it, winning major championships is getting harder and harder for everyone -- including the best player maybe thats ever lived in Tiger. "Hes got more than just his body to be fighting. Theres a lot of great players in the world now," McDowell said. "Its going to be harder for him to achieve Jacks record. But if anyone can do it, Im sure he can find a way because we all know how good he is." The field at Bay Hill is not as strong as usual, starting with the absence of Woods, the No. 1 player in the world and an eight-time winner of this event. Match Play champion Jason Day (No. 4 in the world) pulled out with recurring pain in his thumb, and Phil Mickelson (No. 5) is not playing this year. Not that it would change the dynamics of what already has been a peculiar season. With 18 tournaments in the books this season, Zach Johnson is the only player to win a PGA Tour event while ranked among the top 10 in the world. The Masters is three weeks away. Is it time for the stars to come out? "Hopefully, this one does," Masters champion Adam Scott said, pointing to himself with a laugh. "But as far as unexpected winners, it seems to me thats happening more and more in golf. There are more and more guys breaking through, putting in a lot of hard work and getting what they deserve. So I think weve seen a bit of a shift in the game over the last couple of years -- a lot less domination by top players." Ken Willard Jersey . Hargreaves began his career in 2008 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and has played with the Edmonton Eskimos and last season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Wholesale 49ers Jerseys . Hall joined Bengals teammates for a voluntary workout on Monday. Hes got his mobility back and is on schedule to be ready for the season. CINCINNATI - Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is happy with his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon and expects to be ready for the start of training camp in July.SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Mercedes further demonstrated its early-season dominance by outpacing its rivals in Fridays practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix, indicating the team is well poised for a third straight win to start 2014. Lewis Hamilton followed up his victory last week in Malaysia by having the fastest time in both sessions, the second of which was held under lights for the first time at the Bahrain International Circuit, which has switched to being a night race. Hamiltons time of 1 minute, 34.690 seconds was one third of a second faster than teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg, and more than a second faster than third-place Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. "The car feels better than when we were testing here -- balance-wise, it was extremely good," Hamilton said. "There are still some tweaks we need to make it feel perfect, but Im feeling good." Defending four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was a distant seventh on the timesheets, behind his fourth-place Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo -- who carries a 10-grid-place penalty into Sundays race. The pair was split by Felipe Massa of Williams and McLarens Jenson Button. Vettel, who was a competitive third in Malaysia, was downbeat aboout Red Bulls prospects of hanging on to the Mercedes coattails on Sunday. Joe Perry Jersey. "They are very quick. It is not a surprise, they were very quick in the testing here. They have proved that again," Vettel said. "It will be a long way for us to catch up." Even more dispiriting for Mercedes rivals was that the dominance reflected by their lap times on lighter fuel and soft tires was even more pronounced when using higher fuel loads to practice for race conditions. Williams had a distinctly different approach to the days practice, doing relatively few laps to extend engine life, reckoning that it had all the data it needed about the Bahrain track after extensive preseason testing there. Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat was eighth fastest, ahead of McLarens Kevin Magnussen and Force Indias Sergio Perez. The night session, which began in falling desert temperatures at 6 p.m. local time -- the same as Sundays race -- saw many drivers struggling to get sufficient heat in the tires, misjudging braking distances and running off track. Max Chiltons Marussia went into a violent spin after a front brake failure, while Saubers Adrian Sutil and Caterhams Marcus Ericsson both had sudden power losses. ' ' '
Tiger Woods was a large part o
Tiger Woods was a large part o