Nick Dunlap kicked off the Arnold Palmer Invitational as a single. This is what he thought about it

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Arnold Palmer Invitational started Thursday morning with a single leading off the field of 69 in the signature event at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. It’s a rare instance – no one seems to remember the last time that happened – and it caused a bit of an uproar on social media with the likes of Colt Knost imploring, “What are we doing here? Let one more player in,” and Andrew Novak, who has three straight top 10s on Tour, proclaiming, “I’ll play as marker this week, but if I top 10 again y’all gotta pay me. Deal?”

Nick Dunlap, the 20-year-old rookie, making his fourth start as a professional following his victory as an amateur in January at the American Express, drew the role of playing solo at 7:45 a.m. Thursday and 10:45 a.m. Friday. Viktor Hovland, for one, was perplexed when told of the odd circumstances.

“I’ve never done that before,” Hovland said. “I think that feels a little bit weird but at the same time that’s like going out and practicing for yourself. Yeah, it would be weird.”

Dunlap agreed that his initial reaction was that’s “weird.” But his tune had changed after going out and shooting a rollercoaster round of even-par 72.

“Personally, I like it as weird as that is to say,” Dunlap said. “To put it in perspective I was playing foursomes in college and it’s a lot better to be playing as a single than a foursome.”

Dunlap was sent out as a single because Tony Finau elected not to play in the event leaving an odd number of players this week. Under Tour regulations, there is no alternate list for a player out of Finau’s category. (This rule should be revised to fill out the field, as Knost suggested, even if it means allowing an extra sponsor invite.) Another option would have been to send him out as a three-ball in the final group.

“They did all they could do with the criteria for getting into (signature) events is pretty stern and they want to stick with that,” Dunlap said, defending the decision. “I’m just happy to be here.”

But Dunlap admitted it took him a little time to get into his routine, and he made a triple bogey at the third hole. Asked what club he used when his ball landed in the water, he replied, “Which time?”

It was driver off the tee and a 6-iron for those scoring at home. “I didn’t like the start,” Dunlap said. “I was struggling staying in a couple and stayed in them too long and pulled them.”

But after being 4 over at the turn, he responded with five birdies coming home, including at the final two holes. Asked whether he would have preferred to play with a marker, a common occurrence at men’s majors when there is an odd number of players after the 36-hole, Dunlap said no.

“The marker wouldn’t have been another professional, it would’ve been an amateur and hate to say it but a lot of people don’t understand how hard this place is,” said Dunlap. “I wouldn’t have had the time I had today.”

“It was a little weird,” he added. “It took me a second to get in a groove, but it allowed me to take as much time as I needed.”

He has got another round on Friday to enjoy the company of playing solo.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek