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Debating the merits of skipping the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Jason Day, along with his family, posed for pictures with Arnold Palmer after the Australian won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2016. Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

Whenever there is a pressing topic in golf, not everyone agrees on the same course of action. When that happens, we poll our scribes in a format we like to call Alternate Shot.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: I think it was somewhere toward the end of the third week of my first back-to-back-to-back road trip covering tournaments years ago that I decided I'd never question the scheduling decisions of top players. I don't care how cushy their private jets are or how luxurious their Ritz-Carlton suites might be, unending weeks of travel is a pain in the butt, and these guys deserve some time to relax and recharge.

Well, I'm breaking that promise -- for this week only.

Here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament named for the game's most influential and revered figure, only 14 of the world's top 25 players are expected to be present -- less than six months after his death. That's not just a shame. It's wrong.

They owe it to Palmer, they owe it to the game, they owe it to the tournament and they owe it to themselves to honor him by competing this week.

Any other event, any other time, I'm fine with a player skipping it. But this week, they should all be here.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: I completely understand that sentiment. And in a perfect world, I would agree that everyone should be at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week. In fact, how great would it be if all of the top 50 were entered and that the PGA Tour made it happen via exemptions or whatever means necessary?

But the world is not perfect. And neither is the PGA Tour schedule. So as much as I would like to see everyone play, I understand why that can't happen. And I'm not going to hold it against someone for not playing. I don't think it is disrespect, nor do I think this is the only way to honor Palmer.

Those who are missing have their reasons. With the tournament sandwiched by two World Golf Championships and the Masters looming, I completely understand.

Sobel: Look, I get it. They're independent contractors. The PGA Tour can't obligate them to play -- and it shouldn't be able to. And you're right: Different players have honored Palmer's passing in different ways. Phil Mickelson, for example, attended his funeral. We can't say that's any more or less respectful than playing in the tournament. But this isn't asking too much.

Giving up one week of potential rest or preparation for upcoming events in order to pay respect toward a man known as "The King" should be an easy decision. Before Tiger Woods paved the way for exorbitant purses in the past two decades, Palmer blazed that trail. Playing four rounds in recognition is a pretty fair trade-off.

Harig: I might agree with you if this tournament were three weeks after the Masters. But it's three weeks before the Masters, with a WGC event two weeks prior and another the week after. Guys are skipping the Match Play and there are raised eyebrows. What about the tournament sponsors in Tampa and Houston? They pay a fair amount to stage a tournament, but we tell all the players they have to play in Orlando?

Let's take Jordan Spieth, for example. He's not playing at Bay Hill. He's gone 2-1-2 at Augusta playing the two weeks prior. You want him to make it four straight by adding Bay Hill? Or is he supposed to alter a schedule that has worked for him? Skip Houston.

Why, just so he can make it look good for you and me? I don't buy it.

Sobel: In a bubble, that all makes sense. In the short term, I understand that thought process. But this is bigger than impending prep time. Twenty years from now, the players who played this week will remember being here at Bay Hill after Palmer's death. They'll remember checking out the new 13-foot statue after walking off the first tee; they'll remember being part of the ceremonial tee shot on the range on Wednesday; and they'll remember coming together with their fellow players to honor his legacy.

If those aren't good enough reasons, try this: The golf gods love paying off some karma. Don't be surprised if some of this week's biggest supporters have a few bounces go their way at Augusta in a few weeks.

Harig: I'm not sure I believe in that kind of karma. It'll make for a nice story. I simply think it's unfair to put this on those guys. Ernie Els is playing for the 22nd time and obviously wants to honor Palmer. But he's not holding it against anyone who isn't coming. "It is not disrespect to Mr. Palmer, I can tell you that," he said. That is good enough for me.

Sobel: Again, these guys shouldn't be obligated -- but they should feel obligated. I spent some time at Bay Hill speaking with people behind the scenes last week, and they told me there will be a greater push toward having players spend a little extra time with fans and sign a few more autographs than usual. It all helps to honor Palmer's legacy. For one week -- just this week, just this year -- they should feel obligated to be a part of that.

Harig: I'd rather see them try to support the event over the long haul. And that will be a big concern going forward. Graeme McDowell, who along with Curtis Strange, Peter Jacobsen and Annika Sorenstam, agreed to serve as hosts in Palmer's absence, figures this year's tournament will be plenty well represented, with a lot of attention.

McDowell isn't focused on the someone missing. As he noted, what is one more guy? Why be bothered if someone isn't there? "It's about continuing the legacy beyond that,'' he said.

I don't believe for a second that Palmer's legacy will be impacted one bit by who is or is not in attendance this week.