Why Tiger Will Wear a Different Crown Than The King
On the green? says a bystander.
His green, someone else says.
He hitches a little, sets up, waggles the driver, grimaces briefly as if wishing for the momentary return of that youth that still lives in his eyes, and swings. The ball sails back down the fairway on a trajectory any of us would be pleased to own. But its not good enough for him. He wants it to be like 1964. He feels like he can do it the way he did in 1964.
Oh, and by the way: He left not a mark on that green.
Arnold Palmer has made his mark in many other ways over thousands of days like this one. The occasion is a commercial shoot at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla., and Palmer, the star of the commercial, is also the clubs founder and owner. The impromptu drive was a time-killer between takes. Now that the film crew has reset and the next shot is ready, Palmer changes shirts (even in October the humidity here is still stifling) and heads toward the camera.
His eyes still smile as if they simply dont know any other way. Even he has been unable to dodge the inevitable heartbreak episodes of advancing age: He is a widower and a prostate cancer survivor (indeed, part of todays commercial shoot concerns Palmers efforts to increase prostate cancer awareness, thereby saving the lives of more men.)
But the smile remains in the eyes, and everyone from sound guy to camera operator to P.R. girl is drawn to his natural friendliness. No question: Whatever he feels he has lost off his drive, Arnold Palmers human appeal ' and commercial viability as an endorser ' refuses to decay.
Those of you rushing to the discussion boards or the e-mail to excoriate me for praising Palmer ' how can I say this politely? Save it. Every time I write something nice about Palmer, I hear that it is because he allegedly signs my paycheck. But while he is indeed the chairman of the board of The Golf Channel, he has no influence over my work. I cover golf business news; Palmer continues to make golf business news ' thats all the motivation I need, or have.
Besides, praise isnt really the objective here. Rather, it is to note that at 74, Palmer is 30 years past his last regular PGA Tour win, still an endorsement blockbuster, and probably the last of a breed.
Timing had a lot to do with Palmers endorsement success. If you trace the explosion of television-driven mass culture in this country back to the advent of the Beatles in 1962, then Palmers first Masters win of four, in 1958, couldnt have been scheduled any better. Palmer helped golf on television, and golf on TV helped him.
Then there was the personal touch. Legions of people have testified about how Arnold looked right at them, reached out his hand to shake their hands. He made a personal bridge every time he extended an arm over the ropes. (As a matter of fact, it was because of the crowds Palmer brought to golf tournaments that organizers even had to use ropes.)
It wasnt an accident. Palmers father Deacon instilled gentlemanliness in him from an early age, and made sure the lesson stuck. And the late Mark McCormack, realizing that no athlete can win all the time or forever, positioned Palmer as a winner at life, as McCormack liked to put it.
It worked. And because it worked, Palmers appeal has survived the onslaught of a speedy, impatient culture, including the immense popularity of other sports stars. Palmer continues, to this day, to be among the top 20 athlete-endorsers in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
The young man with the fire in his eyes, who is No. 1 on that Forbes list and who makes a habit of winning Palmers PGA Tour event at Bay Hill each March, has teed up a new era of endorsement power. But those who thrill to the golf expertise of Tiger Woods sometimes sigh that whatever his gifts, Woods will never be another Palmer. The less charitable blame Tiger for this, saying he should be warmer, more personable ' more like Arnold.
But its not Tigers fault that in being himself, he is something different from (or less than) the hero we remember Palmer to be. Its not that Tiger doesnt have the ability to build those same bridges Palmer built ' Woods has been unfailingly polite in my contacts with him, and he has a wicked, dry sense of humor that is often the hallmark of extreme intelligence. He runs a charitable foundation, and he has put a great deal of money where his mouth is in that regard. He is a good example for children.
But although Woods is the best opportunity for Palmer-like stardom since the generation that brought us Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, the world into which Tiger was born is irrevocably changed.
Was 1964 kindler and gentler? Perhaps. For certain, there were not as many concerns about security. There were less people vying for an athletes time. Sports stardom earned respect, but not deification. We had not yet coined the term stalker. The commercial machinery that had been built by Palmers time didnt yet have the privacy-destroying capability is does today.
Within the unfriendly confines of these challenges, Woods has done pretty well. His handlers know his presence, image and likeness are assets that must be protected. But the charitable goals remain. And although it might be a stretch to believe Woods fathers mid-1990s prediction that Tiger will outdo Gandhi, its perfectly reasonable to believe Woods will use his extraordinary focus and will to do some lasting good in the world.
Kind of like his annual host at Bay Hill. Between swings, Palmer brought smiles to the faces of millions, and continues to do so. And while we wont see him on the Nobel Prize list this week, we owe him a lot.
Woods may be able to accomplish the same thing. But it might be a lot to ask if we expect him to do it the same way.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''