Arnies Army Gather One More Time

By Associated PressApril 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The golf was merely an excuse to celebrate the man.
Arnold Palmer began what will be his final go-round at the Masters on Thursday with his army mustered behind him once more. They lined every fairway, tee to green. Grizzled veterans who joined decades ago stood shoulder-to-shoulder with new recruits eager for what might be their only glimpse of the King.
'I started coming here when I was 3 with my dad. He always told me, `Root for Arnold Palmer. You follow Arnold Palmer,'' said Blanton Phillips, who this year brought his own 3-year-old, Sam.
'I'd like him to see Arnie here on his last trip around,'
Phillips said, nodding at his son. 'When he's my age, he'll be able to look at his pairing sheet and say he was here when Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus were all playing in the Masters at the same time.'
That Palmer was never in contention at his 50th consecutive Masters hardly mattered. The four-time Masters champion is 74 now and hasn't made the cut since 1983, and that streak is sure to continue Friday after his opening 12-over 84.
But for five hours Thursday, Palmer's fans got a chance to return all the love and respect they've gotten from him all these years. They lined up in the rain just for the chance to watch him tee off, and they were rewarded with a smile so bright it lightened the gray skies.
'Go get 'em, Arnie!' one fan yelled, and Palmer responded with a smile and a thumbs up.
'It was fun today,' Palmer said, 'feeling that adrenaline flowing like so many years.'
And for a few holes, at least, there were flashes of the old master. After a disappointing double bogey on the par-3 No. 4, he seemed to be in more trouble on the fifth when his 40-foot birdie putt reached the crest of a hill and rolled all the way back down to the edge of the green.
But Palmer knocked it in for par, and the crowd roared as if he'd hit the tournament winner.
On the par-3 No. 6, his tee shot went into the gallery on the left side of the green, well below the pin. This time Palmer chipped within inches of the hole, prompting one fan to yell, 'Pick it up!'
'I felt pretty good,' said Palmer, whose grandson, Sam Saunders, caddied for him. 'I thought maybe I might put something together.'
But he closed the front nine with bogeys on two of the last three holes and then opened the back with a double bogey and two bogeys.
'I was a little embarrassed by my score,' Palmer said. 'But I won't have to worry about it much longer. That's disappointing, because I enjoy playing.'
And golf is better because he did. Palmer was the dominant player of the 1960s, winning seven major championships. But it was his personality that altered the game forever.
He visited with fans in the gallery as he played, and they felt he was truly glad they were there. When fans applauded, he looked them in the eye and waved.
He was their friend.
'It's kind of like family,' said Charles Cooley of Stone Mountain, Ga., who has been coming to the Masters since 1956. 'You just feel like you know him.'
Ellen DeBois was 8 years old when she came with her father to her first Masters. While the other golfers were too busy to acknowledge her, Palmer took the time to talk to her. Just like that, a lifelong adoration was born.
DeBois, now 56, has been to 38 Masters and about 200 tournaments overall, all to see Palmer. She has a shrine to him at her house, and almost 400 of his autographs. On Thursday, she wore an Arnold Palmer T-shirt and a hat with buttons that read, 'I'll Really Miss You Arnie,' and 'I (Love) Arnie.'
'To me, he is golf,' said DeBois, who said she won't come back to the Masters again. 'There's nobody like him.'
No, there's not. And there probably never will be again. While Tiger Woods has fans the world over, and Phil Mickelson and John Daly draw big crowds, no one is revered like Arnie.
There was an uproar two years ago when Augusta National sent letters to some aging champions who had a tendency to withdraw after the first round, if not sooner. The message was for them to stop playing.
Palmer announced that the 2002 Masters would be his last, saying, 'I don't want to get a letter.' But the Masters softened its stance and Palmer changed his mind, deciding his 50th anniversary at Augusta was the perfect time to leave.
'I look forward to it,' Palmer said after his round Thursday. 'It'll be done tomorrow. But I'll never say it wasn't fun.'
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
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  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
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    After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

    Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

    On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

    Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

    After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

    Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

    A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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    Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

    PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

    At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

    “The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

    Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

    Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

    “Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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    Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

    PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

    Laura Davies won the day.

    It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

    Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

    Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

    For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

    In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

    “I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

    At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

    “It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

    Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

    “It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

    With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

    “People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

    “Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

    She also relished showing certain fans something.

    “Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

    Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

    In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

    Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

    “The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

    After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

    “I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

    Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

    In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

    “I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

    And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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    Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

    The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

    “Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

    After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

    “Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”