Palmer Ends Competitive Career at Augusta

By Associated PressApril 9, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A wink, a hug, a wave to the crowd. Without even swinging a club, Arnold Palmer has always known how to make the people smile.
The King did it again Friday, closing out his competitive career at the Masters during one last sentimental stroll around Augusta National, the course he carried straight into American culture over the past 50 years.
'It's not fun sometimes to know it's over,' he said afterward, fighting through the tears.
But it sure was fun to watch him go.
Or maybe touching is more like it.
The day began when he burst onto the first tee box and headed immediately toward the ropes - slapping hands, hugging and sharing words with many of the loyal fans who staked out ground early to see him on his way.
He closed out his career at Augusta with a second straight 84, but the score didn't matter. Like his age - 74 - it was just a number. What the thousands who watched him really cared about was that time he looked their way, or said 'Hello,' or gave them one of those trademark winks, or that famous thumbs-up signs.
'He has a way of making everybody think he's looking at them,' said Col. Joe Curtis, who has followed Arnie for 49 years at Augusta, the last few in an electric wheelchair. 'That's called charisma.'
Back in the day, when Palmer had the game to go with the charisma, he brought golf, a sport for blue bloods and the country-club set, straight to the average man.
He won the Masters four times, and it was during the first win, in 1958, that the phenomenon known as 'Arnie's Army' began.
'They were holding up signs,' Palmer said.
He recalled a meeting the next year with then-chairman Cliff Roberts, who 'came up to me and said, `We're going to ban signs. You caused us a problem with those signs.' I told him I didn't have any problem with that.'
And really, it didn't take signs to spot a member of the Army. That was as clear back then as it was in his finale.
'He's a boyhood idol of mine,' said 49-year-old Dave Bockorny, who caught Palmer's eye during the round. 'I just respect him so much.'
Bockorny said he loved watching Arnie go for broke and take big chances in spots where other players would have played it safe.
That's what helped Palmer win here in 1958, when he went for the shot across the stream and made eagle on No. 13. It was also one of the hundreds of memories racing through Palmer's mind as he took his long, final walk up the 18th fairway.
'If you just use your imagination, you'll understand the emotion,' Palmer said. 'I think about how many times I walked up that 18th fairway. I think of the four times I won the Masters, and the couple times I didn't when I should have won. I think of the fans who've supported me, and I listen to them.'
They were out there all day Friday, enjoying every little nugget Palmer offered.
The best picture may have come on No. 6, when he hit a perfect tee shot down to the green on the little par-3. Jack Nicklaus was playing on the adjacent hole, No. 16, and the Golden Bear took note, giving Arnie a thumbs-up sign. Palmer replied with a bow to Nicklaus and there they were, the King and the Bear enjoying golf together, however briefly.
On No. 9, Palmer stopped to give his oldest granddaughter, Emily Saunders, a hug. It wasn't the only time he went to the ropes to greet a family member. He said this was the first time his entire family had been there to see him play.
'He was so glad the whole family could be part of it today,' Saunders said.
Palmer's family extends well beyond blood, though.
He helped make the game popular at a time when televised sports were just taking hold. Fathers passed on their love of the game to their sons, and many a boy - and girl - learned to play the game simply because they wanted to be like Arnie.
'I don't like golf, I just like Arnold,' said Ellen DuBois, attending her 49th Masters. 'It's his last and it's my last. I'm not coming anymore.'
Sadly, the party is over for lots of Palmer's fans. They can be thankful, at least, that they got a two-year reprieve from when Palmer said farewell to Augusta National in 2002. Back then, he felt like he was being pushed out by the club, which was trying to weed out past champions who weren't competitive anymore.
Arnie and chairman Hootie Johnson conferred and agreed it just didn't feel right.
'The fact is, the one thing I wanted to do is what I did today, and that was finish 50 years at Augusta,' Palmer said.
Sensing the history, a handful of players and caddies and pretty much all the members with green jackets hung around late to watch him finish. Thousands of fans crowded the 18th green, standing 10 and 15 deep - craning their necks, teetering on tiptoes, doing anything to get a glimpse.
What they saw was a reminder of their hero's present, not his glorious past. His second shot on the long par-4 was short and left of the green. Palmer pitched perfectly 4 feet below the hole, only to push the par putt badly to the right. There was no farewell gift from the golf gods to tempt a return.
'It's done,' Palmer said. 'I won't say I'm happy it's done, but it's time for it to be done for me.'
Indeed, he may be right.
On Friday, though, it was hard to imagine that the rest of his Army agreed.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

    Getty Images

    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

    Getty Images

    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

    Getty Images

    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.