Palmer Prepares for Final Event Near Home

By Associated PressMay 25, 2005, 4:00 pm
LIGONIER, Pa. -- Perhaps this best explains Arnold Palmer's game at age 75: He plays golf these days mostly for the exercise.
'I like to get out in the air and I like to walk,' said Palmer, golf's acknowledged king for multiple generations. Now, his tournaments and his years both winding down, Palmer plays mostly to lend his enormous prestige to a few selected events.
Kenny Perry and Arnold Palmer
One of Arnold Palmer's continuing endeavors is hosting his Bay Hill Invitational each year.
For Palmer, who is widely credited with singularly transforming American golf into a spectator sport as well as a participatory one, the Senior PGA championship that begins Thursday is his last elite-level tournament in his native Western Pennsylvania.
That raises this question of the golfer who still counts millions as members of the devoted legion of fans known as Arnie's Army: Is this the last significant tournament for one of the most recognized and successful athletes of all time?
Unlike Jack Nicklaus, who says this summer's British Open will be his last big tournament, Palmer isn't into definitives. He says only, 'I'm not going to make any rash statements about quitting or when I'm going to quit or what I'm going to do. I'll play ... as long as my old body will allow me to play, and I do enjoy it.'
But Palmer realizes nothing is forever - even if golfers now nearing retirement age have barely known the day when they couldn't flip on the TV and see Palmer play a competitive round. It's been 21 years since Palmer last won the Senior PGA, 17 years since he last won any PGA-level tournament, 12 years since his last Top 10 finish, 11 years since he last played in the U.S. Open, also in the Pittsburgh area.
Now, improbable as it might seem for the golfer who still makes more money away from the course than anybody except Tiger Woods, just making the cut is a near-impossible goal. He's shot 80 or above in five of his six Champion Tour rounds this year and, in a three-hole Senior PGA media day appearance last month, was outdriven on two holes by TV anchormen.
'My game is unsatisfactory at the moment ... I played a practice round (this week) with Jay Haas and, very frankly, he is swinging so well and playing so well it made me feel kind of inadequate out there,' Palmer said. 'I'm not sure that I have the physical ability to make that desire (to make the cut) fulfill itself. But I'm going to try.'
This wouldn't seem to be the way Palmer would want to see his remarkable career wind down, just a few miles from the Latrobe Country Club course where father Deke was the superintendent and, 60 years ago, he began to grow and polish his game.
But, and this is what may differentiate him most from Nicklaus, golf to Palmer has not always been about winning or merely competing - as his first-round 86 at last year's Senior PGA at Valhalla shows.
Just four months from his 76th birthday, Palmer still plays before spectators because this is what he loves to do. And he still loves it, even if his game is but a glimmer of what it was when he won 62 PGA tournaments from 1955-73 and 10 more on the Champions/Seniors tour.
'I don't really need to (play),' said Palmer, who sat out the Masters this year for the first time in a half-century. 'I can tell you this, that I still enjoy it. The difference between Jack and I, Jack has a lot of interests that are not necessarily golf.'
That's why, when it would seem there would be no earthly reason why he would want to see his score posted alongside those 15-20 strokes lower, Palmer still plays in selected charity tournaments and Champions Tour events.
'His body is not letting him play the kind of game he would love to play ... he was at that crossroads a number of years ago, but he has chosen to continue on, simply because I think that the fans still want to see him,' Champions Tour money leader Hale Irwin said.
Could it be Palmer is holding out to play a for-real round with his 17-year-old grandson, Sam Saunders, who caddied for him during his last Masters in 2004 and is attempting to qualify for this year's U.S. Open?
'I'm not one to hang around,' Palmer said, all but ruling that out. 'When I'm not playing, I'm gone.'
While Palmer isn't a threat to win on the 7,107-yard Laurel Valley Golf Club course he himself redesigned, plenty of others are. Among the top names are Haas, who has three top-3 finishes in as many Champion Tours events this year; Craig Stadler, who won five Champions tournaments last year and has two PGA Tour Top 10 finishes this year; Jim Thorpe, who has won two of his last three tournaments and Irwin, the defending champion.
Related Links:
  • TV Airtimes - Senior PGA Championship
  • Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - Senior PGA Championship
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

    Getty Images

    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

    Getty Images

    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.