Suddenly, he lifted his head and staggered to all fours, wagging his tail when he heard a familiar voice coming up the stairs.
Arnold Palmer climbed the final few steps and smiled at his dog.
For more than 50 years, Palmer has made everyone around him feel better.
Thats why hes the King.
And thats why he is more relevant than ever in the world of the golf. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is asking players to be more aware of how good they have it. He wants them to be reminded that they essentially are working for the corporate sponsors writing the checks and for the fans behind the ropes, both of whom make it all possible.
Last week, tour officials posted a notice on the bulletin board in the locker room at the Transitions Championship. Please remember to thank the CEO of this weeks event, it read. Cards have been placed in your lockers for you convenience.
Anyone think Palmer ever needed a reminder like that?
Brad Faxon remembers the first time he played with Palmer. It was his rookie season in 1984 at The Players Championship, and when the announcer began to introduce Faxon by saying, In his first year on Tour, Palmer mocked surprise as if the announcer were talking about him. The gallery roared with laughter.
Even more memorable about that day was what Palmer said to him as they walked off the first tee.
He said, If you want to have an impact, be sure to look every fan in the eye, Faxon said.
With his power and charisma and sheer passion for the game, Palmer was responsible for bringing golf to the masses a half-century ago. He won his first Masters the year it was first televised. No other athlete has remained more relevant in retirement.
Palmer is the host this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, making him one of only two players to have a PGA Tour named after him (Byron Nelson is the other). He last competed in an official event in 2006, but he will play in the pro-am Wednesday, and four amateurs most certainly will have a day they wont forget.
The defending champion at Bay Hill is Tiger Woods, the greatest player of his generation, well on his way to winning more PGA Tour events and major championships than anyone.
Players like him dont come around very often, if at all. He has transcended his sport to become the most famous athlete in the world. He won a U.S. Open by 15 shots. He won another U.S. Open on one leg.
Palmer is golfs greatest ambassador. Woods might be its greatest player.
All of which leads to an intriguing question.
Which is golf more likely to see next? Another Tiger Woods or another Arnold Palmer?
Padraig Harrington cast his vote for another Tiger, mainly because of the media and celebrity culture.
Its hard to be an Arnold Palmer now, he said. I dont know if the era could happen again where you could have somebody like Arnold Palmer, who was a man of the people. Now, sports people tend to be a bit more aloof and detached.
Peter Jacobsen said he expected to see another Palmer before another Woods.
Like day turns into night, I think youll see the Tour change again very soon, said Jacobsen, in town for a PGA Tour board meeting and to work for NBC Sports on the weekend. Weve already gone from a Tour thats got lots of characters to a Tour with guys who are intense, quiet and driven. I think were likely to see the next Arnold Palmer.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem took a safe seat on the fence.
Gosh, thats a really hard question, he said. They would both be extremely difficult to replicate, theres no question about it. Just have to wait and see. Maybe well have two or three come out next year.
He didnt mention who those two or three would resemble, but its clear who golf could use more at the moment.
Golf is more interesting when Woods has a rival. Mickelson has resurfaced this year and could be No. 1 in the world before the Masters. Harrington is a threat as he tries to join Woods as the only players to win three straight majors over the last 50 years.
Even so, Woods attracts interest even when no one is there to challenge him.
Tiger is more like Jack (Nicklaus) was early in his career, Faxon said. He was dedicated to improving himself and his career, and winning majors, which is great for the Tour.
But does Woods look fans in the eye? Does he remember the names of people he met 10 years ago no matter the size of their role? Does he see the media as a way to promote golf, or does he see them as an obstacle?
Finchem is asking players to do more for the Tour, for the fans and for the sponsors. Woods has said he will do his part, but the details were vague until word began to leak about a private function Monday at Isleworth. Woods hosted a breakfast and a clinic for a dozen or so CEOs of companies that are PGA Tour title sponsors.
He did something extra that he was asked to do, Rocco Mediate said. And when your No. 1 player says, OK, thats cool.
The best thing for golf would be the arrival of another Arnold Palmer.
Especially if his name were Tiger Woods.