Hes Still the King

By David Marr IiiApril 4, 2002, 5:00 pm
If you havent seen Arnold Palmer play in person recently, youre probably only getting one side of the story, the ugly side. When you check scores in the paper, his is generally the first name you see - provided you start from the bottom and work your way up.
It wasnt supposed to be this way. Arnold is the King.
Hes the pioneer of televised golf. Arnold was as charismatic winning major championships as he was squandering them. His smile captured the hearts of his female admirers, his style capture the dreams of his male fans. Who, when buried deep in the woods, didnt fancy themselves as Arnold? A clear path to the fairway, with a sliver of daylight to the green, how many times did we take the Palmer route? And how ugly was that scorecard?
Now, if youve been able join his gallery recently, its a different story. In person, he is truly still the King. The Army is strong. His fans are knowledgeable, loyal, polite and grateful. He often walks near the ropes, joking with spectators, touching them with his gaze and attention. Creating countless stories, Arnie looked at me. Arnie winked at me. Arnie shook my hand.
At times he walks the fairway with frustration and embarrassment etched in his expression, wishing his scores didnt have to be posted. If he only understood how we felt. Its been decades since his scores have meant anything to anyone but him. To see that funky swing, the warm smile, the wave of acknowledgement is worth it to his fans.
I remember my first Masters. I think Couples won. I remember the egg salad sandwiches. I remember my dads name on the trophy with Arnolds and Jacks from 1964. I remember having a clubhouse pass and exploring every room, except the Champions Locker Room. I remember the beauty of the place and the dignity of the fans. I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I only remember two things that happened between the ropes.
I staked out a spot thats still my favorite on the course, beneath the No. 6 tee overlooking the 16th green. Arnold hit his tee shot on 6 and walked down the hill looking into the gallery, which was standing and applauding. Arnold seemed to be greeting everyone individually with a nod or a smile.
I was a few rows deep but his gaze found me. He said Hello, David and kept going down the line. A woman turned and asked, Who are you? I just said, A fan. She replied, Were all fans of Arnie.
So we all are. That same year I watched Arnold birdie 15 and heard the largest roar Id ever heard on a golf course. I didnt care who won, I had seen Arnold make a birdie at Augusta.
Shortly he will return to Augusta National. He hasnt confirmed it yet, but he just has to play. At yhe Masters, the Kings subjects await his return.
Ill be one of them. Ill go find him out on the course and Ill follow like I do at any event in which he plays. Ill listen to spectators adoring him. Ill watch parents point him out to their children. Ill watch people squeeze their way to the ropes hoping for a glimpse or a nod. Its ironic that his personality is lost on the television audience that he played such a large part in creating, yet on-site he still creates the same passion he has for generations.
Time is drawing short for golf fans to share this experience. His playing schedule is shrinking dramatically, and his talk of retirement has a more serious tone than ever before. If you think golf is only about the number on the scorecard, dont waste your time. If you think the game is about friendship, caring, respect, honor and an ageless grace, then long live the King.
Full coverage of the 2002 Masters
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.