Arnie The Ambassador of Golf

By George WhiteMarch 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
The King sat at the microphone, ready to chat about whatever was on the minds of the assorted media folks. One thing that was settled immediately was the issue of Ken Venturi and his insistence that Arnold Palmer broke the rules when he played a second ball at No. 12 in the 1958 Masters.
Next question! Palmer said when the issue was broached in a question. Another gentleman persisted with the same question, momentarily raising the hackles on Father Arnie. I dont really know a thing about it, said Arnold. And Im not really too interested. Thats my comment.
He doesnt dignify the anecdote with a retort. A stickler for the rules, he obviously was stunned when Venturi brought up the assertion in a book. Palmer had heard the objections raised from Venturi before, but now the incident is more than 40 years old. Palmers recollection is one way, Venturis another. The worst thing Arnold could do, Arnold has obviously decided, is get into a mud-slinging match about it. So there it lay, and if you expected him to mount a defense, you expected wrong.
The issue of The King is something else again. Palmer himself doesnt like the term, certainly he has never in his career used the term to apply to himself.
You know, Im not crazy about that nickname that they put on me ' The King, said Palmer when he was preparing for a biography feature presented a few years back by The Golf Channel.
I dont feel like the The King. I feel like maybe the ambassador for the game of golf. And I would like that. No one is The King of golf, and no one WILL be. The game is bigger than any individual, and it doesnt matter if is Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus or Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan or Sam Snead or Tiger Woods.
Palmer was addressing the media gathering before his Bay Hill Invitational this week. Palmer is an owner of the Bay Hill course, having purchased it way back in 1969. That was the year he moved to Central Florida from his year-round home in Latrobe, Pa. He still has a home in Latrobe, as well as the Palm Springs, Cal., area. But Orlando and Bay Hill was the site he personally chose after an exhaustive look at the state of Florida early in his career.
I came here in 65 and played in a Chamber of Commerce fund-raiser, Arnold said. I loved the golf course After the exhibition, I asked if the golf course was for sale. And they said, No, it isnt.
Palmer then said that if Bay Hill ever were for sale, he wanted to buy it. Oh, thats a different story, said the owners. Lets talk, they said ' and Palmer wound up owning the course in 1969.
And why did I come here? Arnold asked rhetorically. I love freshwater. The lakes here are pristine, nice boating, good fishing and very quiet.
That was, of course, before the Disney conglomerate moved into the Orlando area. And that was actually before there was a Bay Hill tournament. But there was a tour tournament in Orlando at another course ' in fact, Palmer had finished in a second-place tie in that event in 1967 when Julius Boros was the winner. Anybody still remember the Florida Citrus Open Invitational?
Palmer actually won the Florida Citrus in 71. And it would continue to be held at the other track ' Rio Pinar ' until Palmer made a few strategic improvements to Bay Hill and the event was moved to his course in 1979.
Twenty-six years later, the course ' and the tournament ' stands on the threshold of history. Tiger Woods is trying to win Bay Hill for the fifth consecutive time ' a mark that has never been achieved. And to think it would come at the course of ' well, The Ambassador.
Arnold, now 74, speaks glowingly of Woods - who has moved to Orlando himself.
At this point, given the same energy that he has used to do what he has done thus far ' its hard to say how many golf tournaments hell win, said Palmer.
Who knows, maybe someday Tiger will wind up owning a golf course just as Palmer has done. Maybe someday he will fly past Palmers 62 victories. But he will have to go some to match the appeal that Palmer has had with the game ' and the fans ' of golf. Arnold may not be The King, but he certainly is The Idol. He will always be idolized by those who love this crazy game.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.