Arnie Hasnt Forgotten How to Dream

By George WhiteJuly 29, 2004, 4:00 pm
Arnold Palmer, Americas favorite golfing grandpa, is 74 years old now. I know he wont be around on the weekend at the Senior U.S. Open. You know it. Deep down, Arnold knows it, too. Theres something about a 74-year-olds physique, his strength, his flexibility, his nerves that wont stand up in a golf match with men 20 years his junior.
 
But Arnie remembers the way it was back in the late 50s and early 60s. He remembers a man who used to have a better mind than everyone, was stronger than everyone, used to beat everyone. That was the first half of his life. And he has spent the second half of his life hoping against all hope that it would happen again.
 
I'm almost to the point where, yeah, I'm here because somewhere in the back of my head I'm still stupid enough to think that I can win a golf tournament, said Arnold. And everything would have to go right, and that is important to me - and when that doesn't happen, then I won't be here. And this may be my last, but I'm going to enjoy it.
 
In a way, its terribly endearing that he still feels this way. Thank the stars above that theres the least little glimmer that he could still do it. He hasnt forgotten how to hope. He hasnt given up the ghost entirely. He can still dream ' and obviously thats all it is, a dream.
 
I dont begrudge him one bit a spot in the field. I wouldnt begrudge him a spot if there were only 10 places in the field. Yeah, hes earned it with 62 wins on the regular tour. But hes earned it because there isnt one person on the Champions Tour that the fans would rather see tee it up. And lets face it ' the reason there ARE golf tournaments is because someone will pay to see them play. And Arnold is the guy, more than any other, that they will pay to see.
 
Someone noted that Jack Nicklaus is not at the Senior Open ' a choice hes made because he has just about decided to totally hang em up. How does Arnie feel about that?
 
Arnie, as far as he's concerned, said Palmer, he's here because he wants to be - not necessarily to win this golf tournament but to help add a little thing to me, my life and to the tournament.
 
Palmer has this love for the game that is just insatiable. How fortunate that the fans demand that he play the tournaments. He plays only five or six a year now, but he still draws a tremendous gallery. Its been 31 years since he won last won a regular-tour event, but its a testament to his widespread popularity that no one has forgotten. Every lap he takes is a victory lap, regardless of whether he shoots a 75 or a 90.
 
A whole new generation has grown up since he last won, and theyve taken to him just like their mothers and fathers ' grandmothers and grandfathers? People come and people go, generations pass and new ones are born, and yet he still remains the one constant. Just for once, let me see Arnie!
 
For 50 years, hes had this effect on people. Hes become accustomed to it by now, surely. But he still professes amazement that he is still the one in the spotlight. And in a way, he is still more than a little baffled by it ' people still want to see Arnold Palmer? Whatever in the world for?
 
Hes survived cancer, hes survived the death of a wife, he survived 10 years of missing cuts and golfing in mediocrity. But he still carries on ' and thank goodness for it!
 
I get tired sometimes, both physically and mentally, he admitted. But I can walk out of this room and be exhausted, and I'll go home and pick up a golf club and have the same enthusiasm that I had at 8 o'clock this morning.
 
The game is just too good and too big, and it's fun for me. It's still fun, even though I walked around and hit shots all over the place today. You couldn't have beat today. It was beautiful out there, and I played with three guys who hit the ball pretty well, and it was fun for me to just watch them hit it and recall some of the days that I was able to do the same thing.
 
You know, it's better than -- walking around, even if I'm tired and I'm not getting the club through the ball the way I want to and a lot of things, it's still fun for me. And it excites me, even though I don't play the way I want to.
 
Arnold Palmer has had a wonderful life. Hes done exactly what he wanted to do, which is working at the thing he loves most. Golf is his life. And may he never stop swinging the club. There would be regrets from one corner of the globe to the next. Arnold, you see, is golfs idol.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.