Fifty Years of Masters Memories for the King

By George WhiteApril 5, 2004, 4:00 pm

A wide-eyed young man pulled up to the gates of Augusta National Golf Course 50 years ago. He was going to play the 1955 Masters. His name was Arnold Palmer, and in truth, he didnt cause much of a stir among the people who go to the tournament each year. They had heard of Johnny Palmer, who had already played in 11 Masters, finishing fourth one year. Many had heard of Ray Palmer, who played in the 1954 Masters. But few knew ARNOLD Palmer.

Hes going back to that place this year, and its safe to say that every golf fan in the world now knows Arnold Palmer. It will be the 50th time he has walked to the first tee. It will also be the final time for this icon, now 74 years old. He has become the face - and the soul - of the Masters.

I had been to Augusta as a college student, said a suddenly reminiscent Palmer, recalling his days in North Carolina in the late 40s at Wake Forest University. And in 1955, I was a hustling, bustling 25-year-old.

And even though I didnt have any money, I had a wife, a trailer and a car, and I was happy. I was doing what I wanted to do.

The beauty of the place was what immediately stuck in Arnolds mind ' the luscious greens, the vibrant reds and pinks and yellows of the lively hued flowers, even the whites of the sand traps and the stately old clubhouse. Palmer was in love, and hes been in love ever since.

When I got on the golf course, I knew there was nothing prettier, more suited to what I wanted to do in the world ' to be there playing in the Masters, he said.

Arnie shot a 76 in the first round, then backed that up with another 76 in the second. He was a young man just gawking at everything that was Augusta. But by the third round, he was acclimated. He got it back to even-par 72. And in the final round, he showed a little bit of that Palmer magic, firing a 69 and finishing the tournament in a tie for 10th.

He still recalls the winner ' Dr. Cary Middlecoff, who stunned the field with a seven-shot win over second-place Ben Hogan. And the Nelsons, the Sneads, Sarazen and Revolta ' it was a thrill because these were the people that I had just read about and envied to the end. And I was among them, he said.

And that ' that was the ultimate. If I had failed in my endeavors to be a professional, it was just that I had a great adulation for the guys that were successful. It was a distraction to me, and when I played, it was a distraction because I was always looking to see what they were doing. And the reason I was successful is because I was scared that they were gonna beat me.

And that just made me play a little bit harder. And I am thankful for that.

By 1958, in his fourth attempt, Palmer was a winner at the Masters. In 1960, he repeated, making birdie on the final two holes to squeeze past Ken Venturi. In 1962 he won again with birdies on two of the last three holes. And he won his fourth in 1964, claiming a six-shot victory that told the world he truly was The King ' even though he doesnt particularly like the nickname.

Ive lost tournaments that have broken my heart ' I mean, I couldve sit down and cried, I couldve left the game and never come back, said Arnie.

But Ive also won a lot of tournaments the same way ' when I broke someone elses heart. And I remember those things. And I think, you know, the Masters ' I get more acclaim for having won four times, and maybe I deserve it. But winning the Masters once was great; winning it twice was even greater; three times, I know everybody said, Boy, youve won the Masters three times, isnt it great?

But to win the Masters a fourth?

One of the greatest thrills was walking up to the last hole with Dave Marr with a six-shot lead and knowing that unless I dropped dead, I wasnt going to lose. And that was fun, that was what golf is to me ' winning.

Of course, there were the heartbreaks

And then I can go to disasters ' ah, I lost the Masters in 6l when I was overconfident. I got ahead of myself and that is another thing my father taught me. He says, Dont ever accept it until the final putt is in the hole.

And I think about that. A friend of mine was standing on the sidelines (on 18) and I had just birdied the 17th hole to take a one-shot lead over Gary Player. And he (the friend) put out his hand to congratulate me and I went over there and thanked him. And I had the ball sitting right in the middle of the 18th fairway.

And I didnt shank it, but it came as close as I could to shanking it. And long story short, I made six and lost.

It wasnt fun, but it wasnt disaster either. I had an outpouring of friends and fans that made me understand they arent there just because I won. They were there because they are my friends.

Fifty years of Sarazen and Snead and Nelson and Hogan of Trevino and Weiskopf and Nicklaus of Watson and Floyd and Ballesteros and Woods and Els and Singh and Montgomerie. Arnold Palmer has seen them all, played them all, and now he is going to say goodbye.

Left unsaid is that Palmer himself is now the legend that he so idolized long ago. Now HE is that man that many of the young players look at in awe. And now, it is time for him to say thanks for half a century of memories.

The most important thing to me, I suppose, is not the actual strokes or the tournaments ' its more what I can do for the game, or what I have done to improve the game, he says. What I hope the impressions that I have left would be, young people or old people - I would like to look at it and say, Were got to protect the heritage of the game of golf. That would be what I would envision and like to see happen.

He will miss the competition, he will miss the manly give-and-take of the locker rooms, and will especially miss the roars of the fans.

Of course, I think it's going to be exciting for me and it's going to be somewhat sentimental, he says of this, the 50th. But most of all, its an opportunity to say goodbye to all of the fans who have been so supportive over the last 50 years and have been the reason that I have played as long as I have.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
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  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
  • Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

    By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

    The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

    Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

    The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

    Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

    Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

    Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

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    They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

    A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

    With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

    And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

    “I have no idea,” he laughed.

    Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

    The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

    The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

    “So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

    While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

    Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

    Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

    The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

    All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

    Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

    Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

    After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

    If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

    You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell

    On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

    Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

    But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

    On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

    Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

    To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

    His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

    Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

    By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

    Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

    After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.

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    “It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

    Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

    “Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

    Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

    By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

    Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

    “A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”

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    Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

    It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

    “My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

    Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.