Fifty Years of Arnie is Great for Golf

By Golf Channel NewsroomJanuary 23, 2004, 5:00 pm
Champions TourFifty years 600 months 18,238 days half a century. It was back in 1954 that Arnold Palmer became a professional golfer, and this week hes celebrating at the Champions Tours MasterCard Championship in Hawaii.
 
Did somebody say celebrating? Arnie feigned surprise when informed that this is a great milestone in his life.
 
Good gracious! he said. Fifty years! Im glad you told me because I wouldnt have believed it.
 
In the 50 years, he has done some pretty impressive things on the golf course. He won the Masters four times. He won the British Open in back-to-back years ' 1961 and 1962. He won the U.S. Open in 1960, coming from seven strokes off the pace in the final day to win at Cherry Hills.
 
Im so grateful for being able to have the life I had, whether its the Masters in 60 or 58, or the Open in 60 ' you know ' or the British Open, everything! said Palmer. Its just been a wonderful existence. And if I had it to do over again, Id like to do it the same way.
 
The way he won was almost as noteworthy as the 62 times he won on the PGA Tour, 10 times he won on the Champions Tour and 11 times he won around the world. To many golf fans, he is the most exciting golfer ever.
 
Arnie came with the shirt-tail flapping, with the aggressive play, ushered in television, said Hale Irwin. It all came together at such a good time, and he escorted Arnies Army and the legions through so many exciting tournaments, coming from way back, driving the green at Cherry Hills in 1960 - all those things conjure up such great memories of what Arnold Palmer was able to do. He brought the excitement level to golf to a level it had never been before.
 
Tom Watson marveled at the man that did all these things.
 
Winning the Masters the way he did a couple of times ' that solidified Arnold as a champion and a hero to a lot of people, Watson said. And coming from behind to win a great tournament like the Masters ' people remember that. And of course his personality and his charge ' it created a tremendous amount of interest in golf.
 
But as much as he is revered for his on-course feats, he is even more revered for the things he has done off the course.
 
The hallmark of Arnolds career is his popularity, said Jack Nicklaus, the man who finally eclipsed Palmer as the games most prolific winner.
 
What he did to popularize the game of golf, playing with Eisenhower particularly and bringing Presidents into the game ' and he started, really, television golf. Arnold was right there with all of that, and he was the guy that sort of spearheaded and led it.
 
Gary Player, who along with Palmer and Nicklaus formed golf s Big Three in the 1960s, is amazed by what he sees of the man they call The King. Palmer doesnt like the term, never has, but the golfing public hung the moniker on him decades ago, and it persists even today.
 
Arnold Palmer has been a great credit to the game of golf, said Player. He fell out of bed with charisma ' which is a gift from God. Hes capitalized on it, but you know ' we all know hes been a great player, but to be a gentleman is something that I think would make his parents very, very happy.
 
He set a good example to a lot of young people, and to be a good role model in any sport, you leave something behind.
 
Lee Trevino summed it when he talked about the whole of Arnold Palmer.
 
Hes Mr. Nice, Trevino said simply.
 
I made a statement a long time ago ' I said, If you looked up the word Class in the dictionary, Arnold Palmers face would be next to the word for definition. You can identify him anywhere in the world ' you can go anyplace in the world and people know who Arnold Palmer is.
 
Thats who I want to be like when I grow up! said Trevino, then laughed heartily. Trevino is, after all, 64 years old.

Ive lost a few, Palmer winced. But the average is pretty good, and its been fun.
 
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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.