Meeting the King for the first time

By Joe PosnanskiSeptember 10, 2016, 3:40 pm

About 25 years ago – sheesh, really, 25 years? – I covered my first Masters. It was, coincidentally, the first golf tournament I had ever covered. I had been hired blindly as columnist for the Augusta Chronicle because, well, you’d have to ask them. I had never played a round of golf. And my only experience as a golf writer was the community golf notebook I would do for York Observer in Rock Hill, S.C., and even that I messed up routinely. I remember once talking to one of the organizers of a local charity golf tournament, and he was explaining to me that it was a Captain’s Choice tournament.

“What’s that?” I asked. He explained the Captain’s Choice format – all players hitting and then everyone playing the best ball – and I was so blown away by the novelty of this that I wrote the first eight paragraphs of the column about this cool new way to play golf. An editor (who was, as she often told me, almost oblivious to golf and sports in general) saved me by pointing out that Captain’s Choice is essentially the most popular charity golf format on planet earth and probably all other planets. She found it both hilarious and frightening that I did not know this.

Still, the Augusta Chronicle – which, you might expect, cares quite a bit about golf – hired me to write sports columns. And that made me the lead columnist for the Augusta paper at the 1992 Masters. It still boggles the mind.

As you might imagine, I was all but helpless leading into the tournament. I had no idea where to go, what to do, who to talk with, how to write any of it.

On the first day, I watched Arnold Palmer come in from his practice round. He was, let’s see here, 62 years old then, still strong, still full of the energy and life that had made him golf’s most iconic figure. I knew him from the Pennzoil commercials, mostly. He had not made the cut at Augusta in a few years but there was still a sense of possibility about him then, still a sense that he just might have one more charge left in him.

He came off the course after that practice round, and he was in the best of spirits, of course. I’m sure he has had his dark moods but in public, he was always ecstatic; his mood always seemed to say, “I’m Arnold Palmer. OF COURSE I’m having a good day.” He answered a couple of reporters’ questions under the marvelous oak tree that stands in front of the Augusta National clubhouse. I wandered over. I supposed that as the columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, I should introduce myself to the King. But I’ve never really been good at that sort of thing.

I waited for everyone to finish. Eventually, the other two or three reporters sort of faded off, and it was just me and Arnie. At this point, it might have been good for me to have a question in mind or an introduction or something, but I did not have any of that so I kind of just stood there and looked at him. It was probably no more than three seconds, but it felt like I stood there silent for about 20 years. Finally, someone spoke, but it wasn’t me. It was Palmer.

“How are you doing today?” he asked me.

I have absolutely no idea why he said that. The normal thing for athletes to do – and by “normal” I mean I have never seen a single other athlete do what Palmer did – is to walk away as soon as the last question is asked. But Palmer stuck around. He somehow sensed that I wanted to talk with him. He somehow sensed that I was nervous. He somehow sensed that he could help me.

His words shook me from the paralysis I’d been feeling, and I introduced myself. I was wearing a badge that said “AUGUSTA CHRONICLE” on it, and I suspect he saw that. He mentioned several of the people at the Chronicle he had known through the years. He told me he thought the paper had always been good to him. He told me the phrase “Arnie’s Army” had started with a headline in the Chronicle (though it had been coined by a G.I. whose name, unfortunately, is lost to history). He told me I had an important legacy to keep. And he asked me what I was planning to write about.

In my own stumbling way, I told him that I wasn’t too knowledgeable about golf. I think I told him this by asking him a series of increasingly dumber questions. He smiled and made a suggestion or two, I don’t remember what those were. I do remember that he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’ll keep my eye on you.”

And for the rest of that tournament, into the next year and the next, whenever I would see Arnold Palmer, whenever our eyes would meet, he would give me a little thumbs up sign. I took that at the time to mean he had read my columns and approved what I was doing but, in retrospect, it probably did not mean that at all. It probably meant simply, “Hey, kid, I remember you.”

Fortunately, the magic works either way.

Arnold Palmer is probably not one of the four greatest players in the history of the game. He’s not Tiger or Jack, he’s not Hogan or Jones, and you can argue on from there. But if there was a Mount Rushmore for golf, he would be on it. He would be on Golf’s Mount Rushmore in part because of the way he played with his jerky swing and his go-for-broke style. He smoked his cigarettes and rode the wind and cheers and the momentum. He simply changed the way people looked at the game as a spectator sport. He made the game thrilling.

He would be on Golf’s Mount Rushmore in part because of the way he lit up the television screen. Golf on television made no sense to a lot of people in the 1950s; the sport seemed too massive and too undramatic for television. Then came the King. “The cameras loved Palmer,” the legendary sports television producer Frank Chirkinian said. “He would show up on the screen and it was like: ‘WHAM!'”

And Arnold Palmer would be on Golf’s Mount Rushmore mostly because of the way he engaged with people. He chatted with the crowd. He made them feel a part of his successes … and his failures. He was just a regular guy, a factory worker or auto mechanic or longshoreman who happened to play golf. He took the sport out of the country clubs. He inspired countless people to buy a golf club at yard sales and swing at a few whiffle balls in the back yard.

Arnie turns 87 today, and I think about many things, but I especially think about his kindness. Years later, I mentioned to him our first meeting. He smiled as if he remembered, though he surely did not, and he said: “Well, you turned out OK.” And then he walked off to make someone else’s life a little bit brighter.

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CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:

1 Jon Rahm -22 $1,062,000
2 Andrew Landry -22 $637,200
T3 Adam Hadwin -20 $306,800
T3 John Huh -20 $306,800
T3 Martin Piller -20 $306,800
T6 Kevin Chappell -19 $205,025
T6 Scott Piercy -19 $205,025
T8 Brandon Harkins -18 $171,100
T8 Jason Kokrak -18 $171,100
T8 Sam Saunders -18 $171,100
T11 Harris English -17 $135,700
T11 Seamus Power -17 $135,700
T11 Jhonattan Vegas -17 $135,700
T14 Bud Cauley -16 $106,200
T14 Austin Cook -16 $106,200
T14 Grayson Murray -16 $106,200
T17 Andrew Putnam -15 $88,500
T17 Peter Uihlein -15 $88,500
T17 Aaron Wise -15 $88,500
T20 Ricky Barnes -14 $57,754
T20 Stewart Cink -14 $57,754
T20 Brian Harman -14 $57,754
T20 Beau Hossler -14 $57,754
T20 Charles Howell III -14 $57,754
T20 Zach Johnson -14 $57,754
T20 Ryan Palmer -14 $57,754
T20 Brendan Steele -14 $57,754
T20 Nick Taylor -14 $57,754
T29 Lucas Glover -13 $36,706
T29 Russell Knox -13 $36,706
T29 Nate Lashley -13 $36,706
T29 Tom Lovelady -13 $36,706
T29 Kevin Streelman -13 $36,706
T29 Hudson Swafford -13 $36,706
T29 Richy Werenski -13 $36,706
T36 Jason Dufner -12 $27,189
T36 Derek Fathauer -12 $27,189
T36 James Hahn -12 $27,189
T36 Chez Reavie -12 $27,189
T36 Webb Simpson -12 $27,189
T36 Tyrone Van Aswegen -12 $27,189
T42 Bronson Burgoon -11 $18,983
T42 Ben Crane -11 $18,983
T42 Brian Gay -11 $18,983
T42 Chesson Hadley -11 $18,983
T42 Patton Kizzire -11 $18,983
T42 Hunter Mahan -11 $18,983
T42 Kevin Na -11 $18,983
T42 Rob Oppenheim -11 $18,983
T50 Alex Cejka -10 $14,025
T50 Corey Conners -10 $14,025
T50 Michael Kim -10 $14,025
T50 Kevin Kisner -10 $14,025
T50 Sean O'Hair -10 $14,025
T50 Sam Ryder -10 $14,025
T50 Nick Watney -10 $14,025
T57 Robert Garrigus -9 $13,039
T57 Tom Hoge -9 $13,039
T57 David Lingmerth -9 $13,039
T57 Ben Martin -9 $13,039
T57 Trey Mullinax -9 $13,039
T57 Brett Stegmaier -9 $13,039
T63 Scott Brown -8 $12,449
T63 Wesley Bryan -8 $12,449
T63 Brice Garnett -8 $12,449
T63 Sung Kang -8 $12,449
T67 Talor Gooch -7 $12,095
T67 Tom Whitney -7 $12,095
T69 Matt Every -6 $11,623
T69 Billy Hurley III -6 $11,623
T69 Smylie Kaufman -6 $11,623
T69 Keith Mitchell -6 $11,623
T69 Rory Sabbatini -6 $11,623
T69 Chris Stroud -6 $11,623
75 John Peterson -5 $11,210
76 Abraham Ancer -4 $11,092
77 Ben Silverman 4 $10,974
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

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

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.